Slim Jim Phantom remembers when rockabilly music came into his life.
“I was living in a little flat in Massapequa and I heard this music that I just knew I was going to do,” says Phantom, calling from his Los Angeles home. “It gave me a purpose in life.”
It’s that feeling that the Long Island Music Hall of Famer, best known as the drummer for the Stray Cats, hopes to bring to new generations with his new SiriusXM show, “Slim Jim Phantom’s Rockabilly Rave Up,” which airs on Sundays at 8 p.m. on Steven Van Zandt’s Underground Garage channel (Ch. 21). Thanks to technology improvements, fans can learn about rockabilly quickly and thoroughly, rather than the way Phantom did it, by buying imported albums one at a time at Whirlin’ Disc Records in Farmingdale.
“It’s going on 40 years now and I’m still grateful about rockabilly,” Phantom says. “It didn’t get worn out. I see the show as another way to give back.”
He says “Rockabilly Rave Up” will lean heavily on the genre’s classics. The first song he played was Buddy Holly and The Crickets’ “Rave On,” and the first show included songs from Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis and Wanda Jackson and Phantom’s thoughts on how the songs inspired him.
“I plan on going deep, though, finding some album cuts that I don’t know,” Phantom says. “I’m going to play new people who are still influenced by this music and bring a bit of their own flavor to it.”
However, in his first show, Phantom didn’t play anything from the band most responsible for rockabilly’s first revival — his own band The Stray Cats, which will play its first American concert in 10 years at “Viva Las Vegas” rockabilly weekend in Las Vegas on April 21.
“There were just so many things to play,” says Phantom, adding that he will play them eventually. He also hopes that eventually The Stray Cats reunion will find its way back to Long Island.
“Everyone’s very pally these days,” he says. “We’re doing it because we want to, because we get the same feeling we did when we started.”
However, Phantom, singer-guitarist Brian Setzer and bassist Lee Rocker all have their own projects as well. And Phantom says he is thrilled that Van Zandt chose him to be part of Underground Garage.
“My good friends Slim Jim Phantom and the Stray Cats introduced rockabilly to a whole new generation in the ’80s,” Van Zandt said in a statement. “On his SiriusXM show, Jim will feature what is an essential genre of our format. We are very proud to welcome him to the family.”
Phantom says that he was so excited about Van Zandt accepting his proposal for the show that he couldn’t stop talking.
“At one point, he sounded very Silvio [Dante, Van Zandt’s character from “The Sopranos”] and said, ‘You’re in,’ ” he says, laughing. “What he meant was, ‘Stop selling, kid.’ ”
LI’S SATELLITE CONNECTION
SiriusXM Radio’s Long Island roots run deep — back to “The King of All Media” Howard Stern putting satellite radio on the map when he moved his radio show to Sirius in 2006. (Sirius also plans to launch a Stern-driven video service in the coming months.) Hicksville native Billy Joel occasionally has his own channel, while Sag Harbor’s Jimmy Buffett keeps Radio Margaritaville going. Syosset native Chris “Mad Dog” Russo rules Mad Dog Sports Radio. And Bay Shore native LL Cool J is set to launch Rock the Bells Radio shortly.
But there are other SiriusXM regulars with Long Island ties:
- Alec Baldwin, the Massapequa-raised actor now known most for his comedy in “30 Rock” and “Saturday Night Live,” has his “Here’s the Thing” interview show on the Insight channel.
- Larry “The Duck” Dunn, the Massapequa Park DJ best known for his time on WLIR, hosts “1st Wave with Larry the Duck” weekdays on the 1st Wave channel.
- Matt Rubano, the Valley Stream native best known for his time in Taking Back Sunday, hosts “Alt Nation with Matt Rubano” weekdays on Alt Nation.
— GLENN GAMBOA