“Slim Jim Phantom’s Rockabilly Rave Up”, will be engaging his audiences in the music that inspired him, the prelude to what became known as rock n’ roll, as well as some new music from artists that are keeping the culture alive. As described by Stray Cats drummer, the show will consist of, “An hour’s worth of rockabilly music and talk about the history, and continuing greatness of our special American form”. The show will air Sundays at 8:00pm ET on channel 21, ( www.SiriusXM.com/streaming ). Sirius XM’s Underground Garage is produced by Stevie Van Zandt, (guitarist from Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band ), where you can hear all the music from the 60 years of Rock.
Slim Jim photo by Mick Peek
Phantom will also be reuniting with The Stray Cats for the first time in 10 years in a concert appearance at “Viva Las Vegas” on Saturday April 21, and in Chicago on July 4th.
After just coming off of a UK tour, backed by The Pretenders, as direct support to legendary punk rock band, “The Damned”, with “Captain Sensible”, we synchronized a conversation regarding his latest endeavors.
Louder Than War: You’ve been doing a lot of cool stuff?
Well, I think so….I mean I’m still watching TV…stills seems I’ve got nothing to do, but it looks like I’m busy. Yeah, I do my radio shows on Thursdays at noon, that’s when I record it, and then it’s Aired On Sundays….
Tell me about the radio show, will you have guests?
Yeah, in the future…we just started, it’s in Little Stevie’s Underground Garage, (Stevie Van Zander). He’s the coolest guy ever…he’s my boss, he’s awesome! What happened was when my book came out, I had a little plan to try and not travel so much. I’ll write a book, I’ll do a little show… anything to try and stay local. A radio show was something that I thought about…so I tried to go to regular radio, thinking I have the perfect show for Saturday afternoons. But radio is not the same as it used to be. So I didn’t know quite what to do. I went and made a nice demo, just to have it. Stevie was playing in LA, and I brought him a copy of my book. I brought him a copy of the book to give to his wife who I’m very good friends with, and I thought she’d be at the gig. She wasn’t. Then I thought, oh no, now he’s going to have to carry the book around the rest of his tour…He had a full big band, horn section, background singers, it was a giant thing, but it was so good! So when he got back to Jersey after the tour, he called me and said, ” The books great”. I said, ” Not only did you get it home but you read it”? He said, “what do you wanna do”? I mailed him my demo, and he called and asked, ” What do you wanna do”? I was talking a mile a minute…he paused and said, ” You’re in”. He said, ” Don’t sell it again, you’re in”. Then I started doing the show. Then the Sirius people who are really a cool organization,…. they are all people who love the music, and love the idea that it’s an alternative…made a schedule for after I came back from the “Damned” tour. I was there for about a month. I did my first show the next day.
What’s it going to be about?
It’s all about Rockabilly. Finding the little stories and how I feel about it. And what’s great about Sirius and Steve Van Zandt is they want the opposite of the other radio. The regular radio is telling you that no one has heard of Carl Perkins. Steve wants me to go through my albums and find Carl Perkins cuts that you haven’t heard…ok..that’s a good job for me. It’s really like a cool family to be involved with.
Yeah, exactly. So I started doing that and then the THE BIG NEWS IS THAT THE STRAY CATS ARE GOING TO PLAY….
Are you only playing July 4th?
No, the other one that’s been announced is April 21 in Vegas. It’s going to be the biggest rockabilly show ever! It’s a whole celebration of the culture, rockabilly world. Jerry Lee Lewis is on the bill, Duane Eddy, and the Stray Cats are the headliner. It’s literally the biggest car show in the world. There is going to be literally 20,000 cars there, 20,000 people, they built a stage in a big parking lot, at the Orleans Hotel. People are coming from all over the world for it. It’s a real celebration of this moment. The Stray Cats are playing rockabilly to the whole world movement kind of.
That’s so awesome!
Yeah, it’s really nice, and everyone is really friendly. I speak to the other two every day. We talk about what shirt we are going to wear, what songs should we play…. nothing heavy. I think it’s in a place we all had to arrive at. You can’t be young and do that.
The other show is July 4th?
July 4th in Chicago. Chicago is the nearest place, it’s in Naperville Illinois.
So how did this reunion come about?
Everyone started to get in touch a little bit. I don’t know if anyone had a plan….you know I haven’t spoken to them in a while….we were never unfriendly….
There was no bad blood between you?
There was never any Fleetwood Mac moments. No one’s ever cheated with anyone’s wife, no one ever sued anyone, no one’s on drugs….it was just schedules, it was just life. Always I check in with these guys, every few months…. sometimes it’s for five minutes, but inevitably we start talking for an hour about some guy in school. Organically we got to… “well how about playing”. Then at the same kind of time the agent had gotten an offer….it happened in a funny kind of way.
