Brian Setzer

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.

Brian Setzer
Brian Salzburg 2006
Brian Setzer in 2006
Background information
Birth nameBrian Robert Setzer
BornApril 10, 1959 (age 59)
Massapequa, New York, U.S.
GenresRockabilly, rock and roll, swing revival, jump blues
Occupation(s)Musician, songwriter, record producer
InstrumentsGuitar, vocals
Years active1979–present
LabelsArista, EMI, Interscope, Surfdog
Associated actsThe Bloodless Pharaohs, The Tomcats, Stray Cats, The Brian Setzer Orchestra


Stray Cats

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 and Gary left the band. 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.[1]

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".[1]

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).[1]

The Brian Setzer Orchestra

Brian Setzer performs with his orchestra in the East Room of the White House
The Brian Setzer Orchestra performing in the White House during a visit from Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, June 29, 2006

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.[1] 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.[2]

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).[1] 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.[3]

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.[4][5]

Personal life

Setzer has been married three times, most recently in 2005 to Julie Reiten, a former singer with the Dustbunnies.[6]

Awards and honors


As leader

The Brian Setzer Orchestra

As member

Bloodless Pharaohs

  • Brian Setzer and the Bloodless Pharaohs (Collectables, 1996)[10]

Stray Cats

As guest


  • 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 Orchestra Live: Christmas Rocks! (2018)

Musical equipment

Brian Setzer has a very large guitar collection spanning many decades and brands. Setzer favours vintage equipment[12] and hollow body guitars,[13] and currently endorses Gretsch guitars.[14]

Vintage guitars:

Signature guitars:

  • Gretsch Model 6120 Setzer Signature Prototype
  • Gretsch Model 6120 Setzer Hot Rod Custom Purple
  • Gretsch Model 6120 Setzer Hot Rod Custom "Pinstripe"
  • Gretsch Model 6120 Setzer Hot Rod Custom "Spotty"
  • Gretsch Model 6120 Setzer Hot Rod Custom "Sparkle Red"
  • Gretsch Model 6120 Setzer Hot Rod Custom "Sparkle Blue"
  • Gretsch Model 6120 SSLVO Brian Setzer Signature
  • Gretsch Model 6120 SSL Brian Setzer Signature
  • Gretsch Model 6120 SSU Brian Setzer Signature
  • Gretsch Model 6120 SSUGR Brian Setzer Signature
  • Gretsch Model 6136SLBP Brian Setzer Black Phoenix
  • Indie Model With White GT Stripes

Other guitars:


  1. ^ a b c d e Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Brian Setzer". AllMusic. Retrieved 11 February 2017.
  2. ^ Deming, Mark. "The Knife Feels Like Justice". AllMusic. Retrieved 11 February 2017.
  3. ^ "The Dirty Boogie". AllMusic. Retrieved 11 February 2017.
  4. ^ Lipshultz, Jason (28 February 2014). "Drake Bell Talks 'Ready Steady Go!' Album: Exclusive Behind-The-Scenes Video". Billboard. Archived from the original on 1 September 2014. Retrieved 2 June 2015.
  5. ^ Wood, James. "Actor/Musician Drake Bell Discusses 'Ready Steady Go!,' His New Album with Brian Setzer". Archived from the original on 6 October 2014.
  6. ^ StarTribune article about life in Minneapolis Archived June 28, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ "Home - Gretsch Guitars Blog". Gretsch Guitars Blog. Retrieved 9 November 2017.
  8. ^ "Awards". 30 April 2017. Retrieved 9 November 2017.
  9. ^ a b "Brian Setzer | Album Discography". AllMusic. Retrieved 24 February 2019.
  10. ^ "Brian Setzer". 2009-10-13. Retrieved 2010-06-09.
  11. ^ "Brian Setzer | Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 24 February 2019.
  12. ^ [1] Archived February 7, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ "Brian Setzer: Effects Pedals at - Video Lessons". Retrieved 2010-03-16.
  14. ^ "Gretsch Guitars and Basses". Archived from the original on January 2, 2010. Retrieved 2010-03-16.

