RHYMES AS HE SHAVES. ~ Kansas Barber Who Talks in Poetry to His Lathered Customers.

February 1, 1909

Kansas Barber Who Talks in Poetry
to His Lathered Customers.

George McClelland, a Kansas City, Kas., negro barber, is of the musical kind, so instead of talking tariff revision, foreign wars and bits of local gossip with patrons, he entertains them with a continuous string of doggerel. McClelland seems to have a peculiar gift of adapting all kinds of small talk to rhyme. For instance, when the customer climbs into the chair he is greeted something like this:

Your face, kind friend, I'm about to scrape.
I'll get it in the finest shape;
And cut your hair and comb it, too;
You'll look much younger when I'm through.
Now, hold your chin up in the air,
Stretch out your legs and fill your chest
And close your eyes -- I'll do the rest.
The barber, who is a big man, recites this without apparent effort, changing the rhyme to suit the customer. Never is the doggerel twice alike. As the shave progresses he solicits a little additional business like this:

My friend, your hair is falling out.
A little bit of tonic stout
Will hold it in, or maybe you
Prefer a rub or egg shampoo.
I see your shoes require a shine,
Just hold them over next to mine
And note the difference and then
I'll call my boy, he'll shine for "ten."
McClelland says the verse appeals mightily to customers and draws trade to the shop.

"It's better than the old style, and it's original," he says.

"How about all great poets being insane?" he was once asked.

"Too true," replied the negro. "I find myself asking for things at the table in verse and sometimes I think that way. It's very humiliating to find yourself unconsciously saying to your wife when the baby falls out of bed:

Pick up the kid from off the floor.
I ask for this and nothing more.