There is a joke that for excitement small town folk go to the barbershop to watch haircuts — and maybe some do — but on any given Thursday in Hendersonville, N.C. they go to the barbershop to hear the band.
Carroll Helms has been cutting hair here for decades, the last dozen years or so to musical accompaniment. Everything from country and bluegrass to rock 'n' roll and blues and gospel, and even a little yodeling. The buzz of Carroll's electric clippers is just part of the band's sound.
"Some of the guys came in with an old guitar, somebody else heard about it," he said. "And the next thing you know there was another one, and it just grew into what it is now. I didn't throw 'em out because I'm a music lover."
The band is known as the Barbershop Boys and is comprised mostly of retirees. There are regulars like Danny, Fred, Charlie, Eiler and Ireland — but all comers are welcome to sit or stand in.
Jennifer came to sing on a break from her job at Sam's Club. They come from all over.
"Remember those two gypsy fiddlers that came in from Eastern Europe or Russia? Where was it, Peanut?" Eiler said.
"Oh yeah, they were here," Peanut Freeman said.
"Ukraine, wasn't it?" Eiler asked.
"Man, they gave us a show here on gypsy fiddling'," Eiler said.
Danny Bonds was a professional musician and said he played in some pretty seamy places before coming to the barbershop.
"We used to call some of them dives and that was the truth," he said. "A lot of times you had to dive under a table, you know?"
They look forward to Thursdays and they're not the only ones. Evidentially the barbershop provides a nice activity for the community's men.
"Every once in awhile I get a thank you note from the wives," Carroll said.
It's a regular happening with a standing-room-only crowd — Carroll puts in a second row of chairs on Thursdays, and offers donuts and coffee. Peanut may even deliver a cup.
They play from opening to closing — songs of love and trains and losing the farm and moonshine. All the while Carroll cuts and trims and shaves and claims he's never lopped off an ear on a sour note.