James Brown Helps Shoeshiner ‘Get On The Good Foot’–LISTEN–
Earl B. Reynolds Jr., 60, grew up in Roanoke, Va., where his father cut hair in his own store, the Virginia Sanitary Barber Shop. And as a little boy, Earl often shined customers’ shoes in the shop.
As Reynolds tells his daughter, Ashley Reynolds, a visit from the Godfather of Soul set him on a path in life that eventually put Earl at odds with his father.
Working in the store one day, Earl watched a tour bus pull up to a theater near the shop. The doors opened — and out stepped James Brown.
“He immediately walked over to my dad’s barbershop, and he just started shaking hands and talking to people,” Earl says. “And he looked down at me, and he said, ‘You must be the bootblack.’ In barbershop vernacular, that is, ‘You shine shoes.’ “
Brown wanted a shoeshine from the young man.
“Of course, his shoes were already shined; he was immaculate, from head to toe,” Earl says.
“So I went through the process of re-shining his shoes, and he got off the shoeshine stand, and he handed me a $5 bill,” he says. “And he told me that back in his hometown, he started out shining shoes.”
Earl remembers Brown telling him, “It’s an honorable profession, it’s good work. You just need to think about, now, what else you want to do with your life?”
“That was my first step along to my education,” Earl says.
“JB used to buy suits at my grandfathers clothing store in Balto. Right down the street from the Lyric Theater.” Mike Friedman. emailed to me this morning… JR