What: Lee Rocker

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Tower Theatre, 835 NW Wall St., Bend

Cost: $32, $45 or $52 plus theater preservation fee

Contact: towertheatre.org or 541-317-0700

Lee Rocker was 17 when he and his childhood friends in The Stray Cats decided to leave New York for London.

The year was 1980, and the nascent rockabilly revival was just starting to pick up steam. The Long Island-based Stray Cats — stand-up bassist Rocker, guitarist/vocalist Bryan Setzer and drummer Slim Jim Phantom — was newly formed and starting to play venues such as CBGB’s and Max’s Kansas City in New York City. Through British music publications such as Melody Maker and NME, the trio started to learn about the Teddy Boy fashion subculture and the music that went along with it.

“We knew what was going on, or we thought we did to some degree, and said, ‘We should go over and see what’s going on in London,’” Rocker said from his home in New York City about a week before kicking off a West Coast tour with his solo quartet that lands in Bend on Saturday. “We sold all of our gear except for the guitar and the bass and a snare drum, and saved up gig money and we bought four airline tickets, which was three for the band and one for my bass. And we went over to London and we quickly realized that we hadn’t thought this through very well. We started to run out of money after pretty quickly, and we were sleeping in Hyde Park and all-night movie theaters some nights.”

Though London was a struggle at first, Rocker didn’t want to overplay it: The band moved in June of 1980, had an apartment and record-deal offers by September and a hit single, “Runaway Boys,” by October.

“People were intrigued by these three teenage New Yorkers with those haircuts and pink suits and an upright bass walking around the streets of London — it was like, what … is going on here?” Rocker said. “We had a little cassette demo. I think it was a combination of, ‘Wow, what is this?’ and maybe taking mercy on us.”

By 1981, the band’s self-titled debut had solidified the band at the forefront of the new rockabilly movement, with singles “Rock This Town” and “Stray Cat Strut” cracking the U.S. and U.K. charts (“Rock This Town,” still the band’s calling card, was later named one of the “500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll” by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame). Perhaps it seems odd that The Stray Cats, playing quintessentially American music, found success across the pond. But historically it shouldn’t, as Rocker pointed out.

“The thing is, though, that’s what goes on and has,” Rocker said. “It’s the same thing — blues is such an American form of music, but if it wasn’t for the English guys doing it, it never would have had its place where it was and where it is.”

The Stray Cats’ initial run ended in 1984; a full-fledged reunion occurred in the late ’80s and early ’90s, and the trio played occasional tours and shows in the back half of the 2000s. All three members have kept busy in the interim periods — Setzer, of course, struck gold again in the ’90s swing revival with his eponymous orchestra, which he still tours with.

Rocker has carried the torch for rockabilly across 13 solo albums, most recently 2012’s covers set “Night Train to Memphis.” He will focus on this material, Stray Cats classics and Phantom, Rocker & Slick songs at the Tower Theatre, in a show that he said will examine his nearly four decades in music with stories, video and photos.

“I came into this from a couple angles,” Rocker said. “I’ve done radio over the years, and was doing a lot of storytelling with that on XM Satellite, and did a stint of dates on Broadway here in New York with a show, “Million Dollar Quartet” (about the infamous 1956 Sun Records session of the same name featuring Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis). I started to get intrigued with this theater and this additional way of communicating.”

The look-back comes at an opportune time. Last month, The Stray Cats played the Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend, its first show since 2008; further shows are planned for July 4 in Chicago and Aug. 17 in Costa Mesa, California.

“The three of us hadn’t even been in a room together for 10 years — maybe two, but not the three of us,” Rocker said. “And that was truly a magical thing. … It felt like it transported me way back, not just to the heyday of The Stray Cats selling millions of records. For me, it felt like I was playing a corner bar back in Long Island, New York.”

Rocker couldn’t say if the reunion would lead to touring and new music. But he’s prepping a solo live album recorded in upstate New York due to be released in a few months, as well as continuing work on a long-promised album of new, original music.

“I’ve definitely been playing a lot more acoustic instruments, and the guys I have with me in the band as well,” Rocker said of the new music. “More keyboards, more piano — I shouldn’t say keyboards, I don’t really use keyboards, but acoustic piano — acoustic guitars, mandolins, banjos.”

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