Favorite

Bluesman Roy Book Binder brings his stories and songs to Shenanigans. 

Self-Made Musician

Short minutes into a phone conversation with acoustic blues guitarist Roy Book Binder, you realize you're in for an interesting ride. Not only does the guy know his music, but he's got a lifetime of tales to tell. He's played with the greats and has made his own waves, and those who attend his Saturday, Sept. 2, show at Shenanigans will no doubt hear plenty of both story and song.

Book Binder latched on to the blues during the '60s, just when many in this country were rediscovering the original blues recordings and artists from the 1930s. He'd just left the Navy behind — the country was "in between wars" — and New York-native Book Binder settled into junior college in Rhode Island. The blues and folk boom was happening in clubs everywhere and he liked the sounds. He'd picked up a little basic guitar in the service and started trying his hand at the new tunes he was hearing.

"I just heard it and it grabs you," he says. "There's a magical thing to it."

After attending a Newport Folk Festival, where he heard Son House, Bukka White, the Rev. Gary Davis, Muddy Waters and many of the best, Book Binder was sold.

"Muddy really blew my mind," he remembers.

Book Binder moved to New York and soon developed a personal relationship with the blind Rev. Davis that helped him to focus his life. Book Binder became the older man's driver, helper and student in 1967.

Book Binder also began playing in some clubs when he and Davis were not touring. Folk-scene godfathers Dave Van Ronk and Ramblin' Jack Elliot became his friends and mentors, and Book Binder settled into a finger-picking Piedmont style of playing common to both folkies and blues players. By 1968, Book Binder was cutting sides for Kicking Mule and Blue Goose records.

On the road with Davis, Book Binder met some of his heroes and he learned the difficulties of the booking business. He assisted Davis for two years until Davis died. In 1970, Book Binder went to England where a blues revival was also underway. It proved a smart move when the press noticed him within two weeks. He was soon touring with Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup and Homesick James.

Armed with critical credentials and more experience, Book Binder returned to Greenwich Village in 1971 to "play the joints" and he released the first solo acoustic blues guitar record to receive top accolades from Downbeat Magazine.

Book Binder, 57, has plied his craft since as he wanders the country in his recreational vehicle. He's played around the world, been the subject of a documentary, toured with Bonnie Raitt and has made friends and fans on Ralph Emery's show on The Nashville Network. Spinning stories and picking his acoustic with care and precision, Book Binder has found his own success in an often treacherous business.

"I'm proud to say I'm … self-made," he says. " I drive the bus. … I make the decisions. You never know what's going to lead to something. It all adds up to a
Favorite

Latest in Miscellany

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Ames Arnold

Connect with Style Weekly

Newsletter Sign-Up

The Flash
The Bite
The Scoop

Most Popular Stories

Copyright © 2017 Style Weekly
Richmond's alternative for news, arts, culture and opinion
All rights reserved
Powered by Foundation