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The Singing Barber Of Rio Grande City


When I was down in Texas, I met a man who can be found singing over the sound of his blow dryer.

ALBERTO ESCOBEDO: (Singing in Spanish).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Alberto Escobedo owns a salon in Rio Grande City, and he's always loved music, especially opera.

ESCOBEDO: Andrea Bocelli, Pavarotti, Placido Domingo.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: While he hasn't pursued music professionally, he's built something of a reputation as the singing barber here in his hometown.

ESCOBEDO: I'm always singing. I'm a happy camper.


ESCOBEDO: I'm always singing to my clients, and usually clients enjoy it. They - you know, and if they don't, I stop singing (laughter).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Behind his salon, Escobedo runs a small food pantry for the disadvantaged people in his community. It's called Casa de Esperanza. There was a line of people waiting to pick up food when I visited.

ESCOBEDO: So this is some of the people that...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Buenos dias. Como estan? Hola. Hola, que tal?

ESCOBEDO: ...That we're very lucky that they come in.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Escobedo says he wanted to open it because of his own experience as a child.

ESCOBEDO: I know what it is not to have. I was very blessed to have wonderful parents. They worked very hard, but there was a time where my mother got very ill with cancer, and we struggled. We really struggled. I remember a friend of my mom called us and said, you know, there's - that one of our local stores was throwing food in the dumpsters. And we went ahead and went, and we picked up from the dumpsters. So I know what it is to not have.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Back in the salon, you can see many small tributes to Escobedo's past. His mother was a hairdresser as well, and her portrait hangs right by the entrance. He also has one of the vanities from her salon.

ESCOBEDO: This is what she used in her salon back in 1967. And she purchased it from another hairdresser that retired that she used it. So it's been a...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: An heirloom.

ESCOBEDO: Heirloom, yeah.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Before I left, Alberto Escobedo offered to give me a blowout. And of course, I accepted.

ESCOBEDO: You already look lovely...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right, let's go.

ESCOBEDO: ...But we can even look lovelier (laughter).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right, let's do it. Let's do it.

ESCOBEDO: Why not take a seat right here?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And, of course, I got a serenade as well.

ESCOBEDO: (Singing in foreign language). Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro is the host of Weekend Edition Sunday and one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. She is infamous in the IT department of NPR for losing laptops to bullets, hurricanes, and bomb blasts.
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