Meet & Greet

Texas Rockabilly Revival, The MUSIC: The Rockats!

The Rockats It always took the good British to recognize what was distinctive and cool in American musical culture and remind us of it when we went astray. The British invasion bands started out playing good ol' American rock & roll and blues, and brought it all back home; in the 70s and early 80s, we needed reminded of what had been casually called Rockabilly by some in the 50s. The Rockats are one of the pioneering "rockabilly revival" bands, with roots in the late 70s and early 80s. You can't see and hear this band and wonder where Brian Setzer got some of his inspiration, both visually and musically. The history is extensive and convoluted – and you can find some of it at The Rockats' site: In the meantime, some pics to get you started. What a solid rockin' completely musical set The 'kats turned in. Here were the roots of rockabilly revival in a trans-Atlantic musical partnership - and it was back to school for anyone who hadn't remembered how it's done. There's something about the authority and command of mature musicians who flat know their craft! Dibbs Preston: vocal Barry Ryan: guitar Danny B Harvey: guitar Smutty Smith: bass Lewis King: drums _____ The Visual
This post is out for a smoke break.
Rockat drummer Lewis King here. Thanks so much for putting up the pictures and audio, and for sponsoring the event. Gretsch, Orlando and the folks at Rockabilliy Magazine, and of course Stubbs, deserve a great big "thumbs up"! Its the first time this lineup of the Rockats has played together in 26 years and we have you guys to thank for it. What a great crowd too!! We had a super time. Can't wait to do it again. Now how about some video? Best, Curt "Lewis King" Weiss
Hope this sheds some light on the history of the ROCKATS . . . IN 1977 Levi and the ROCKATS form when Levi Dexter met the manager of The Heartbreakers Lee Black Childers who was fasinated with the British Rockabilly scene. Levi Dexter (vocals), Smutty Smith (bass), Mick Barry (guitar), Dibbs Preston (Guitar) and Don Devourex (Drums) . . In 1978 Levi, Dibbs and Smutty move to the USA with Lee and add Americans Guy Hammer (guitar) and Dean Thomas (Drums). This line-up is the Levi and the Rockats that all the Americans remember and who appeared on Wolfman Jack’s and Merv Griffith’s TV shows. IN 1979 Dean Thomas left to start a blues band and Jerry Nolan (from the New York Dolls and Heartbreakers) takes over on Drums. Xmas Day 1979 Levi and the Rockats split paths and do a farewell show. 1980 The Rockats replace Guy Hammer with Tim Scott on guitar and add Barry Ryan as lead guitarist and have Dibbs move over to vocals and relocate to NYC. 1980 Levi starts a rockaibilly band called Levi and the Ripchords with Danny B Harvey and Bruan Setzer on guitars, Gary Setzer on Drums and Adam Stein on bass. Levi wants to move his band back to London and a few weeks before embarking Brian and Gary quit to release a single with their band The Bloodless Pharaohs and return to NYC. Levi and Danny B get Dave Curry on Bass, Pat Brown on Drums and Jim Reed on guitar and move to England. 1980 Jerry Nolan leaves the rockats shortly after they get signed to Island Records and record a studio LP in London that is never released by the label. Tommy Darrnell replaces him on drums. In 1981 Lewis King replaces Tommy Darrnell and Island RECORDS capture the Rockats live at a local club called the RITZ and their debut LP LIVE AT THE RITZ is released. 1981 Island Records drops the Rockats because of disappointing record sales and Tim Scott decides to leave the band to pursue a solo career. Danny B. Harvey also leaves Levi about that time and moves from London to NYC to join the Rockats. 1982 Shortly after Danny joining the band they recorded two demos, one being their breakthrough hit MAKE THAT MOVE, and get signed to RCA and acquire Tommy Mottola as their manager. Although Lewis King played drums on hte demos he leaves the Band and joins Tim Scott as his drummer and is replaced by MIKE OSBOURNE. During this time they appear on American Bandstand, on camera in the film WHERE THE Boys ARE and do very large tours opening for THe Go-Go;s, Flock of Seagulls, Hall and Oats, David Bowie and The Clash. They become a very big draw on their own right but Tommy Mottalo decides they should be more commerical and less retro like his other acts Hall and Oates and John