Local author premiers book on Ben Orr and The Cars

The Cars
Standing room only crowd at Joe Milliken’s premier of his book. Photo by Bill Lockwood.

BELLOWS FALLS, Vt. – Local freelance writer, regular The Vermont Journal and The Shopper contributor, and author of the online “Standing Room Only,” Joe Milliken has written a book, “Let’s Go! Benjamin Orr and The Cars.” It is the first-ever biography of Orr who was bass player and co-lead singer with Ric Ocasec of the  ’70s and ’80s platinum-selling rock band, The Cars.

Milliken’s premier book event was Saturday, Nov. 17 at Village Square Booksellers in Bellows Falls. The event was attended by over 50 enthusiastic Ben Orr fans, Cars fans, and Ben’s friends and family.

Mary, a retired teacher who comes to almost all the store’s events, said, “I’m not interested in this kind of music, but my grandchildren are.” Mary’s grandchildren are in their 30s.

Judi Wildfever, a Cars fan, came all the way from Hartford, Conn. She first heard of Milliken’s book on Facebook, and she brought a friend who said she had seen the Cars at a concert in Princeton, N.J. in the ’80s.

Milliken has a strong online presence. He said he has been researching the book for 11 years, and he grew a pre-publication list of over 1,000 fans.

Pat Fowler, co-owner of the store, said, “It’s a phenomenon.” She said people had been contacting them from all over.

Milliken’s father moved his family here when Joe was school age. He graduated from Fall Mountain High. A number of his friends dating back to those years came to his event.

The Cars
Joe Milliken signing a copy of his “Let’s Go! Benjamin Orr and The Cars.” Photo by Bill Lockwood.

Milliken says he has always loved music, but he is not a musician. “But,” he says, “I can write about music.”

He first wrote about music in a now defunct Keene publication called “Entertainment Times.” He has been sports editor then co-editor of The Message and co-editor of the Green Mountain Messenger. Milliken decided to write a book about Orr following a suggestion from one of his online followers. He found Orr’s story fascinating, and he was hooked.

Orr was born in Cleveland and never wanted to be anything but a musician. He dropped out of high school and led a band that became the house band on a syndicated TV show. Orr became known as the “Elvis of Cleveland.” A new band that became The Cars moved to Boston to play the east coast college scene. They got a record contract, and the rest was history.

At the event, Milliken told of a recent trip to Cleveland for Orr’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the first native Clevelander to be inducted. Milliken said there will be a next book, but all he has decided so far is that it will be about music.

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