Community memorabilia on the wall of Frazier Gills' barbershop in Coal City
Event: Tuesday night jam session at Frazier Gills' Barbershop.
Throughout southern West Virginia one can find regular jam sessions, which occur in public spaces like the Sophia Fire Hall, the Coal City Barber Shop, and the Beckley Flea Market, as well as in private buildings sometime built for that purpose, and elsewhere as well. As one musician put it, "We've played on the riverbanks, we've played on the mountaintops." Musicians playing a variety of instruments assemble regularly to perform an eclectic repertoire, including as one musician said, "traditional country, bluegrass, rock'n'roll, and gospel." Frazer Gills, a celebrated fiddler in the coal fields, cuts hair in the barbershop he built beside his home in Coal City. On Tuesdays he swaps haircuts with Thurmond Walker, a barber in Beckley, who is also a fiddler. Each Tuesday night area musicians congregate at Frazier Gills' for barber shop jam sessions. This session took place in the narrow cinderblock barbershop that Frazier Gills built next to his home in Coal City. Lined with benches beneath walls spangled with decades of historical memorabilia, the shop's focal point is a single barber chair on a dais opposite the entrance. The photo on the wall is of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, signing the Social Security Act in 1933. "Why do you have a picture of that in here?" I asked. "Because I'm proud of him," Frazier Gills replied, adding, "I'll tell you one thing. We don't have nothing like him today."