Sunday, December 2, 2007
Those barber shop blues....
I stood outside on the sidewalk. The barber shop was maybe 15 feet wide, and peering through the old front window I judged the depth to be about 50 feet. It looked as if nothing had been changed in 30 or so years. Along the right hand side ran counters, sinks, and shelves, cubbies filled with bottled of talcum powder, aftershave, and rusted shears. Vintage mirrors hung on the walls, reflecting avocado-green barber-chairs and the crazy colorful scene within.
Muffled music came through the foggy window panes, and actually entering the shop was ....it was....well, I don't quite have words for it. I swung open the door and the music snatched at my heart, making it beat with new rhythm. It tickled, the same way those moments before a first-kiss tickle, all full of adrenaline and anticipation, sweaty palms, and racing pulses. All intense and playful and sexy but innocent.
A few elderly black men played guitars and someone else played the bones. A large man sat in the corner rocking a saxophone while a taller man stood slapping at an upright base. A white-haired woman wildly kissed a harmonica as she jumped up and down with the rhythm. And then there was the piano man! He was playing like some demented demon, like someone absolutely possesed. He twisted with the rhythm and jabbed marvelously at the ivories, completely impassioned, frenzied, by the soul. "GIVE ME THOSE BARBER SHOP, BLUES! OH! SHOUT IT!!"
Introductions were made above the enticing cacophany. There were handshakes, pats on backs, big smiles, and winks.
What was this place?! What was going on?! Who were these people!?
Archie Edwards was a black Piedmont Blues musician. A great musician indeed. This shop, the one I went to last night, was his barbershop, where he worked cutting hair. He used to host jam sessions every Saturday afternoon. Folks like Mississippi John Hurt, Jack Johnson, and Cephas and Wiggins, were all known to frequent the place-- they even taught other kiddos their songs and styles. Mr. Edwards died about ten years ago, but folks within the community have managed to continue the weekly jam sessions in his barber shop in his memory. I will certainly be returning, with guitar/banjo in hand. I'm in love.
Archie Edwards Blues Heritage Foundation: http://www.acousticblues.com/