Cougar Mellencamp and convince them to change their names and sign a very large deal with MCA RECORDS 1983 they record a LP under their new name THE SECRET HEARTS and in early 1984 it’s released on MCA. The new approach tanks so the band disbands until the mid 90’s when they sporadically reform and have recorded a couple CDs and done a few tours of Japan always with Dibbs and Barry and sometimes with Smutty, Danny B, Mike and Lewis. The lineup at the TEXAS ROCKAIBILLy REVIVAL on Friday was DIBBS PRESTON, BARRY RYAN, DANNY B HARVEY, SMUTTY SMITH and LEWIS KING which was the line-up that recorded their hit MAKE THAT MOVE. although Lewis was replaced before the rest of their debut RCA record was finished it was his drum playing on the LP that everyone heard. Hope that clears up the mystery . . . hahaha
I had no idea the Setzers had a part to play in Rockcats history!
The early Levi and The Rockats, Levi Dexter and the Ripchords history is well documented on Levi's myspace page: If you go to Danny B Harvey's myspace page there's a couple of cool photos of him and Brian playing together when they were obviously very young . . . The whole rockabilly scene from that era is very incestuous, I guess because they're weren't;t a lot of folks doing it. IN 1999 Slim Jim Phantom, Lee Rocker and Danny B Harvey had a trio called The Swing Cats that released 2 CDs and currently Danny B and Slim Jim have a band with Lemmy from Motorhead called THE HEAD CAT.
Wow, great info here. Didn't know most of this. Also about the Setzers but specially also the part about Lemmy playing with Slim Jim. Sounded pretty ummmmm....what shall I say, well like Lemmy doing rockabilly. Not bad actually. :nice:
lastbop, thank you for the history and the lineup information from Friday's gig. I couldn't find definitive current information online when posting the content, and my apologies. I'll update the opening thread with the personnel information so it matches the threads for the other bands. Lewis, great show - what a solid groove! Pleasure to hear you all play, and the "reunion vibe" was infectious. Hope it's just the start of more great gigs to come.
Dear "lastbop2000"' Minor tweaks in your otherwise well informed Rockats History: *Jerry left just before the Island deal. Literally a week or two. *Islands official "out" of the contract was the change of band members from Tim to Danny. It was a contract clause that allowed them to terminate when there was a change of members. *I played drums on MAKE THAT MOVE and ONE MORE HEARTACHE. Mike Osbourne played on the rest of the MAKE THAT MOVE EP. *The Rockats opened for both the Clash and the Go-Go's in 1981, long before signing with Mottola. *The 5/16/08 gig was the first Rockat gig I have played sonce August of 1982. I did do some one off gigs with strange, "Rastabilly" bands in '83 & '84 with Smut, Dibbs and/or Tim as well as George Usher though. Best, Curt "Lewis King" Weiss
Just one minor tweak on Lewis comments, wasn't your first gig with the Rockats since 1982 May 16 2008 and not May 17th? hahaha And I remember the "Cats of Dub", as well as "The Vipers" and the "House of Usher" You never got your due did you . . . It was sweet to see Mr. King behind the drums again last Friday
Can't argue with ya lastbop2000. Don't forget Beat Rodeo though.

Me, Barry Ryan, Gary Setzer, Dibbs Preston, Donny Danger, Jennie G., Mrs. Preston! July 4th 2011 Glenside Pa. It was a great night!


New to the board and just found this post. A guy in my band had a Rockats album around 1981. We had a Blues band and started playing a bunch of Rockabilly. We all already loved Carl Perkins, Eddie Cochrane, etc. Well...when the Stray Cats hit it big, we were the only band around with a bunch of Rockabilly and we worked as many nights as we wanted! Dibbs is a local guy here (I suppose I'll see him when my band plays the Glenside Car Show again this year) and he seems like a great guy. And WHAT A VOICE! Day-um! He's sat in with my band, but I haven't had a chance to talk to him. I owe him a beer for all those gigs he got me!!


I remember seeing the Rockats once at the El Mocambo in the late 70's or early 80's.

Pretty hot band back then!


Somewhere I've got a 7" poster bag single by these guys. But like most bands I get into them after they disband. Swing Cats for Danny B and the Havalinas for Smutty. Great to see.

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