If you work the average 9 to 5 job, then most likely, weekends are what you look forward to. How we spend our Saturdays may differ, but it could be agreed that most just want to relax and do the things that matter most to them. For some that means spending their time chasing after the kids, little league, and birthday parties all while squeezing in time to handle the things they couldn’t during the week. For others, it means hitting the gym, shopping, tackling some household projects, or even catching up on some needed rest. If you are any type of artist, whether visual or performing, this might be your busiest time with scheduled events, gigs, art showings, and rehearsals. For an even larger number however, this is also the time for hitting up the beauty salons and barbershops. For myself, aside from early morning meetings and errands, I found myself in the car, my son riding shotgun, on our way to his own haircut appointment.
Barbershops, like beauty salons, have long since served as not only the place where professionals transform their clients from ordinary to extraordinary, but it’s serves as a place where men gather to catch up, partake in a friendly argument on the latest and greatest – ultimately being a place where friendships are built, lessons are learned and boys learn to become men. I’ve learned that my son no longer needs me to accompany him inside, and as I sat in the car and began planning for the upcoming week, I received this text message from my son not even two minutes after he’d walked in.
While I’ll admit that I thought my prankster of a son was joking, this was also certainly that moment that reminded me of the direct influence that musicians can have on our children when they are exposed to and learn to appreciate live music from an early age. But in a barbershop??? As I prepared to respond with a message that went something like, “I’m not falling for it this time”, I glanced up only to see my son running top speed to my car insisting that I come in and listen.
Still not convinced, and even placing a friendly wager that involved our family dog and perhaps even an advance on his allowance, I certainly wasn’t prepared as I opened the door and walked into an afternoon jam session right there in the barbershop. The trio, JFT, has been pretty well known around the western New York area for some time now and their faces and sound are sure to spark some familiarity. Members, Jerry Livingston, “Flute” Johnson, and Toney Rhodes were entertaining the customers at Quo Vadis Barbershop, owned by barber and vocalist Auragino, with a mini concert that stopped everyone in their tracks upon entering – just as it did me. As people came and went, the reactions were similar. JFT had us all captivated and it was a welcomed change from the norm of the day giving us a little extra pep in our steps. I learned that JFT has been playing together for over 20 years and when you meet individuals who have such a history, you have to wonder their secret. As you watch them play, you realize that they are completely in sync and this is also evident when you talk to them. When I asked them, “What is the best thing about playing together for all of these years”? Toney replied,
“It’s like an unshakable bond. No matter what, we always know what to do when each other is playing. We barely rehearse, but we can play anything we know on the spot.”
“It’s the chemistry that makes it the best” added Flute. “We can play a song and not rehearse it, but when we start, it all comes together so well!”
I learned from Master Barber Carl E. Johnson Sr., that JFT, which includes his own son “Flute” Johnson on Drums, decided to play in honor of his recent birthday. JFT set up in a cozy corner right alongside Carl and his other son, Firefighter “LV” Johnson. They put on such an amazing performance that it was almost upsetting when they began packing up to leave. I asked “Flute” what it meant to him to play for his dad.
Videos provided by Carl E. Johnson Sr.