Who are the Stray Cats, and what sort of music are they known for bringing back?

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Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Stray Cats are an American musical group that came to prominence during the late '70s and early '80s. At a time when new-wave music was popular, Stray Cats set themselves apart by infusing a rather old-fashioned musical style into the popular sounds. That music is known as "rockabilly," a kind of music popularized but rather diluted in the 1950s by such greats as Bill Haley, Carl Perkins, Elvis Presley, and Jerry Lee Lewis.

Rockabilly is characterized by strong rhythms, rather twangy vocals with a southern flair. The word itself comes from a combination of rock (as in rock and roll) and billy (as in hillbilly). It is a distinctive sound, but it is certainly not a mainstream musical style. 

When they heard that their was a kind of revival of "their kind" of music happening in the United Kingdom, they moved there immediately, and when Stray Cats played their music, they got the immediate attention of some significant people in the music world. The Stray Cats even became the opening act for the Rolling Stones' United States tour.

Though their popularity has waxed and waned over the years, Stray Cats are solely responsible for the revival of rockabilly music. One of their songs, "Rock This Town," has been listed in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as 

one of the 500 most important songs in the history of rock and roll.

The group's music has endured and even served as a musical influence for other genres of music, including punk rock.

The Stray Cats were formed by three members: drummer Slim Jim Phantom, double bassist Lee Rocker, and guitarist and vocalist Brian Seltzer. They began their musical venture in 1979 in Massapequa, New York. They had success with hit singles in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia. 

The group underwent several name changes before they settled on Stray Cats, including the Tomcats, Bryan and the Tom Cats, and the Teds. When they went on tour, they went by the name "The Stray Cats," but they soon settled on Stray Cats and have stuck with it. 

The band has broken up and gotten reunited three times since they began and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006.

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