Helm's Barber Shop_ Music and a Trim
Music and a Trim
Since my retirement in 2004 I have been able to enjoy one of my favorite activities, playing bluegrass and gospel music. My son, Gary who is visually impaired, is home bound but since his high school days has become an excellent mandolin and guitar player. I have always been a lover of acoustic string music and play the banjo, guitar and fiddle. It would be moot to say music has always been an important part of our lives. Whether singing at our church or performing an impromptu concert at some heath care facility near where we live, we always enjoy playing music for folks who enjoy listening. As a family, we are often ask to sing at memorials for families who have suffered the grief of losing a family member. There is nothing so somber or sweet as the old John Newton hymn, Amazing Grace played on fiddle with guitar accompaniment.
My youngest son, Josh is a barber and for the last ten years, at least once a week, we have had a bluegrass jam in the business where he works. Musicians from the area join us and oftentimes we will have 5 or 6 eager amateurs such as ourselves to come in and play for a few hours. Currently the jam is held on Saturday mornings. Although there is a TV in the shop, most customers waiting their turn in the barber chair enjoy listening to the music we play. We always have hot coffee and occasionally someone will bring donuts. There is always talk aplenty on local sports or news events but it is the music that is central and commands everyone's attention.
Since June of 2012 we have had the honor of having two regular musicians who have joined our Saturday morning jams and we have a great chemistry and have been playing music outside the barbershop in various venues. Our "band" plays many of the older bluegrass tunes and occasionally we will drift across other genres of music. Robert Capps a Baptist minister is our banjo player. Robert currently doesn't have a Pastorate so he is free to come and go at his leisure. Robert is also a Mortician having worked for a local Mortuary some ten years prior to his call into the ministry and attend seminary.
My son,Gary always has told me, "we play naked without a bass." This past fall a fellow stopped by the barbershop to get a haircut and ask Josh if there was a regular jam at the shop and if so when was it? The man, Robbie Gilbert, works as an industrial appliance repairman but as our good luck would have it also plays the upright bass or doghouse bass as we know it in the world of bluegrass. He came by to jam soon after that day in the barbershop and sat in with us. Robbie was hooked with our music and soon became our regular bassist. We no longer play naked! Robbie is also interested in Revolutionary War history and belongs to an area re-enactment group. Robbie's work keeps him from our occasional gigs during the work week but on weekends he is our regular.
We began to toy with the idea of what we might call our band. I came up with Gary Ballard and the Cabin Creek Revue which we use when we actually have a gig or a public performance. My wife suggested, Gary and the Three "R's",which is derived from the first letter of each of our names except for Gary. We all thought this was kinda humorous but the name does seem to have logic.
For now we will continue to play the barbershop each Saturday and when invited, play for charitable benefits. We never have charged a fee but donate our talents and our time. Playing the music is fun and we meet many folks who enjoy listening. Recently at our barbershop jam a man came in to get a hair cut. When he had his ears lowered came over to where we were playing and casually pulled out a harmonica. "Boys, I have written a couple of songs, do you think you can play them if I sing them?" He proceeded to sing his songs and we were soon playing along, new music and enjoying the creativity of a like minded individual. That is the way it is with music. Whether it is a local venue or a festival with big name headliners, there are so many like us who simply enjoy playing music just for the enjoyment we derive as well as the camaraderie I hope our barbershop jam continues for a long time and who knows one day the world might even hear music by Gary Ballard and The Cabin Creek Revue or who knows, maybe Gary and the Three "R's."