With Some Help From His Friends
Matt Hollyfield was getting something called a "faux-hawk" haircut when I stepped into the Blue's Crossing Barbershop in Aberdeen late Tuesday afternoon to get a quick back-and-sides.
"What exactly is a faux-hawk?" I asked owner Bryon Morris, who appeared to be sculpting a hairy black masterpiece of some sort on top of Matt's head. His jet black hair rose to a perfectly symmetrical peak that stretched front to back, looking a little like a surfer's wave made from lava rock.
"A faux-hawk is a Mohawk without the shaved sides and the single band of hair," Bryon explained, snipping with the precision of a fine tailor. "This one leaves all the hair but tapers things up the sides. Pretty cool, huh?"
"It's a very popular haircut," Matt provided helpfully, a hip young guy who works just across the street at Aldena Frye's florist.
"The women really love it," Bryon put in - snip, snip - eyeing my gray and shaggy mane across his swank new cutting parlor.
"If I came home with a faux-hawk," I was moved to point out, "my wife would probably endanger a vital organ from laughing so hard."
Byron nodded understandingly. "Well, in your case, we could do something very cool with your graying hair. Women find that really appealing now. We have guys who come in just to get touch-ups with their gray."
I thanked him and explained I was there simply in search of a basic trim job - and to find out how Byron's New Age, old-fashioned gourmet barbershop is working out. At a time when many market gurus predict innovation and creative thinking will be the engine of economic revival, the Blues Crossing Barbershop struck me as a model of small-business ingenuity.
Last October, Bryon opened his cleverly named barbershop in the central block of downtown Aberdeen blending the town's original name - Blue's Crossing - with his passion for bluegrass music, offering a mix of upscale barbering services that include everything from a classic hot-towel, straight-razor shave to, well, a faux-hawk styling from a certified master barber. It's the kind of classy cleanup service a chap might once have had to go to a big city or a resort hotel to find.
Part of the attraction, I'll confess, was a rumor that Bryon played a mean banjo and supposedly once played on the stage at the Grand Ole Opry.
The first pleasant surprise was his spacious shop with its masculine slate blue walls, Pinehurst golf prints, flat-screen television and comfortable sitting area - more club room than traditional barbershop. A Yamaha guitar stood on a stand beside his barber chair, and the walls featured several concert posters for the late Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys, the so-called "Father of Bluegrass" and one of Bryon's heroes.
A pair of framed motocross jerseys spoke of the owner's youthful passion for racing motorbikes. Before attending barber school a decade ago, Morris had a budding career as a dirt-bike racer and, in fact, claimed at least three state championships before he shattered both ankles and a femur in a nasty crack-up.
I learned this as he waved me into his swanky barber chair and began his clip job on my head.
"It was about that time that I learned about my family's strong musical background over in Stanly County," he explained, noting how his interest in learning to play the banjo at age 21 led him to discover that his great uncle and grandfather played bluegrasss music and even composed a tune called "Blue Ridge Mountain Blues."
His uncle, Wade Morris, actually had a popular radio show that featured the music, and this past Christmas his mother presented him with a CD with songs his grandfather, Johnny Wade Morris, wrote and performed.
"I cried like a baby," said Bryon, 34. "That's the musical heritage I come from, and that where my deep love of the banjo came from."
After he honed his talents with friends and area bands, that love affair led him to meet Hunter Berry, an eight-time International Bluegrass Association Fiddle Player of the Year, and eventually land him a spot as a tour manager and Dobro player in the touring entourage of Rhonda Vincent and her band, Rage. Vincent is a seven-time Female Vocalist of the Year and winner of the IBA's Entertainer of the Year.
That extended gig, which took him all over the country, indeed also led him to Nashville's famed stage at the Grand Ole Opry.
"It was just a great experience, one I'll always be grateful for," Bryon said as he snipped away. "I did it for almost a year and a half, from festivals in Telluride, Colo., to the Buck Owens Crystal Palace in Bakersfield, Calif." He also played on CMT's beloved "Most Wanted Alive" series and at legendary banjoman Earl Scruggs' Wild Horse Saloon in Nashville.
When his father suffered a stroke in 2004, though, Bryon headed for home.
"It was in the spring, the start of festival season, but my mom needed me and I had to go," he said. "I'd done everything you could do in a great band, and it was just the right thing to do."
Back home in Stanly County, Bryon made the decision to enroll in barber school, earning his license after 1,528 hours of training and winding up at Carlton Bonnell's popular barbershop in Aberdeen for a time. When Carlton sold his shop, Bryon decided to strike off in a new and different direction in an old building downtown.
"From the beginning, I envisioned a place where men would feel very comfortable being and receive a mix of upscale services at a very competitive price," he explained, finishing up my basic haircut with a few artful snips. "But it was really the help of friends and family who helped me bring this dream altogether."
His best friend, Eddie Ingram, donated the shop's plumbing fixtures and installed them himself, and another good friend, Greg Corbett - a talented banjo player himself - bought the parlor's fancy barber chair.
Dr. Jason Clewis, of Pinehurst Chiropractic, provided essential funding that helped Bryon finish off the salon, including the handsome cabinetry that makes the cutting area feel so clubby. "It's nice to have the help of friends, including so many townspeople who think it's a great fit for Aberdeen," he added. "It all couldn't have happened without my mom, Judy Morris, and brother Eric."
At the moment, Bryon is toying with the possibility of expanding his services to empty rooms upstairs and offering spa treatments designed exclusively for men. He's also planning to use the shop for banjo and guitar lessons.
A couple of other small innovations caught my eye, including free neck shaves between haircuts and $2 discounts for military, fire, police and EMS workers.
I didn't qualify for any of those, but I did ask the most multi-talented barber in the Sandhills if he would play me a tune on his banjo.
"It would be my pleasure," he said and lifted his Williams banjo out of its case and played me a toe-tapping version of the gospel classic, "I'll Fly Away."
Needless to say, I was impressed.
The haircut, by the way, was a thing of beauty.
Award-winning author Jim Dodson, Sunday essayist with The Pilot and editor of PineStraw magazine, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More like this story