Tony Renzoni came to Barnes and Nobles in Storrs Center Thursday to talk about his new book “Connecticut Rock 'n' Roll: A History,” which broke down the surprising influence Connecticut had on the rock ‘n’ roll scene.
“Well I know a lot of people in the music scene,” Laura Kessler, resident of Canterbury, Connecticut, said. “I’m not in the music scene myself, but I have a bunch of friends, so I kind of think I’m going to come back later for volume two and they might be in it.
Renzoni began his talk by playing a video he had made compiling the works of rock ‘n’ roll bands from Connecticut including Beach Avenue, the D-Men (later called The Fifth Estate, popular for “Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead”) and Gary De Carlo, each from New Haven, Stamford and Branford respectively. The compilation was actually dedicated to De Carlo, lead singer of “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Me Goodbye,” since Renzoni had been the last to interview him prior to his death.
“There were a lot of styles of song that I liked that I just didn’t realize we had close to here at all,” Jorge Melecio, a ninth-semester ecology and evolutionary biology major, said.
Renzoni said the purpose of his book was two-fold: He wanted to pay tribute to the great artists that were associated with Connecticut and their fans, as well as describe the cultural events that propagated rock ‘n’ roll around the state. He said his history of these cultural events took up the first 40 pages of his book and included sock hops, record hops, record stores and after-school hangouts. He then elaborated on the importance of each of these events.
Renzoni explained each event in terms of his memory of them from childhood. Sock hops were dances where shoes were kicked off so as not to scuff the gymnasium floor. Record hops were more informal dances where popular music was played. Record stores were more than just places to buy records, they were where you’d go to discuss music with your friends and complete music surveys. These surveys granted teens a sort of power, since DJ’s would then use them to pick the top 40 hits. After-school hangouts supplied them with freedom to be themselves and talk with each other without an adult in earshot. And the invention of the pocket transistor radio gave teens the independence to listen to what they wanted when they wanted. What do all of these cultural events have in common? Rock ‘n’ roll supplied the background music. With this genre being played across Connecticut, it had a profound influence on young people across the state.
“I was just impressed we even have a rock ‘n’ roll history, to be honest. You know, when I think Connecticut I often just think ‘nutmeg,’ we hit the constitutionary tree,” Melecio said. “How far as Connecticut history goes, I don’t really think too much of about having social or cultural stuff. So it was really pleasant to see that we had stuff and mirrored a lot of the country. And it was expansive beyond what I thought of it.”
“Connecticut Rock 'n' Roll: A History” has a forward written by Ken Evans, former member of D-Men and 150 photographs, many of which are rare. It really is a must read for music lovers.
“I’m going to buy one for sure,” Kessler said. “I’m gonna circulate it around my group of friends. I’m gonna probably buy a couple more copies, so that they can read it.”
Rebecca Maher is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.