Richard White, 56, barber who sang to clients in their homes

August 04, 1998|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,SUN STAFF

Richard White liked to sit customers in his barber's chair and lull them to near-sleep with music while he snipped their hair. Sometimes, he'd play a little soft jazz; but mostly he'd sing.

Mr. White, 56, who died July 28 of heart failure at his brother's home in Columbia, operated a come-to-your-home barbershop for 10 years and had more than 50 regular clients. The singing while he snipped was a bonus.

"He liked to get you in the chair, then sing or hum in your ear," PTC said William Charles of Baltimore, a former client and longtime friend. "It kind of startles you at first, but then you realize that he's just a singer."

Not only was Mr. White a talented barber, he was a skilled soloist, having sung for many years with several rhythm and blues groups and toured along the East Coast with the Baltimore-based Classics.

He sang in tenor and falsetto, and sculpted customers' hair in the latest styles.

"He had many talents, but those were the two he chose to make a living off of," said Michele Vindus of Baltimore, a customer and friend. "I, for one, didn't particularly like the way he'd sing. But he could cut hair, and it [the singing] made the time go quicker."

In addition to barbering in private homes, Mr. White cut hair at senior citizen centers and nursing homes. His home-service barber business operated from about 1975 to the late 1980s.

A native of Washington, Mr. White attended Howard University before serving in the Army from 1964 to 1966.

Upon his discharge, he graduated from a Baltimore electronics school in the late 1960s and a barber school in Washington, and worked at several Baltimore-area barber shops, including one in Mondawmin Mall and several on North Avenue.

He lived in the Sandtown-Winchester community of West Baltimore and cut hair for several years in the early 1980s in front of his Carey Street home during the warm months. His singing as he cut hair became popular, and he was often joined by singing friends.

"It was something like the biggest, organized street corner, doo-wop singing sessions," Mr. Charles said. "They'd harmonize while he'd steadily cut hair. A lot of people would gather around, and some of them would come to get a haircut. It was a spectacle to be sure."

Mr. White is survived by two sons, Matthew White of Columbia and Sterling White of Washington; a brother, Wilfred White of Columbia; and three grandchildren.

Services were held Saturday.

Pub Date: 8/04/98

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