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Brian Setzer talks Christmas tours, Tom Petty, ‘The Simpsons’ and more

His annual holiday tour hits Ruth Eckerd Hall on Tuesday.
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Published Nov. 23, 2017

Brian Setzer knows he's overdue for a trip to Florida.

For 13 years, the Grammy-winning rockabilly guitarist and big-band frontman has been packing theaters coast to coast for his annual Christmas Rocks Tour. But somehow, he keeps skipping this area. Ruth Eckerd Hall has for years tried to book the blockbuster blowout, but not until this year did they finally succeed on booking a show, on Tuesday. (Click here for show info.)

"We get less than two months over the season, and it's a lot of people to move," Setzer said by phone recently from his home in Minnesota. "It's a couple of days to get everybody rolling. And I said, no, this year, it's been too long. We've got to get to Florida."

Holiday music may not seem like the most obvious career move for Setzer, 58, who found punk and rockabilly fame with the Stray Cats before riding the swing revival back to the top in the '90s. But it's a niche he's embraced wholeheartedly, releasing a handful of Christmas albums, all of them jazzed up with his 19-piece Brian Setzer Orchestra. During shows, he plays a selection of holiday favorites and greatest hits, and also splits off into a rockabilly trio for a few numbers.

"I can't do all Christmas because people want to hear Rock This Town and Stray Cat Strut," he said. "I can't leave out big hits. And then I can't leave out Jingle Bells, right? It's kind of a good problem to have."

For more of our interview with Brian Setzer, click here.