Arts & Events » Theater

Me and Ms. Jones

Gabe Roth is the Daptone soul provider.


Daptone Records co-founder Gabe Roth is finally home after being stuck in the ash cloud debacle across the pond that paralyzed air travel for days. But you'll hear no complaints from one of the busiest guys in the music business. “After trying to fly out of multiple airports, we got a call from a friend of friend who owned this amazing, 17th-centry English estate,” he says. “So we spent some time in the countryside. It looked like something out of a Jane Austen novel. … And the guy had an amazing rock-steady record collection.”

Roth, aka Bosco Mann, is the bass player, primary songwriter and producer for the Dap-Kings, known by most for providing the soul-drenched sounds behind soul diva Sharon Jones, and for shaping Amy Winehouse's Grammy-award winning disc “Back to Black,” much of which was recorded at the Dap-Kings' Brooklyn studio, House of Soul.

Roth, a New Yorker, is mum on Winehouse but eager to talk about the little label that does, his commitment to the proliferation of vinyl, and of course, the fierce Ms. Jones. We listen.

“I guess I'm a mogul now,” says “Bosco,” laughing. “I didn't have ambitions to be in the music industry, be a musician, or any of that. I kinda fell into it with some friends to make recordings for fun.”

Roth's Daptone label is dedicated to old-school, analog sounds. “Vinyl is not just for record collectors,” he says. “It's a not a novelty, it's a good business. Record sales have gone up as CD sales have declined. It's not just hip young kids and record geeks who buy this stuff.” He says he believes that “in this day in age, things are getting cheaper, smaller and faster. Music just doesn't fit into that. It's not supposed to be comfortable, efficient and cheap. It's supposed to be something of quality that you can connect to.”

Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings have made a big connection with people from just about every age group, background and musical palette since they first hooked up in 1996. Roth credits a large part of that appeal to their fiery frontwoman. “We hired Sharon to sing backup for this Lee Fields session and she killed it in the background,” he says. “But what really struck me was her charisma and personality. She's a spark plug. There's nobody like her.” The Daps have toured relentlessly in support of the throwback grooves found on their collaborations with Jones, acclaimed discs such as “100 Days, 100 Nights” and the just-issued “I Learned the Hard Way.”

Acknowledged as key players in the recent soul-revivalist movement, the band had its latest record debut at 15 on the Billboard Top 200. Roth says there's no better time to be making independent music: “It's better than it's ever been. Better than any era. With the Internet, independent artists and labels have the opportunity to make direct connections. There's infinite variety.”

On top of that, he says, “The major labels are eating their asses right now. They're falling apart trying to market models to 13- and 14-year-olds.”

“Thousands of people are tired of drum machines, samplers and computers. They want to hear people playing music and we're grateful,” he says. “We're just making music that we love, the way we feel is right.”  S

Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings will perform at Groovin' in the Garden at Maymont on May 6. Tickets $20-27. For information on the series, which has moved from Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden for May, go to


Add a comment