Bluesman & Entertainer ROY BOOKBINDER to play in Harrisburg, PA October 12, 2014

press2_1600x1200Guitar-pickin’ hillbilly bluesman and storyteller Roy Book Binder appears at Harrisburg’s Fort Hunter, 5300 N. Front Street, on Sunday, October 12, 2014, for a Susquehanna Folk Music Society concert. The 7:30 p.m. concert will be preceded by a free 6 p.m. potluck dinner.

Concert tickets are $20 General Admission, $16 for SFMS members and $10 for students ages 3-22. Advance tickets are available through Brown Paper Tickets online at or toll-free (800) 838-3006. A free 6 p.m. potluck dinner precedes the show. Bring a covered dish to share; drinks and place settings will be provided.

Roy Bookbinder talks about his music, his time with Reverend Gary Davis, how he came to be friends with Jorma Kaukonen, his gig as M.C. of the Blues Stage at MearlFest and being on the road at 70 plus years old.


FOLK MAMA: Tell me about your early days. How did you come to be a blues singer and entertainer?

BOOK BINDER: I started out when I went on the road after I was in the service. I met Dave Van Ronk and from there I went to Reverend Gary Davis and I dropped out of school, yet again, to go on the road with Reverend Gary Davis.

I picked up some tricks from him. I never intended to be a Gary Davis—I don’t know what the word is– “copier”. I don’t play a thing like Gary Davis but I do a couple of his tunes. I also met and traveled with old “Pink” Anderson from Spartanburg, South Carolina. He made records in the 20s. He was an entertainer, more known for entertaining and singing than his guitar playing, although he was more than adequate.

FOLK MAMA: It was lucky that you got to play with some of the old bluesmen.

BOOK BINDER: And now everybody’s dead. The last old friends I had were Honeyboy Edwards who died in his 90s and Robert Lockwood, Jr. who dies in his 90s. Those were the last two guys who recorded pre- World War II.

FOLKMAMA: I like that you play a lot of the old songs, yet you interact well with the audience.

BOOK BINDER: I always like to tell people that I’m an entertainer. That’s what I call myself. I play enough guitar to impress the front row but that’s not my goal. I tell young players that the only way that they’ll ever make a living playing this kind of music is to be able to entertain the friends and neighbors and relatives that the guitar plays and the blues music enthusiasts bring to your folk show, kicking and screaming.

FOLK MAMA: You’re a pretty funny storyteller, and you’ve had your brush with country music too!

BOOK BINDER: It’s true; I put a lot of humor in my performances. I did 32 shows on Ralph Emery’s Nashville Now TV show back in the 80s where I would do a song, sit on the couch and tell stories and play the guitar. That was a pretty exciting time. I always say when I went country all I did was get a bigger guitar, a bigger hat and a bigger mustache. Everyone in Nashville liked me. Grandpa Jones was nervous, but he came around.

FOLK MAMA: You’ve been on the road for a long time and have seen a lot.

BOOK BINDER: Well, I’ve certainly met a lot of characters in my life. I’m in my 70s now. I’m in a good time in my life. My last album was all originals songs, and some of them could pass for old time songs if I didn’t tell anybody. It’s my proudest accomplishment—that last album. It took me ten years to get around to doing it.

So, you have to make a mark at some time. My favorite songs are my own. In concert I do about 40 or 50 percent of my own, they seem to go over really good. Back when I had just a few songs that I wrote, it was quite often that people would ask, “Who wrote those last two songs?”And I’d say, “They were mine.” And they’d say, “Those were the best.”

FOLK MAMA: You have a long association with Jorma Kaukonen and you teach regularly at the Fur Peace Ranch ( Jorma and Vanessa’s concert hall and teaching camp in Ohio). How did you first meet Jorma?

BOOK BINDER: I’ve been teaching there a long time. Jorma Kaukonen was in Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna and back in the 60s when I was starting to play the clubs Hot Tuna was recording a similar kind of music: they were very influenced by Gary Davis’ music. Jorma was always a fan of Gary Davis’ music.

I’d be playing the Hesitation Blues somewhere and someone in the audience would yell out “Jorma!” I didn’t know what they were talking about. And when I found out that Hot Tuna was a group and that they were doing “my” songs, I was not thrilled about that. I thought, “What are these rock stars coming into my turf playing coffeehouses?”

So I called up a place that I played every year and I said that I needed this particular weekend. So the club owner said that we have Jorma Kaukonen that weekend. So I said to myself, “Oh Darn”, but he said why you don’t open up for Hot Tuna?

So I played and people were very receptive to me, and afterwards I went in the dressing room and saw Jorma and he said, “I never saw anyone do that to my audience before. You’ll killed them.’ Then he said that he had all my records, and I said, “Really?” And then he said, “We ought to be pals.” I went to dinner at his house the next day and all of a sudden we were pals and I did some shows with him and its funny how it worked out. You never know in this business.

FOLK MAMA: You’ve been an M.C. on the Blues Stage at MearlFest for years and years. How did that come about?

BOOK BINDER: Well that started during my Nashville period, when I got discovered by Nashville TV. I was doing a lot of shows with John Hartford at the time. I ran into Jerry Douglas at the airport one day and I asked Jerry, “What’s with this MearlFest? Is it a paid gig?” And he said, “You call them up and you tell them your price.” And I’ve been there for 21 years in a row.

Every year on my stage I book four or five finger picking, bona fide acoustic people and that stage is very popular now. No blues festival in the world has done what Merlefest has done for acoustic blues. Doc and Merle used to love John Hurt and all those old blues people.

FOLKMAMA: So, what should people expect at your show on October 12th?

BOOK BINDER: It’s a very comical show. When I went to Australia, one of the concert reviewers in the Sydney Morning Herald said,” Behind the humor lurks a musical master. “I like that quote. My greatest joy is to hear people laugh. But the music gives me the audience.



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