The Stray Cats’ Lee Rocker gets all about the upright bass on “Dog House Shuffle,” a one-off solo single whose video, premiering exclusively below, pays tribute to the instrument Rocker helped propel into the MTV lexicon during the early ’80s.
“It’s a tribute in a lot of ways,” Rocker (nee Leon Drucker) tells Billboard. “It’s a song I wrote over the last couple of months. I was thinking about my career with 40 years of Stray Cats and all of that and thinking about the upright bass, which is what started this thing. It takes me back to the opening line of the song — which is “Took me ’round the world and I changed my name/found a little fortune, found a little fame/Doin’ the dog house shuffle” — which is right out of my story. Dog House is what they call the upright bass, so it’s a tribute to the bass itself and a lot of the players that I came up listening to.”
Some of those players — including Elvis Presley’s Bill Black, Willie Dixon, Fred Maddox, the Tennessee Three’s Marshall Grant, Carl Perkins’ brother Clayton and Al Rex of Bill Haley & His Comets — are featured in the “Dog House Shuffle” video, along with cartoon animations and studio footage of Rocker and his band recording the track. “Most of these guys were gone, sadly, by the time (the Stray Cats) got going,” notes Rocker, who started playing upright bass as a teenager, after starting on cello and then moving to electric bass guitar. “I did see Willie Dixon play when I was a teenager, which was monumental to me. I had a wonderful friendship and working relationship with Carl Perkins, but his brother had died years earlier. I think they’d love this track, though. There is a small group of us, when you come down to it. It’s not guitar world. It’s upright bass, and we’re a little band of renegades.”
“Dog House Shuffle” comes on the heels of the Stray Cats’ 40th anniversary reunion tour during the summer as well as 40, the rockabilly trio’s first new studio album in 26 years. Rocker is planning to record more of his own material and tour with his band, but he predicts that he, Brian Setzer and Slim Jim Phantom aren’t done rocking just yet.
“Everything this year was really awesome,” Rocker reports. “The band sounded great, and it was a helluva lot of fun and we really enjoyed it and kept expanding it because of the good times the three of us were having. And it’s pretty damn easy. So we’re certainly looking at 2020, but we’re just not settled on it yet. I am pretty confident you’ll see more of us, though.”