If you wander into the little building marked Larry’s Barber Shop, located just off the Square on Jefferson Avenue, you are guaranteed a good haircut and even better conversation.
Customers walk into a room with walls covered by newspaper clippings, Ole Miss memorabilia and signed pictures of notable people such as Sen. John McCain and Fox News anchor Shepard Smith. Larry greets you with a smile as he snips a customer’s hair. Three chairs line the side of the room and Larry stands beside the barber’s chair in the center, more than willing to share his stories with anyone who sits down.
Larry Tedford, a Clarksdale native, has been cutting hair for 50 years, 30 of those have been in Oxford. He got his start in Oxford working at a beauty salon in The Warehouse in 1985 before it burned down the following year. He worked at various shops before opening his own in 1994.
Larry explained the unlikely situation that led to him becoming a barber: a school bus wreck. His cousin was a school bus driver, and one day he asked Larry, then 16, to drive as he had done several times before, only things didn’t turn out well.
He wrecked the school bus and got on his principal’s bad side. Shortly after, he was suspended from school for not sitting in the correct seat during an assembly.
He tried to transfer to a different school with hopes of becoming a pitcher on the Marks High School baseball team, but due to a technicality that said his parents had to live within the county for him to enroll, Larry could not go. Not wanting to return and be under the rule of his current principal, he dropped out.
When he was 18 years old, his mother told him he needed to learn a trade. He learned to cut hair at a barber school in Memphis in 1964, and the rest is history.
“I’m always wondering who is going to come in the next minute,” Larry said. “There are so many people that the average guy doesn’t ever get to meet, and they’ll come through the door and next thing you know, you’re cutting their hair.”
Perhaps Larry’s most famous customer is musician Jerry Lee Lewis.
“I was his private barber for about eight months,” Larry said. “I used to go out to his house and cut his hair. One day he came to the salon and I was cutting his hair and people were talking to him. He unbuttoned the barber jacket and said, ‘Larry, I’m not here to sign autographs,’ and left. That’s the last time I ever saw him.”
His biggest letdown was in 2008, right before the presidential debate held on the University of Mississippi campus.
“My biggest disappointment was not getting to cut John McCain’s hair,” he said. “I was supposed to cut his hair on a Thursday night in 2008 before the debate but they had an emergency senate meeting and it didn’t happen.”
McCain did, however, send him the autographed picture hanging on the wall in his shop.
Larry is a devoted Ole Miss fan and said his favorite thing about Oxford is Ole Miss football. His barbershop is popular among University students and Oxford citizens. He has a real connection with his customers, which is clear as soon as you walk through the door.
“He does a really good job at his profession,” one customer said. “Every time you come in, it’s a little different experience and there will be different people here. Over the years, there have been some pretty important people in the University and political scene that have been in here, so it’s kind of entertaining like that.”
Larry said he considers many of his customers to be family.
“Whenever you touch somebody, it just becomes a real personal thing,” Larry said. “I don’t think a lot of people have thought about that, but there aren’t that many people that touch you for 30 minutes at a time other than a doctor or dentist.”
Larry said he recognizes over the years there has been a decline in barbershops, but he still enjoys catering to a niche market.
“Back in my era, the fathers took their boys to a regular barbershop and you still have men that would prefer to go to a barbershop instead of a beauty shop,” he said. “You’re always going to have a small percentage of people that like a certain deal. I get that group of people that like a man’s cave, like an old barbershop.”
Larry’s Barber Shop will be changing locations soon. He said he’s wanted to make the move for a while, but didn’t decide to until this week.
A phone call on Wednesday morning made the decision much easier.
“For the past six months I’ve had problems and they ran all these tests,” Larry said. “I thought I had cancer but the doctor called me this morning and said that I’m cancer free. Yesterday I didn’t know what I was facing, but today I have a better outlook.”
The shop will be relocating to a new spot on University Avenue. The grand reopening will be 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on May 2. No matter where he is located, you can be sure that he’ll be waiting with scissors in hand.