Book details

A Stray Cat Struts

My Life as a Rockabilly Rebel

Author: Slim Jim Phantom

A Stray Cat Struts

A Stray Cat Struts


About This Book

In June 1980, 19-year-old James McDonnell (known as Slim Jim Phantom) boarded a plane from New York City to London with his childhood friends and bandmates Brian Setzer and Lee Rocker. In less than...

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Book Details

In June 1980, 19-year-old James McDonnell (known as Slim Jim Phantom) boarded a plane from New York City to London with his childhood friends and bandmates Brian Setzer and Lee Rocker. In less than a year, they went from being homeless, hungry, and living in punk rock squats to the toast of the London music scene.

The Stray Cats developed a signature sound and style that swept across the world, released multiplatinum albums, and were embraced and befriended by classic rock acts like the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin, as well as original punk heroes such as the Sex Pistols, the Damned, and the Clash, and rock-and-roll originators Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis. After ten years of marriage to actress Britt Ekland, Slim Jim moved down the hill to Sunset Strip, where his son was raised and he owned the world-famous rock-and-roll bar Cat Club while continuing to play with a host of well-known musicians.

Slim Jim, a veteran of the London and LA music scenes, recounts in his memoir not just the Stray Cats' rise but a different type of life spent in the upper echelon of rock-and-roll stardom.

Imprint Publisher

Thomas Dunne Books



In The News

"And now, for my friend, Slim Jim Phantom, 'Opportunity Knocks,' Don’t screw it up, boy!" —Lemmy Kilmister, Motorhead

“Slim Jim Phantom is to drumming as Woodie Guthrie is to guitar playing. That attack. Have we invented the definition ‘roots drumming’ yet? Let's do it now. So much rhythm and power, all from just a few drums. Expressive and driving, all done while standing up. He was/is part of a musical movement that was huge and unexpected. It's pretty incredible too, that it all came out of Massapequa, NY. Thank you, Massapequa, and thank you, SLIM!” —Fred Armisen

“Without Slim Jim I wouldn't be a singer in a band called The Alarm. Slim Jim literally saved my rock and roll life. He is the real deal. Slim is not only a stand up drummer but a stand up guy. Together we have walked the Himalaya and been to the roof of Africa, saving lives in the name of Love Hope and Strength! He is a rock and roll star of the highest order and the pages of this book will no doubt enlighten the lives of anyone who reads them, be they seasoned troubadour, or fired up angry young men in search of the kind of rock and roll that began with Elvis and lives on within the noble heart of Slim Jim Phantom." —Mike Peters, The Alarm

“Jim is pretty much unfazed by anything - send a plane ticket and a few bucks to pay the bills and he's more than happy jamming in a bierkeller with a Bavarian rockabilly ensemble. … Unlike a lot of drummers who mainly listen to themselves Jim plays the SONG, contributing to the arrangement in the same way his hero Ringo did.” —Captain Sensible, The Damned

“Slim is still youthful and hotheaded but he lays down a strong beat and is a big help with the daily crossword puzzle" —Harry Dean Stanton

"Dismiss Long Island at your peril. Who woulda thunk that while Punk was reigniting the Spirit of Rock & Roll, a Rock-a-Billy revival was trickling under the door. When in swept the Stray Cats clear across the mainstream, and that primal boppin' energy was fresh again. No more would vintage Rock & Roll be viewed as mere ‘Oldies’ or ‘50's music,’ filtered through a Happy Days glaze of Sha-Na-Na and ‘American Graffiti’. This sound was NOW! When was the last time an upright bass was kool? And who had ever seen a stand-up drummer; let alone with the onstage spin and sparkle of Slim Jim Phantom? The Punks liked 'em, Kittens loved 'em; even stadiums full of Stones fans ran out and bought their albums. I finally got to see them later in a club, and the star power was clear off the charts. Even I had to say to myself, ‘You know, they deserve every platinum record they've got.’ Such a big impact, such a big sound. All by going back to basics and stepping on the gas. All with a kit so small, Jim could have hauled it with him up Mt. Everest. Hell, maybe he did.... Thank you, Jim, for being my friend. And for Rockin' this Town wherever you go.” —Jello Biafra

“Slim Jim Phantom, a long drink of water is a master of the spectacularly cool, less is more approach to drumming. A tough cookie in his drape coat but a mensch underneath, our man has a wealth of talent and from a lifetime of being in with the in crowd, a tale for every occasion. One of my few very best chums, SJP is a buddy and half but even so, I hope he hasn’t dished too much dirt…” —Glen Matlock, The Sex Pistols

“Slim Jim Phantom invented himself while remaining true to the authenticity of the music he loved. He has rock and roll running through his veins. His tattoos come to life at night. You want the truth? Read this book.” —Michael Des Barres, musician, actor, Sirius XM DJ

"An entertaining pop music memoir for fans of drummer, Eighties music, and/or rockabilly." —Library Journal

About the Creators

A Stray Cat Struts

A Stray Cat Struts