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In late ’70s New York City, kids forming underground bands often drew from the Ramones and their brethren. Punk rock rejected the sanitized mainstream music of the era, seeking to recapture the excitement of pre-Beatles rock n roll.

Long Island native Slim Jim Phantom took a different path when he formed Stray Cats with Brian Setzer and Lee Rocker in 1979. He had discovered rockabilly, a style of music that predated rock n roll. Rockabilly in 1979 seemed out of place, at least on the surface, but upon further examination, it made just as much sense as punk. “[Rockabilly is] the most American music,” says Phantom, who plays drums. “Gene Vincent wasn’t affected by the British. Eddie Cochran wasn’t affected by the British.”

Please explain what just happened.

I awoke to the feeling that the dream I’d just been having was still going, and then I ate breakfast.

 

What is your earliest memory?

Lying in my crib, staring at a complex pattern on brightly colored wallpaper.  I remember feeling irritated -– whether it was the wallpaper or because I wanted to get up and move around, I don’t know.

 

If you weren’t a musician, what other profession would you choose?

It would have to be writing in some capacity; it’s the only thing outside of music that I could picture myself doing.