It was an honor to finally meet Roy Book Binder and share a few tunes together. It was this encounter that inspired this blog, as we exchanged guitars for a moment he told me all about how he acquired his newest guitar. I was fascinated and felt that a songwriters tools are often neglected and this should be amended with a blog. Thanks Roy! [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GQAAP9ZgD1g&w=560&h=315]
1. Can you remember the first guitar you owned? What was the make and model and how did you acquire it?
-I bought an EKO arch top at a Naval Base in Italy, a pal said he would teach me a few chords......and he did..... After my discharge from the Navy,in 1965, at 21, I got into the Folk Music scene and bought a D-18 Martin on 48th St. in NYC. Brand new it cost $195.
2. How did you discover your present guitar, and how did it find its way home to you?
-Hearing and meeting Dave Van Ronk & Then Rev. Gary Davis, and crazy about their styles and sound, I was convinced that I had to have the same model guitar that they both played..... About a year later, I traded my Martin for a J-200 GIBSON, at Izzy Young’s Folklore Center in Greewich Village.
As I listened to old records and met various guitar picker's I ran thru some really cool instruments. Realizing that I would never sound like my heroes, I finally came to love the way I sounded on small bodied GIBSON & MARTIN GUITARS, built in the 1930's.
3. What historical aspects, if any, have you unearthed about your present or past guitars?
My favorite music was recorded before WWII, and for the past 30 yearsI have always played guitars from "The GoldenEra" (pre WWII)..... For years I favored my 1936, NICK LUCAS SPECIAL, GIBSON, (same size with a deeper body and higher quality than the GIBSON'S LOO, LO, L-1, and L-2 of the same era). My 1930, Gibson L2 is another favorite of mine. These guitars from the very early 30's are the lightest ever built.... before any company worried about warranties. This makes them very responsive to the touch...... with incredible volume and tone....( average weight is 3 lbs)....
I like to play with bare fingers. No picks, no pickups, no capo...... just like 1933..... The small GIBSON'S with light or even lighter strings really capture the sound and my guitar are set up to play real easy.... I dig in with my bare fingers.... and crank a lot of sound out of them..... ( D'ADDARIO (80/20 custom lights or lights) have been my string of choice for the past 25 years)
4. What was the most recent song you composed on your guitar, and how did your present guitar tool lead you to discover the right music?
-THE GOOD BOOK, title track of my last CD was the last song I wrote...... I am now playing mostly on THE ROY BOOK BINDER model..... built by Tony Klassen at NEW ERA GUITARS.... Tony wanted to make me a guitar....not that I needed one, I was very happy with the 4 prewar small bodied Gibson's I had collected over the years..... He insisted..... and has now had 5 Custom orders for the model named for me! My RBB Special, is an exact replica(down to the weight of the bridge plate) of a guitar, GIBSON made in 1930, for Montgomery Ward's Department store (branded, the Recording King) ..... For only one year, this guitar, a less expensive variation of Gibson's top of the line NICK LUCAS SPECIAL was available from their mail order catalog ..... When the depression came, Gibson began making less expensive guitars for Ward's.
The guitar, plays, sounds and looks like a vintage Gibson..... It is such a joy play, and it seems to understand the nuances of the old styles that I favor..... for the last 2 years, my vintage guitars have taken a back seat and it just might be time to let them go. At this point in this OLD FOLKSINGER'S life, they have become my 401K and I sure was lucky to be able to tour with them for many years......
For more on Roy Book Binder check out his website: http://www.roybookbinder.com
Image by Cheryl C. Kagan