Music » Local Music

One cool cat


We’re going to assume that you’re already hip to Brian Setzer and his blisteringly badass catalog of tunes. If we’ve assumed incorrectly, Google “rockabilly” or “big band swing” — you’ll discover the dapper blond was once the frontman for ’80s rockabilly stars the Stray Cats, and is currently the leader of his own Brian Setzer Orchestra.

Not only is Setzer one cool cat, he’s a certifiable goofball in creepers. When asked why he’s reworked the Glenn Miller Orchestra classic “In the Mood,” [Setzer’s version, “Gettin’ in the Mood (for Christmas)” appears on the BSO’s latest CD Dig That Crazy Christmas] he had this to say: “Wait till you hear my Arbor Day version. It’s about trees, moss, fungus and leaves. I’ve got a version for each holiday. Columbus Day — the Nina, the Pinta, the Santa Maria; there’s trouble halfway across the Atlantic, a mutiny; quells that, hits land, thinks it’s the USA, it’s really the Caribbean. It can go on forever.”

Then there’s the song you may never hear unless you go to see the BSO on New Year’s Eve. “Yeah, we segue ‘Auld Lang Syne’ into ‘Black Dog’ by Led Zeppelin. I’m gonna have to slip that out on the Internet, let people have a laugh,” Setzer says.

And while he might be generous with his own music, Setzer’s collection of museum-quality memorabilia is something he holds dear. Like the old typewriter his best friend Joe Strummer gave him one day.

“You know, Joe told me he wrote all the Clash songs on that typewriter,” Setzer says. “Of course, I keep it in a safe spot. And I’ve got something else cool I’m bringing on this tour — Gene Vincent’s belt that he wore in the ’50s. It’s the one he wore on the album Gene Vincent Rocks and the Blue Caps Roll. I wear it for good luck, a little bit of mojo, you know?”

Earlier this year, Setzer dug down to his roots and came up with Rockabilly Riot Volume 1: The Sun Years, filled with 23 rippin’ covers of Sun standards and rare gems that he recorded with yet another band put together especially for the occasion, the Nashvillains. Rockabilly purists will be glad to know that after touring with the BSO this holiday season, Setzer promises to come back and rock a smaller venue with the gang from Rockabilly Riot. You read it here first.


The Brian Setzer Orchestra Christmas Extravaganza, Friday, Dec. 9. State Theatre, 2115 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-961-5450.

Amy Yokin is a freelance writer. Send comments to

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