Relix 44: Binky Griptite
Welcome to the Relix 44. To commemorate the past 44 years of our existence, we’ve created a list of people, places and things that inspire us today, appearing in our September 2018 issue and rolling out on Relix.com throughout this fall. See all the articles posted so far here.
Music Discovery Starts Here: Binky Griptite
“When somebody finally turns over their TV talk show to me, then The Dap-Kings will be my house band,” laughs guitarist Binky Griptite, joking about the future of the Brooklyn-based retro-soul outfit that he played with for two decades. It’s a topic he’s been asked to address countless times since the passing of the group’s inimitable vocalist, Sharon Jones, in the fall of 2016 after a lengthy battle with cancer.
“It’s obviously sidelined The Dap-Kings for a bit because we had to honor and respect her absence and regroup, figure out our next steps forward,” says Griptite, who announced in July that he plans to leave the group this fall to focus on other projects. “All of us have been exploring other things. For me, that means finally taking that step to being an actual radio DJ.”
Griptite’s new gig, a radio show on New York’s WFUV called The Boogie Down, started when the station’s Program Director Rita Houston welcomed The Dap-Kings for an on-air remembrance of Jones, after which Griptite asked Houston if there were any DJ spots open. The guitarist was in luck, and The Boogie Down has now been on the air for over a year, holding down the 8–11 p.m. spot on Saturday nights with what Griptite calls “an all-vinyl, predominantly funk and soul show.”
“I’ve done a little bit of DJing in the past—bar gigs here and there,” Griptite says. “But ever since I was in high school, I’ve had people telling me: ‘I love your voice; you should be a [radio] DJ.’ So it’s always been in the back of my head but, obviously, my career as a musician was the priority.”
The Boogie Down lets Griptite explore the funk and soul roots that shined through so prominently in his work with The Dap-Kings, along with his love of vinyl—both classic and contemporary. “As long as it feels soulful, if it’s got a rhythm, that’ll make you wanna move and feel some energy. I’ll play it—and it is decidedly all-vinyl,” Griptite explains. “I’m really dedicated to not only playing old vinyl, but new records too. I want to support bands and labels that are still making vinyl records. It’s not like I don’t listen to an iPod at home—I do. I mean, if I’m on a plane, I don’t have a turntable. But for me, vinyl’s just a different experience.”
In addition to scratching that DJ itch, Griptite also has a new musical outlet, The Binky Griptite Orchestra, a collective that focuses on Griptite’s newfound love of 1940s rhythm and blues. “At times in the past, I’ve had another soul band on the side, but it seemed redundant to me, since I was already in The Dap-Kings,” Griptite says. “I’ve always loved the blues, and I like jazz as well, and R&B is sort of the bridge between blues and jazz. The chord progressions are a bit more involved than 1-4-5, a little deeper than Chicago blues, but then it’s not full-on like Giant Steps or something. And it’s still something that people can dance to. The best thing about doing shows with Sharon and The Dap-Kings is playing for people who are dancing.”
And while The Dap-Kings don’t have any immediate plans to record or tour by themselves—though they’ve played select dates with Jon Batiste this year, along with serving as the house band for a star-studded Otis Redding tribute at New York’s Apollo Theater—Griptite says the group is open to playing with whomever might need their services, and there will eventually be more music from the Kings.
“We’ve talked about it,” Griptite said, before posting on social media that he planed to step away from the band. “In Sharon’s last days, she said she wanted us to continue. I meet fans in the streets, and everybody wants to know what’s next—if we’ll use another singer. To that, I’d say the answer is: ‘highly unlikely.’ As far as our whole agenda, at some point, we’ll probably do an instrumental record, maybe Booker T. & the MG’s- style. Mostly, we just take life as it comes. Everyone is doing their own thing and is in demand, but we miss each other and the music, and all the things that go with it. We have high standards, and we have fans that appreciate that, so we have to keep our quality level to what people expect. We’re looking to continue to expand on the legacy of the work that we’ve done and put more good music out into the world.”
This article originally appears in the September 2018 issue of Relix. For more features, interviews, album reviews and more, subscribe here.