External links

13 (Brian Setzer album)

13 is the thirteenth solo album from American musician Brian Setzer. It was released in 2006 on Surfdog Records, and contained the Japanese hit single "Back Streets Of Tokyo". Setzer had originally intended for the album to have one direction, or sound, but after thinking about how The Beatles' albums were so diverse, he decided to include many different styles on the album.Brian Setzer and Slim Jim Phantom, who appears on "Really Rockabilly", were both in the Stray Cats. "We Are The Marauders" was written by Brian Setzer for the rockabilly band The Marauders, who opened for the Brian Setzer Orchestra in 2006. The song appears on their self-titled album.

Boogie Woogie Christmas

Boogie Woogie Christmas is a 2002 Christmas album recorded by the Brian Setzer Orchestra.

Dig That Crazy Christmas

Dig That Crazy Christmas is an album by The Brian Setzer Orchestra. Released in 2005 on Surfdog Records, it is a collection of holiday songs performed in big band swing style. Although most of the songs have been previously recorded by other artists, it includes two originals written by Setzer. This album follows up his 2002 Christmas release, Boogie Woogie Christmas.

Gretsch 6120

The Gretsch 6120 is a hollow body electric guitar with f-holes, manufactured by Gretsch and first appearing in the mid-1950s with the endorsement of Chet Atkins. It was quickly adopted by rockabilly artists Eddie Cochran, Duane Eddy, and later by Eric Clapton, Brian Setzer, Reverend Horton Heat, and many others. Pete Townshend received one as a gift from Joe Walsh in 1970, which he would later use on recordings for Who's Next and Quadrophenia. Poison Ivy Rorschach of The Cramps notably played a 1958 Gretsch 6120, which she bought in 1985. She said it was her favourite guitar to play.

After George Harrison played Gretsch Country Gentleman and Tennessean models (which, like the 6120, were developed with and endorsed by Chet Atkins), Gretsch found that they could scarcely keep up with demand.

Guitar Slinger (The Brian Setzer Orchestra album)

Guitar Slinger is The Brian Setzer Orchestra's second album.

Jumpin' East of Java

Jumpin' East of Java is the first live album from the American swing revival band The Brian Setzer Orchestra, released on 2001 in Japan only. This recording was also issued as the second disc of The Ultimate Collection. It was recorded at Akasaka Blitz, Tokyo, Japan.

Rock This Town

"Rock This Town" is the second single by American rockabilly band Stray Cats, released February 6, 1981 by Arista Records in the UK, where it peaked at No. 9 on the Singles Chart. It was taken from the band's 1981 debut album, Stray Cats.

Its first US release, by EMI America, was on the June 1982 album Built for Speed. Released as a single on August 31, 1982, it debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 for the week of September 18, 1982, and peaked at No. 9.The song was listed by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as one of the "500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll".

Rockin' Rudolph

Rockin’ Rudolph is the third Christmas album by The Brian Setzer Orchestra, released on October 16, 2015, through Surfdog Records. Produced by Peter Collins, it is the band's first Christmas album in ten years.

Songs from Lonely Avenue

Songs From Lonely Avenue is the eighth studio album from the American swing revival band The Brian Setzer Orchestra, released in 2009. This is the first album to feature all original songs written by Brian Setzer.

Surfdog Records

Surfdog Records is an independent record label, music publishing company, merchandising company, and marketing company based in Encinitas, California. Its roster includes artists of the rock, punk, swing, rockabilly, reggae, lounge, and alternative genres. It has released over 150 albums, including recordings by Stray Cats, Brian Setzer, Eric Clapton, Butthole Surfers, Glen Campbell, Joss Stone, Dave Stewart, Agent 51, Gary Hoey, Pato Banton, Sprung Monkey, Slightly Stoopid, Echobrain, and Tea Leaf Green.

