Containing more than 900 entries, 100 interviews, and 450 pages, Connecticut Rocks! is a monumental, if somewhat strange, achievement. Its subtitle defines it as "An Encyclopedia of Rock 'N' Roll, Rhythm & Blues, Rockabilly, Doo-wops, Gospel, Punk, New Wave, and Soul Records by Connecticut Artists and Connecticut Record Labels."
The tome was researched, written, and published by Paul Edward Bezanker, a mild-mannered administrative assistant for a local consulting firm. "I thought it would only take me three or four years," Bezanker says of the book. "Instead it took ten."
Bezanker moved from the Constitution State to the Sunshine State in August, bringing with him about a dozen boxes filled with research. He also brought approximately 9000 LPs, 20,000 45s, a couple thousand 78s, and an old Thorens turntable to play them on. After settling into his Pompano Beach apartment, Bezanker put the finishing touches on his book.
"I think it'll appeal to a wide audience," he says, "because there are a lot of nationally known artists in there."
Such as? Well, Gene Pitney, for one. And plenty of doo-wop groups, such as the Five Satins (remember "In the Still of the Night"?), and the Playmates (who sang the 1956 hit "Jo-Ann") are also listed. So are the Carpenters. Though Richard and Karen were discovered while living in Downey, California, they were born in New Haven, Connecticut.
"If half or more of the band is from Connecticut," Bezanker explains, "they're included."
Connecticut Rocks! lists artists alphabetically, and each entry lists an impressive amount of information: Birth dates and birthplaces, release dates of singles and albums, labels the artist recorded with, chart places (if any), and other bands the artist may have been in. There's also a price guide that lists the going rate for hard-to-find LPs and singles.
This is your source book for the title of Kris Jensen's 1962 hit song ("Torture"), the market value of the Academics' 1957 single "Too Good to be True" ($150), or the name of the guy who founded Glo Records (Al Soyka, who now lives here in Hollywood).
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At 49 years of age, Bezanker has a long musical history himself. He started collecting records in 1961, when he bought a copy of Del Shannon's "Runaway." He hosted radio shows on various college stations during the '60s, and for a few years in the '70s he published the collector-oriented Paul's Record Magazine from his home in Hartford.
"I started getting a reputation, without even asking for it, of being an expert on Connecticut records," Bezanker recalls. "People in collector circles would save records for me because they knew it was from Connecticut. Finally, people would tell me, 'You gotta come out with a book.'"
When Bezanker finally finished his ten-year magnum opus, he proposed it to 30 different publishers. They all turned it down. Undaunted, he went to Kinko's, made his own spiral-bound copies, and advertised it in various trade magazines. He's sold 40 copies so far, and a half-dozen orders just came in last week. "I just print them as I go," he says.
To purchase a copy, send $49.00 to Paul Bezanker, 713 Gardens Dr., Pompano Beach,