With the back seat and trunk of his car crammed full of hundreds of CDs by Connecticut bands, Bob D'Aprile is a rolling encyclopedia of local music. Known almost universally as Bob D, the Stamford resident has had a singular hand in shaping the contours of the local music scene.
Even though the surf is never up on Long Island Sound, for instance, he has instituted a series of over 50 Surf Nite! events at clubs in Fairfield County, featuring dozens of punk, garage, psychobilly and rockabilly bands. He's also enamored with burlesque, whether female or drag, and drops a name like Frisky a Go Go in casual conversation without a hint of irony. Derby gals, the CT Roller Girls, used to skate around during some of D'Aprile's surf night shows, but safety concerns caused the management at the venues to pull the plug on that.
After stints as a sportswriter, editor and music columnist, D'Aprile found a new medium to share his enthusiasm for local music. His radio show "Connecticut Rocks," which airs on WPKN in Bridgeport, is slated to celebrate show number 100 on Oct 11. (Since he fills in for other DJ's, the actual milestone may get pushed up.)
"I wanted to give Connecticut independent original music another opportunity to be heard," he says.
The Bristol native had been on the air before, including at WHUS at UConn, his alma mater, and WRTN in Westchester County, where he co-hosted a soccer show. While "Connecticut Rocks" usually airs during the overnight slot, a time suited to his laid-back style, the shows are archived on the station's web site and offer in-depth coverage of local bands past and present. A sympathetic interviewer, he gets guests to talk freely without interrupting to show off his knowledge.
"Bob is the hardest working local music programmer I know," says Rob DeRosa, owner of Thin Man Music, a locally skewed label in Meriden."I don't know anyone who can do those overnights like he does; it's unbelievable."
In addition to his radio show, D'Aprile is the booker, sound guy and marketing guru at Two Boots in Bridgeport, voted by Weekly readers as the Best Restaurant with Live Music, where the offerings have become more diverse and adventurous.
Some of his information about obscure historic bands comes from the book Connecticut Rocks, compiled by Paul Bezanker, to which D'Aprile contributed.
D'Aprile is quick to note that many other radio hosts and record labels actively promote local music. DeRosa hosts a weekly 55-minute show called Homegrown on WESU in Middletown. The half-hour Local Bands Show has aired on WPLR in New Haven for many years, hosted by Rick Allison and James Velvet, and Gary Gone hosts a well-regarded online radio show at http://www.independisc.com.
"My brother worked at record stores like the Music Shop in Bristol and Brass City Records in Waterbury, which is still a hub for local indie music," says D'Aprile. "They had a performance space so we would hang there a lot."
D'Aprile has amassed a large collection of vinyl, cassettes, mp3s and CDs of local bands. One of his favorites, the Reducers of New London, have been compared to the Replacements from Minneapolis. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Gene Pitney, the Rockville Rocket, who wrote Ricky Nelson's hit "Hello Mary Lou," is among the most successful musicians to emerge from Connecticut, along with New Haven native Michael Bolton and others.
"Connecticut Rocks" airs from 2 am to 6 am on Friday/Saturday and the second Tuesday of the month from 11 pm to 2 am.
"I figured it doesn't matter what time I'm on the air because people can hear it on demand anytime they want," he says. "I'm not doing anything new, really, but this is different and unique because no one's ever given that much time to local music."