born on 10/4/1959 in Massapequa, Long Island, NY, United States
Brian Robert Setzer (born April 10, 1959) is an American guitarist, singer, and songwriter. He found widespread success in the early 1980s with the 1950s-style rockabilly group Stray Cats, and revitalized his career in the early 1990s with his swing revival band, the Brian Setzer Orchestra.
Setzer was born April 1959 in Massapequa, New York. He started on the euphonium and played in jazz bands when he was in school. He found a way to hear jazz at the Village Vanguard, though as he got older he got interested in rock, punk, and rockabilly. He was a member of the Bloodless Pharaohs and the Tomcats, which he began with his brother, Gary. The Tomcats became the Stray Cats when double bassist Lee Rocker and drummer Slim Jim Phantom joined. In 1980, thinking they might have more success in England than in America, they sold their instruments to pay for airplane tickets and flew to London.
After performing in London for a few months, they met Dave Edmunds, a guitarist and record producer who shared their love of rockabilly and 1950s' rock and roll. Edmunds produced their debut album, Stray Cats (Arista, 1981), which yielded two hit singles, "Stray Cat Strut" and "Rock This Town". The second album, Gonna Ball (Arista, 1982), was less successful. The band returned to America and released Built for Speed (EMI, 1982), produced again by Dave Edmunds, with songs collected from their first two albums. Helped by their music videos on MTV, the Stray Cats became popular in America. Their next album, Rant n' Rave with the Stray Cats (EMI, 1983) produced the hit "(She's) Sexy + 17".
The Stray Cats disbanded in 1984, though they reunited occasionally, recorded, and toured. After recording three albums with different producers, they returned to Dave Edmunds for Choo Choo Hot Fish (1992).
The Brian Setzer Orchestra
After the Stray Cats disbanded in 1984, Setzer began a solo career that included working as a sideman for other acts, such as the Honeydrippers led by Robert Plant. On his first solo album, The Knife Feels Like Justice (EMI, 1986), he turned away from rockabilly and moved toward rhythm and blues (R&B) and the heartland rock of John Mellencamp. The album was produced by Don Gehman and featured Kenny Aronoff on drums. Both men had worked on albums by Mellencamp.
Setzer returned to his love of music from the 1950s, this time the jump blues of Louis Prima. In the 1980s, he resurrected rockabilly, and in the 1990s, swing. He assembled the Brian Setzer Orchestra, a seventeen piece big band that got the public's attention with a cover version of Prima's "Jump, Jive an' Wail" from the album The Dirty Boogie (Interscope, 1998). The song won the Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals, while "Sleep Walk" from the same album won the Grammy for Best Pop Instrumental Performance.
The album Wolfgang's Big Night Out (2007) featured Setzer's interpretation of classical pieces, such as Beethoven's "Symphony No. 5" and "Für Elise". Wolfgang earned Setzer his eighth Grammy nomination, this time for Best Classical Crossover Album.
He executive produced the album Ready Steady Go! (Surfdog, 2014) by Drake Bell and played guitar on two songs.
Setzer has been married three times, most recently in 2005 to Julie Reiten, a former singer with the Dustbunnies.
Awards and honors
- Orville H. Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award, 1999
- Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals, "Jump, Jive an' Wail", 1998
- Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Performance, "Sleep Walk" and "Caravan"
- Long Island Music Hall of Fame, 2015
- Honor of being asked by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. to donate a replica of his original 1959 Gretsch 6120 Stray Cats guitar, joining an elite collection of iconic treasures at the museum, 2014
- The Knife Feels Like Justice (1986) No. 45 US
- Live Nude Guitars (1988) No. 140 US
- Rockin' By Myself (1993)
- Ignition! (2001) No. 152 US
- Nitro Burnin' Funny Daddy (2003)
- Rockabilly Riot Vol. 1: A Tribute to Sun Records (2005)
- 13 (2006) No. 2 JAP
- Red Hot & Live (2007)
- Setzer Goes Instru-Mental! (2011)
- Rockabilly Riot! All Original (2014)
- Spécial Enfants du Rock, Johnny Hallyday (1984)
- Come Out and Play, Twisted Sister (1986)
- Two Fires album and tour Jimmy Barnes (1990)
- Muddy Water Blues: A Tribute to Muddy Waters, Paul Rodgers (1993)
- Toolin' Around, Arlen Roth (1993)
- Bug Alley, Gary Hoey (1996)
- Cheating at Solitaire, Mike Ness (1999)
- Soul Sessions, Tomoyasu Hotei (2006)
- On Stage, Johnny Hallyday (2013)
- Marty Thau Presents 2 ◊ 5 (1980)
- Brian Setzer and the Bloodless Pharaohs (1996, Collectables 687)
A series of live recordings were issued in 1997 by Collectables Records, and removed from sale within a year under threat of legal action.
