[seven-degrees] rocked April 1 — no fooling.
The annual Art Stars Awards included a short set by Lee Rocker, recipient of the Laguna Beach Alliance for the Arts' Visionary of the Year award, for his influence on the revival of rockabilly. Rocker's award was one of eight Art Stars Awards presented this year.
"Tonight we are honoring exceptional people and programs and awarding one-of-a-kind and much-coveted Louis Longi sculptures," said Lisa Mansour, chairwoman of the event.
"The Academy Awards may have their Oscars, we have our Louies."
Rocker's award was the first one presented.
"I have to begin by saying that when I received a call from the [alliance] that they wanted to give me the Visionary Award on April Fool's Day, I was a little suspicious," Rocker said. "With that said, I am happy and proud to receive this award. Our town's history is a history of art, music, theater, dance, creativity and innovation. Laguna Beach is a vibrant and world-class arts community.
"We may be small in population or geography, but not in any other way."
Rocker has lived in Laguna for more than 20 years with his wife, Debbie Drucker. Their children, Justin and Sadie, both now in college, attended Laguna Beach schools.
"We are lucky to live in community that embraces its citizens — a city that values and nurtures the arts, the artists, the kids, all of us," Rocker said.
Rocker himself was surrounded by music from birth. Both his parents are classical musicians and teachers.
But it was a different kind of music that made Rocker's heart sing.
"I was in love with rock 'n' roll," Rocker said.
He couldn't know then that someday he would be appearing on the same stage and in the same recording studios with his heroes.
Rocker left home at 17 with two friends, and a bartender whom they took along because he was British. They called themselves the Stray Cats. They were headed for London.
It was 1980.
They went hungry the first few months, but they were playing gigs with the Clash and the Pretenders. Members of the Rolling Stones, Led Zepplin and the Kinks were in the audiences.
U2 was one of the Stray Cats' early opening acts, too serious to make it big, Rocker thought.
"Within three months of arriving in London we had a top 10 single, appropriately called 'Runaway Boys,' Rocker said.
After thousands of hours of lessons, practices in the family garage, gigs in seedy clubs — the group was an "overnight success."
Since then, Rocker has performed with many of his musical heroes: Carl Perkins, Paul Simon, Willie Nelson, John Fogerty, Keith Richards and others; traveled the world; sold 10 million records — 23 of them gold or platinum; performed on Broadway; and was nominated for a Grammy the same year his father was.