With his guitar chops and retro-chic frontman persona, Brian Setzer helped launch two unlikely revivals during his career: rockabilly and swing. Born in Massapequa, New York, he spent most of his youth in nearby Long Island, where he received his first instrument -- the euphonium -- at age 8. He began devoting time to both genres; his early attempts at songwriting would take their cues from blues-rock bands like Led Zeppelin, but he'd also spend his evenings in New York jazz clubs. After seeing the Mel Lewis Orchestra, he formed the idea of leading his own big band-- but doing so as a guitarist.
In the early '80s, Setzer formed the Stray Cats, a rockabilly band that took England by storm. The Stray Cats' breakthrough album in America, Built for Speed, spurred three separate top ten hits, including "Stray Cat Strut" and "Rock This Town." While touring the country with the Stray Cats, Setzer practiced jazz chords and listened to the recordings of Gene Krupa, Benny Goodman, and other big-band leaders. After the group's demise, Setzer turned to jazz music by forming a 17-piece big band for a series of L.A. club dates.
After cutting an album of cover songs for a smaller label, Setzer took his big band to Interscope Records, which issued Guitar Slinger in 1996. The album blended jump blues, swing, and Texas blues; moreover, it established the Brian Setzer Orchestra as part of the swing revival, a genre that had begun gaining popularity in America. The band's cover of Louis Prima's "Jump Jive an' Wail" became a huge hit, resulting in two Grammy Awards and a healthy amount of radio airplay. In 2002, Setzer added a Christmas album (Boogie Woogie Christmas) to his résumé, followed by the greatest-hits anthology Jump, Jive an' Wail: The Best of the Brian Setzer Orchestra 1994-2000.
Although he continued working with the Brian Setzer Orchestra in the 2000s, Setzer also set time aside to work on his solo career, having released a number of solo albums during the previous two decades as well. He issued a Japanese EP in 2003, full-length album Nitro Burnin' Funny Daddy, Rockabilly Riot, Vol. 1: A Tribute to Sun Records in 2005, and Setzer closed out the year with another big-band holiday album, Dig That Crazy Christmas. The aptly titled 13, which marked Setzer's 13th album of original solo material, arrived in late 2006 and became a big hit in Japan.
A pair of live albums, One Rockin' Night: Live in Montreal and Red Hot & Live! both appeared in 2007. The Brian Setzer Orchestra returned to the recording studio for 2009's Songs from Lonely Avenue. In 2011, Setzer released the non-vocal album Setzer Goes Instru-MENTAL!, featuring his instrumental take on such classic songs as "Blue Moon of Kentucky," "Be-Bop-A-Lula," "Cherokee” and others. The live collection Rockabilly Riot! Live From the Planet, featuring performances recorded during his 2011/2012 world tour, followed in 2012.
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