Rocker and his grade-school buddies Jimmy McDonnell (later known as Slim Jim Phantom) and Brian Setzer "jammed" together and later played more classic blues like ones from rockabilly giant Carl Perkins. By 1979, they were known as the Stray Cats and led a rockabilly revival.
Now with his own band, Rocker will perform Sunday afternoon at Pier Plaza down at Huntington Beach and Main Street after a Hootenanny Festival in Irvine Saturday.
It has been 15 years since the Stray Cats have played together, but Rocker knew when he, Setzer and McDonnell hooked up they had a good thing going, and Stray Cats became one of the most popular rockabilly bands in the U.S.
The Stray Cats have reunited for a summer tour that kicks off July 19 in Illinois, and will be back in California in August for, among other shows, a gig Aug. 18 at the Verizon Amphitheater in Irvine. Rocker knew when he decided to re-record one of the Stray Cats' biggest hits "Rock this Town," it would reflect his inherent understanding of rockabilly, his love of the music and the best he had to bring to it.
Twenty-five years after first recording "Rock This Town," Rocker was playing a riff and started to sing to it, and "it clicked," he said.
He had no intention of recording it again, but when he came up with a really fresh version of it, it became a part of the 2006 album "Racing With the Devil," a culmination of the different influences Rocker has picked up over the years.
Rockabilly persists, Rocker says, because it's got everything: energy, passion, a great beat and it's fun music. "It connects with people," says Rocker, who calls music "the great escape."
Rocker's newest CD, "Black Cat Bone," will be released Aug. 14.