- Rock This Town (Recorded Live on March 29, 1980) (Collectables 701)
- High School Confidential (Recorded Live on May 24, 1980) (Collectables 702)
- Stray Cat Strut (Recorded Live on May 24, 1980) (Collectables 703)
- Rip It Up! (Recorded Live on May 30, 1980) (Collectables 704)
- All Shook Up (Recorded Live on May 30, 1980) (Collectables 705)
- Shake Rattle & Roll (Recorded Live on May 31, 1980) (Collectables 706)
- Rockabilly Boogie (Recorded Live on October 10, 1980) (Collectables 707)
- Stray Cats (1981)
- Gonna Ball (1981)
- Built for Speed (1982) No. 2 (15 weeks) US
- Rant n' Rave with the Stray Cats (1983) No. 14 US
- Rock Therapy (1986) No. 122 US
- Blast Off! (1989) No. 111 US
- Let's Go Faster! (1990)
- The Best of the Stray Cats: Rock This Town (1990)
- Choo Choo Hot Fish (1992)
- Original Cool (1993)
- Rumble in Brixton (2004)
The Brian Setzer Orchestra
- The Brian Setzer Orchestra (1994) No. 158 US
- Guitar Slinger (1996)
- The Dirty Boogie (1998) No. 9 US
- Vavoom! (2000) No. 62 US
- Jumpin' East of Java (2001)
- Best of The Big Band (2002)
- Boogie Woogie Christmas (2002)
- The Ultimate Collection (2004)
- Dig That Crazy Christmas (2005)
- Wolfgang's Big Night Out (2007)
- The Best Of Collection – Christmas Rocks! (2008)
- Ultimate Christmas Collection (2008)
- Songs from Lonely Avenue (2009)
- Don't Mess with a Big Band (Live!) (2010)
- Christmas Comes Alive (2010)
- Rockin' Rudolph (2015)
- Brian Setzer Orchestra Live in Japan (2001)
- Rumble in Brixton (2004)
- Brian Setzer Orchestra Live: Christmas Extravaganza (2005)
- One Rockin' Night ('95) (2007)
- Live in Montreal Jazz Festival (2010)
- Rockabilly Riot! Osaka Rocka Live in Japan (2016)
Brian Setzer has a very large guitar collection spanning many decades and brands. Setzer favours vintage equipment and hollow body guitars, and currently endorses Gretsch guitars.
- Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Brian Setzer". AllMusic. Retrieved 11 February 2017.
- Deming, Mark. "The Knife Feels Like Justice". AllMusic. Retrieved 11 February 2017.
- "The Dirty Boogie". AllMusic. Retrieved 11 February 2017.
- Lipshultz, Jason (28 February 2014). "Drake Bell Talks 'Ready Steady Go!' Album: Exclusive Behind-The-Scenes Video". Billboard.com. Billboard. Archived from the original on 1 September 2014. Retrieved 2 June 2015.
- Wood, James. "Actor/Musician Drake Bell Discusses 'Ready Steady Go!,' His New Album with Brian Setzer". GuitarWorld.com. Archived from the original on 6 October 2014.
- StarTribune article about life in Minneapolis Archived June 28, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
- "Home - Gretsch Guitars Blog". Gretsch Guitars Blog. Retrieved 9 November 2017.
- "Awards". GRAMMY.com. 30 April 2017. Retrieved 9 November 2017.
- "Brian Setzer". Rocky-52.net. 2009-10-13. Retrieved 2010-06-09.
- "straycatscollectors". Straycatcollectors.blogspot.com. Retrieved 9 November 2017.
-  Archived February 7, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
- "Brian Setzer: Effects Pedals at Musicroom.com - Video Lessons". Musicroom.com. Retrieved 2010-03-16.
- "Gretsch Guitars and Basses". Gretschguitars.com. Archived from the original on January 2, 2010. Retrieved 2010-03-16.
- Official website
- Brian Setzer on IMDb
- Brian Setzer Interview - NAMM Oral History Library (2016)