Roy Book Binder brings his 25-city tour to NW Philly

by Len Lear
Posted 5/9/24

Roy Book Binder, who insists that he is “more of an entertainer than a musician,” will open Historic Germantown's series of six concerts on May 11.

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Roy Book Binder brings his 25-city tour to NW Philly


Roy Book Binder, who insists that he is “more of an entertainer than a musician,” will open Historic Germantown's series of six concerts on May 11 in a months-long program depicting the progression of American roots music, blues and jazz. The concerts highlighting music from the 1920s through the 1990s are being presented in association with local composer/guitarist Jim Dragoni. 

Book Binder will take the stage at 4 p.m. in Historic Germantown’s  courtyard at 5501 Germantown Ave, with a rain date of May 12. All of the concerts in the series, through the last which is scheduled for Oct. 12,  will be performed at 4 p.m. on the second Saturday of each month.

“Artists were chosen for their national and international recognition as well as their historic knowledge of and their places in the chronology of musical history,” said Maggie Poulos, a spokesperson for the series.

Although Book Binder is 80, he shows no sign of slowing down. When I called him last week, he was in North Carolina as part of a 25-city tour, which includes the Germantown concert.

 “I'm gonna keep folk singing until the money runs out,” Book Binder said.

The first question to the octogenarian was a no-brainer. Who gives a child the middle name “Book?” Was that really his birth name?

 “No,” said the native New Yorker. “I was Roy Bookbinder till I went to Nashville to perform. I was told that everybody in Nashville has three names. So they spelled my name with three words on the advertising poster and on my first [record label] record in 1988, so I stuck with it. When I played in Philly, Bookbinders restaurant sent a limo to pick us up for a free lobster dinner.”

Roy, who calls himself  “a 1950s rock 'n' roll kid,” went to every one of Alan Freed's rock 'n' roll shows in New York. (Freed, a popular disk jockey, was credited with coining the term “rock 'n' roll.”)  

“I saw Buddy Holly, Bo Diddley, the Coasters, the Platters, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Ray Charles and so many others,” Book Binder said. “The music blew my mind, like so many teenagers at the time, but it was beyond my thought that I could do that music myself.”

So Roy essentially taught himself to play guitar and in 1976 rented a motorhome, which he took on the road for 17 years until he met his wife-to-be 30 years ago. Instead of rock 'n' roll, he has played a mix of folk music, country music, Americana, “roots music,” blues, cowpunk and alternative music.

“Those labels mean nothing to me,” Binder said. “I just do music I like. It's other people who put those labels on it.”

What were Book Binder's biggest musical thrills? 

“In 1979, I was an opening act for Ray Charles at a theater in Tampa,” he replied. “Had a great time with him. I had seen him do three shows at the Apollo Theater in Harlem for $1.50. Overall I saw him perform 10 or 12 times. I later met Little Richard also. He was crazy.

“I was in the Navy in 1962 when a friend taught me a few guitar chords,” Book Binder continued. “When I got out of the Navy, I went to see Dave Van Ronk (folk music star in the 1960s). He blew my mind. I waited for him afterwards and told him 'I'm gonna be a blues guy.' Years later, he heard me sing, and he took me home. For 24 hours, we did guitar and whiskey. That was great! And I opened for Bonnie Raitt in Miami in 1986. We sold out 1,700 seats.”

 Book Binder, who dropped out of college to go on the road performing, has learned some valuable lessons along the way. Copying other musicians doesn’t work, he said. Finding your own style is best. And, good luck is a good thing.  “ It is better to be lucky than to be talented, smart or good looking,” Book Binder said. “There are lots of better singers and songwriters than me, but I have still had a pretty good career with 13 albums with some of my own songs.?

During his performances, Book Binder talks to the audience and tells stories. He says he loves making people laugh and have a good time. 

“I am shocked and delighted to still be making a living for 50 years playing music that was never really popular in the first place,” he said. “If you live long enough and don't piss people off, you got a shot. I love the road, but I have not written a song since I got Netflix and Amazon Prime.”

For more information, call 215-844-1683 or visit Len Lear can be reached at