TAKE 5 – Interview with Roy Book Binder

(This interview was originally done in August 2009, before his Sept ’09 show). We’re excited to have the great Roy Book Binder play Mass St. Music again on Friday, June 11, 2010.  He’s not only a killer blues and folk guitarist, but a real entertainer who has lived a life that provides plenty of fodder for his true tales. He was kind enough to take some time to answer a few questions because, you know, inquiring minds want to know. Tickets for this show are $15 and are available at the store, by phone (785-843-3535) and at our store website at www.massstreetmusic.com

More tunes and tales than you shake a stick at

More tunes and tales than you shake a stick at

TAKE 5 with Roy:

1. How did your friendship with Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna’s Jorma Kaukonen (Roy teaches sometimes at Jorma’s Fur Peace Ranch) come about?

ROY: Back in the ‘old days’, back in the ’60s, often when I played ‘Hesitation Blues’, someone would yell out, “JORMA!!”…I didn’t know what they were talking about….didn’t know what a Jorma was. You see, I had no interest in Rock n Roll after my childhood hero, Buddy Holly died – I did see him and the Crickets perform 3 times in the ’50s.

Well, I did find out about Hot Tuna and the Jefferson Airplane… doing Rev. Davis music, and I was not thrilled that these ‘hippies’ were invading my sacred territory…..About 15 years ago, I got a chance to open up for Jorma at a club in NY, and that’s when I met him.  Jorma said he had all my records and that he especially loved the one I did with Jerry Douglas and the Bluegrass pickers – Bookeroo!, on Rounder……He also said he always looked forward to my appearances on TNN’s Nashville Now television show. He suggested we get to know each other better and invited me to the Woodstock house that weekend. The rest is history.

2. What is the most important thing you learned from your friendship and touring days with Reverend Gary Davis?

ROY: Traveling with Reverend Davis was a life changing event for sure. Out of the Navy, a guitar lesson, and the road….I never looked back.  The Rev became more of a friend than a teacher and I learned so much from him.  He was like a wise grandfather….and I was closer to him than I was  to my own father, who died while I was in the service.

Mostly he taught me to enjoy my accomplishments, the people I met, and life. I do believe, like many, I used to dream of what I didn’t have and take for granted what I did.

3. Can you tell us something about the guitars/instruments you’ll be playing for your show here at Mass St.?

ROY: I only play pre-war American guitars.  My favorite guitar, which will be with me on this tour, as it has been for the past 3 years, is a S.S. STEWART, (Professional Model). This guitar was made for the SS Stewart Banjo company by Gibson in 1931.  During the ’30s, Gibson made limited batches of guitars for a few distributors. It’s really a Gibson L-2…..a 12 fret guitar that’s light as a feather and an absolute joy to play.  I only know of one other Gibson-made SS Stewart in the collectible world. It’s believed that 6 were made, some were tenor 4 string guitars.

4. You’re a renowned storyteller. What’s the key to telling a great story? I can’t remember where I put my coffee cup, much less retell a tale.

ROY: I never considered myself a “Storyteller”, until I was invited to perform at The National Storytelling Festival, in Jonesborough, TN – found out it’s the all star game of storytelling festivals. I just talk about my times on the road and the people that I’ve met, and people like hearing about it.   It’s always a little different, as one thing leads to another and memories drift into my mind as I go along.

5. Can you tell us a little something about who Pink Anderson is?

ROY: I met Pink Anderson in the early ’70s.  He recorded a few 78s for Columbia Records in the late ’20s.  He spent his entire life working Medicine Shows around the Mid-South.  He was a comedian, guitar picker, and a bootlegger.   Pink was recorded in the early ’60s but suffered a stroke and never got to play the major folk festivals as many old timers did.

Before he passed, we did get him a few college gigs up North. He got great press coverage and reviews! It was very exciting and Pink told us he made more money on that trip than he ever did!  I asked him what folks back home will say….he replied, “They gonna bite their heads off!”

He never knew the band Pink Floyd was named after him and Floyd Cousel (another Carolina blues cat)  and I’m sure he never heard of them. To tell you the truth, I never heard their music or that of the Jefferson Airplane.

Note: Roy will be playing at Mass St. Music on Friday, September 11 at 7:30 p.m., with his many cool books, CDs and DVDS in tow.  Tickets are $15. C’mon down.


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