Swing revival

The swing revival, also called retro swing and neo-swing, was a renewed interest in swing music, beginning in the 1990s. The music was rooted in the big bands of the swing era of the 1930s and 1940s, but it was also influenced by rockabilly, boogie-woogie piano, the jump blues of Louis Prima, and the theatrics of Cab Calloway.

The Best Of Collection – Christmas Rocks!

The Best Of Collection – Christmas Rocks! is a compilation album from the American swing revival band The Brian Setzer Orchestra, released in 2008.

The Brian Setzer Orchestra

The Brian Setzer Orchestra (sometimes known by its initials BSO) is a swing and jump blues band formed in 1990 by Stray Cats frontman Brian Setzer. The group covered Louis Prima's "Jump Jive an' Wail", which appeared on Prima's 1957 album The Wildest!. The BSO's follow up single was "Gettin' in the Mood."

The Brian Setzer Orchestra (album)

The Brian Setzer Orchestra is the first studio album from the American swing revival band The Brian Setzer Orchestra, released in 1994.

The Dirty Boogie

The Dirty Boogie is the third album from the swing band The Brian Setzer Orchestra. The album is considered as the breakthrough for the band, with their first single being a cover of Louis Prima's "Jump Jive an' Wail", which Prima had made popular in 1956 and included in his album The Wildest!. The release of the single came along after a Gap advertising campaign that featured Prima's original recording of the song. Each helped to propel the larger swing revival throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s. Seven of the album's tracks are covers of songs written and originally made popular between 1952 and 1962.

The Honeydrippers

The Honeydrippers were a rock and roll band of the 1980s, deriving their name from Roosevelt Sykes, an American blues singer also known as "Honeydripper". Former Led Zeppelin lead singer Robert Plant formed the group in 1981 to satisfy his long-time goal in having a rock band with a heavy rhythm and blues basis. Formed originally in Worcestershire, the band was also composed of fellow former Led Zeppelin member Jimmy Page; Jeff Beck (a former Yardbirds member like Page); and other friends and well-known studio musicians including original Judas Priest guitarist Ernest Chataway. The band released only one recording, an EP titled The Honeydrippers: Volume One, on 12 November 1984.They performed in a concert at Keele University in 1981. The Honeydrippers peaked at #3 in early 1985 on the Billboard Hot 100 with a remake of the Phil Phillips' tune "Sea of Love", and hit #25 with "Rockin' at Midnight", originally a Roy Brown recording and a rewrite of "Good Rockin' Tonight." With the EP's success, Plant stated that a full album would be recorded, but it never was. The band appeared on Saturday Night Live on 15 December 1984, performing "Rockin' at Midnight" and "Santa Claus Is Back in Town." The band featured Brian Setzer and Georg Wadenius on guitar, Tom Barney on bass, Paul Shaffer on piano, Buddy Williams on drums, Michael Brecker, Lou Marini, and Ronnie Cuber on saxophones, Jon Faddis on trumpet and Tom Malone on trombone.

On 23 December 2006, Plant performed a charity show at Kidderminster Town Hall under the title 'The Return of the Honeydrippers' to raise money for his neighbour Jackie Jennings, who was undergoing treatment for a brain tumor.

The Ultimate Collection (The Brian Setzer Orchestra album)

The Ultimate Collection is a live album from the American swing revival band The Brian Setzer Orchestra, released in 2004.


Vavoom! is the fourth studio album by the swing band The Brian Setzer Orchestra. It was released in 2000 on Interscope Records.

Wolfgang's Big Night Out

Wolfgang's Big Night Out is the seventh studio album from the American swing revival band The Brian Setzer Orchestra, released on September 25, 2007, on Surfdog Records. It is a collection of rockabilly and swing versions of classical compositions. The album is 'largely instrumental', with only two songs containing lyrics.The album was nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Classical Crossover Album category.

Brian Setzer
Studio albums
Studio albums
Live releases
Associated acts
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