My poem, The Barbershop Quartet, was written soon after I’d published a short, Al Capone, gangster era story called the 2nd St Valentine’s Day Massacre.
I had planned to write two more shorts using the same lead character but while I was trying to work out a story arc I was asked to write a fun poem about haircuts for a charity anthology. As my head was still stuck in 1930s mode, the first thing that came to mind was a gangster sitting in the barber’s shop having his face shaved with a cutthroat razor while a Barbershop Quartet, dressed in striped waistcoats, sang A Capella.
It wasn’t intended to be the saga it became and in the end the poem too long a piece for the publication guidelines. I was reluctant to chop 3 verses off, so I had to write another, shorter poem called Brylcreem Pete, as well.
Back in the days of a long time ago.
When you needed a trim you would get,
a shave with your haircut and thrown in for free,
was the barber shop quartet.
Big John Head was the bassman,
his voice was as deep as the sea.
He was manly and muscled as broad as an ox
and he fancied a Milkman called Lee.
Baritone Barry was bald as a coot
his voice was a smooth as new glass.
He was madly in love with Small Ernie's wife,
who ran the towns cookery class.
Small Ernie McGee was the tenor,
he didn't approve of John Head.
They didn't quite do homophobic back then,
so he did homophonic instead.
The lead parts were sung by Wee Willy Wilde,
he liked to embellish his role.
Willy took knickers from Ernie's wife's line,
Barry bought all that he stole.
Alfonso was the chief barber.
He had a brother called Del.
Del was involved with a barmaid,
who was married to One Eyed Mattel.
One Eyed Mattel was a gangster,
with scars all over his face.
He picked up his gun and went looking for Del,
he found him at Alfonso's place.
Alfonso was shaving the sheriff,
while the singers were giving their best.
Del was sat reading the paper,
as a bullet flew right past his chest.
The quartet carried on singing,
as One Eyed Mattel took fresh aim.
The sheriff hid under the counter,
this wasn't his sort of game.
The barber’s quartet sang a sad song.
Alfonso started to cry.
Wee Willie picked up a steel handled comb
and stuck it in One Eye's good eye.
No Eyed Mattel staggered out to the street,
the quartet were singing the Blues,The sheriff came out from hiding
now that he had nothing to lose.
They all made their way out into the street.
where the Pastor started to pray.
The barber shop singers sang 'Abide With Me'
as No Eyes was carried away.
The barber shop singers aren't there anymore.
Alfonso and Del are long gone.
Barry and Ernie's wife ran off to Rome
and Ernie moved in with Big John.