Like the universe.
Yeah. We didn’t plan to do it. There wasn’t a formula to it. It just happened. It was, “what suit are you going to wear”, “I always wanted to play that live”, it was born out of that. We wanted to play. Rockabilly seems in the public and people are conscious of it more. I don’t know if it’s in line with the 80s and the 50s, I’m not quite sure…. there seems to be a whole new generation of it. We’re the new oldies or something, we’re the new Carl Perkins. My daughter would send me from college a picture of some hipster wearing the Stray Cats embroidered on some jeans jacket. It just had to happen. If anyone tried to plan it …..as usual the Stray Cats never planned anything. “Let’s go to England”…..”Ok”…
You went to England with $75 in your pocket….
And before that it was “let’s go into the city with long hair and come back with short hair, let’s go in with flairs and come back with Ricky Ricardo pants, go in with sneakers and come back with black and white pointed shoes, let’s just do it…ok”. It’s funny with me even though I’m a grown man if the other two do it I feel like it’s the right move. I don’t know if it’s because you know someone for a long time, I don’t know.
Like a soul-mate kind of thing there?
I kind I think maybe it’s because of the first experience of finding the music and going out on a challenge with those other two guys. And even before we formed the Stray Cats, I already knew these guys for twelve years. So maybe there can be something said about that. I don’t know the exact answer, I like it when things just kind of happened organically. I think it’s great. I wouldn’t advise your children to act this way. Drop out of school find two friends of yours, put every egg and everyone else’s eggs in this basket……
That might not work for everybody but it works for you.
Well, it worked this one time…..and lasted this long. It’s like when you get married when you’re 17 and everybody says it won’t last, and then 50 years later you’re still married. I’ve worked with other people but I’ve only been in one band.
Well I know it’s going to be great.
Hopefully. With the announcement it all seems to be working, so why fight it? It’s all out there and it sold a lot of tickets. It’s going to do great.
I mean you guys are the Stray Cats…
It’s 20,000… I mean we didn’t do Madison Square Garden, we did Rose-land. It was a solid thing but it was never that ultimate, as big as that mainstream. Now we are the mainstream in a funny way.
It is special now, you’re getting together after ten years…the same thing as Adam Ant did after 17 years, and now he’s more popular than ever…
Yeah, I remember I saw him at the Roxy. I remember he was amazing but it wasn’t the same place as Led Zeppelin played. I think that Adam at the time was as influential as any of the hard rock acts. Those guys were playing arenas in the 80s which I never did. But it’s good to see everyone again like Adam Ant, he looks great. That’s part of it you have to keep it together. If the guys are out of shape and haven’t played, but all of us stayed in shape. I was just with The Damned on tour, and they were awesome. They all look great, and played great. You have to keep it together.
How did that go for you? Was it great?
Really great because they are my friends. Captain Sensible was one of the best friends I’ve ever had. It didn’t come through them though, it came through the agent. We agreed it was a good thing to do. Then once I was on the tour it was a good thing because they were my friends. They were very helpful, I could come and go as I please. I wasn’t like a regular opening act kind of guy. It was great because I went on every night at 8 o’clock. I came out blazing and played 45 minutes with a great band. I had The Pretenders as my backup band… it somehow worked out, because they are my friends. They were off tour in London and it just worked. So I’d play for 45 minutes, sell my books in the lobby, and I’d be done by 9:30. I could either hang out and watch The Damned or…. because it’s England everything is closer, I could drive back to London, or just stay in a hotel….I stayed with Glen Matlock. When he comes to LA he stays at my house. He was on a tour with his group so his house was empty. So I would drive home after most of the shows. I made sure Glen’s house was ok, we were all helping each other. You get to a certain age and you have respect with your audience and your friends. And The Damned were so great. They’re making new music, it’s all current. They had the same story as me…been around for a long time, and somehow all made it through with our wits and our hair. Now at this point everybody’s kind of embracing it. There’s a certain amount of gratitude that I have.
There’s a lot of you though, I mean Alice Cooper….
It’s true…Alice Cooper, who’s better than him? During the summer I was at a festival. I was on the bill, I was happy to be there, but I was in a tent somewhere… it had rained and there was some muddy floor, and Alice was headlining the festival. His guys came and got me. I was 9th on the bill but I was having a cappuccino and playing pinball. Even more than us he’s classic. He’s doing his thing now he’s in a new band with Johnny Depp and Joe Perry. How cool is that?
It’s just amazing.
There’s something that can be said for early middle age
All words by Eileen Shapiro. More of Eileen’s writing can be found in her author’s archive.