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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.