Saving the Drexel Barber Shop

There’s something about a barber shop; the unmistaken sound of metal scissors, oozing shaving cream, buzzing clippers, and old men telling tall tales. In Western North Carolina, one can also get a little pickin’ with their trim for no extra charge. Each Thursday, Friday and Saturday pickers show up at the Drexel Barber Shop for afternoon jam sessions in the legendary “back room.” It’s been home to haircuts and harmony for more than a half century.

When owner Lawrence Anthony passed away a few years ago, his son vowed to make good on a promise. Carroll Anthony would keep the barber shop open. That meant the haircuts and bluegrass would continue.

But it hasn’t been easy. The old building continues to age, and water damage has meant costly repairs. But as families always do, bluegrass has stepped up to help save the Drexel Barber Shop. Film Director Matt Morris produced the Emmy-nominated documentary Pickin’ & Trimmin’ that has helped raised awareness. Probably the most visible effort has been the dollars donated by the bluegrass community.

The 2nd annual Drexel Barber Shop Benefit Jam was held Saturday, June 23, at Old Rock School in Valdese. The lack of a national headliner band didn’t affect attendance. A “big” act wasn’t what this night was about. The auditorium was nearly full as fans came to see and hear the pickers who have been regulars at the barber shop for years.

Six acts entertained the enthusiastic and appreciative crowd for more than three hours.

  • The Barber Shop Pickers
  • Phil Shirley & Friends
  • Strictly Clean & Decent
  • Miguel Pico
  • Eddie Rose & Highway Forty
  • The Neighbors

Carroll Anthony was emotional as he told the audience the benefit was all about keeping the music alive and keeping a promise to his father.  “This is not-for-profit. Every dime goes to keeping the barber shop open,” Anthony said.

David Shirley’s voice was also a little shaky when he spoke and introduced himself as a “visiting barber.”

“I had the fortune of working with him for 45 years. Lawrence, if you’re looking down, this one’s for you.”

Donations to the Drexel Barber Shop Preservation Fund can be made at the First Citizens Bank in Valdese, North Carolina or mailed to:

The Barber Shop Fund
2744 Monarch Drive
Charlotte, NC 28214

Here are a few photos from the show…

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About the Author

Dan Cates

Dan is News Director at WSPA and WYCW television stations in Spartanburg, South Carolina. He authored the book "Are The Children Safe" and has written for various publications, including Bluegrass Unlimited. In addition to songwriting, he plays mandolin and guitar.