BY Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
Slim Jim Phantom considers the Stray Cats lucky.
The rockabilly band that famously includes him, guitarist/vocalist Brian Setzer and upright bassist Lee Rocker was founded in 1979. Therefore, they spent last year celebrating its 40th anniversary.
One more year, and the 40th anniversary celebration would have been squashed due to COVID-19.
“It was the luck of the draw,” Phantom says. “Last summer, we were able to do our greatest tour we ever did. One year later on the calendar, and it wouldn’t have happened.”
That tour was captured on the 23-track “Rocked This Town: From LA to London,” which hit stores in September on Surfdog Records. The collection was produced by the band and mixed by Vance Powell (Jack White, Chris Stapleton, Arctic Monkeys).
The album’s career-spanning track listing features the Stray Cats’ greatest hits as well as several new songs from last year’s “40,” the band’s first new album in 26 years.
The tour and the subsequent album went well because, Phantom says bluntly, “We have nothing to prove at this point.”
“The audience is getting bigger all the time. It’s younger people and our original fans. We’re gaining new, younger people all the time.
“The new kids they are thrilled that they can come see us. The original fans weren’t sure they would see us again. Everyone was into it from the minute we started. The only thing I could concentrate on was keeping up with the other two.”
The Stray Cats’ latest album, “40,” hit No. 3 on the Billboard charts and No. 1 on the rock charts.
“When someone from the office calls and says, ‘The record’s No. 3,’ everyone is on cloud nine. It means a lot,” he says. “That was more inspiration to go and have a gas and play as good as we can every night.”
Phantom says the band wasn’t going to tour this year, so COVID-19 didn’t affect its plans. Phantom was going to accompany his wife, Eagles of Death Metal bassist Jennie Vee, on her Australian tour. While in Australia, Phantom planned to produce a rockabilly album by Jimmy Barnes.
“We went on tour with him in the middle part of the ’80s and we just became friends,” Phantom says. “We always stayed in touch with him for 35 years.”
Vee and Phantom have kept busy recording music together, while she has been pushing her own clothing line. Phantom is an avid baseball and Strat-o-Matic fan who hosts “Rockabilly RaveUp” on Little Steven’s Underground Garage, SiriusXM 5 p.m. Sundays.
“I started doing Patreon and podcasts, too,” he adds. “It’s an extension of the radio show. Jennie edits it with me. It’s my favorite thing to do. It’s a nice way to fill the day. It’s not the same as going out on tour, but we’re finding ways to kill time.”