Picking a story on the guitar | SteamboatToday.com
Autumn Phillips

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Picking a story on the guitar

Roy Book Binder sings in the tradition of Woody Guthrie — blues-based songs woven with storytelling.

He is the ramblin’ man of the 1930s and the bard of the Middle Ages. As he wanders across the country and the world playing his music, he tells stories from his early days as a singer playing with the Southern blues men who are now dead or long retired. He tells stories about the places he has seen. He describes the people he’s met.

He talks about Reverend Davis, the man that who taught him to play guitar. He talks about Pink Anderson, a blues hero he hunted down years ago in Spartanburg, S.C.

Anderson played humorous minstrel songs, just like Book Binder does today. He sang songs such as “Travelin’ Man” and “He’s in the Jailhouse Now.” When Book Binder found Anderson, he was living by himself, eating dog food to survive.

He didn’t know that people up North were listening to his music. He didn’t know that a band named Pink Floyd had named itself after him.

“I told him I owed him $50 for playing his songs, and I got him some shows at Yale and Harvard,” Book Binder said. “He couldn’t believe anyone knew who he was.

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“For me, the music has always been about the people I’ve met, and the music I sing is just the story of where I’ve been.

“It’s informative and historically accurate. It’s like being the last of the cowboys or the gypsies. The free spirits out there, we see parts of America other people don’t see.”

During his stories, he picks up his guitar and picks out a tune.

The only way to get a Book Binder record is to buy one at his shows or from his Web site. He doesn’t have a manager, an agent or a record label, and he’s proud of making it this long without one. He’s also proud that he lived without an address for 26 years.

“The road is a lifestyle,” he said. “It turns up in the songs I sing.”