Bluesman, teacher, barber, and storyteller Archie Edwards (1918-1998) opened the Alpha Tonsorial Palace in Northeast Washington, DC, in 1959. Over the years it became a Saturday afternoon gathering place for aspiring musicians, young and old, African American and white. The barbershop became renowned as a place where musicians of every level of expertise were welcome to perform for and with each other. Until his death at the age of 79, Archie continued spreading the message of the Piedmont blues in his barbershop, on recordings, and on tours all over the world.
When Archie passed away in 1998, friends and fellow musicians joined together to form the Archie Edwards Blues Heritage Foundation (AEBHF). “Archie’s Barbershop” is the Foundation’s home and serves as a museum and educational center, a place for social interaction and community outreach, and as a memorial and tribute to Archie and the blues musicians and traditions of the region.
For more than 20 years, the Foundation has continued the tradition of the weekly acoustic blues jams that Archie Edwards began in the late1950s. The Saturday afternoon jams held at the Barbershop are the highlight of the week for the many musicians and friends who come to play, learn, and just listen.
To help spread understanding and appreciation of acoustic blues, the Foundation also presents concerts by nationally and internationally known blues artists and sends ensembles made up of Barbershop jam musicians to perform at festivals and community events. An important part of the Foundation’s program is passing on the skills and traditions of acoustic blues to future generations through guitar, harmonica, and vocal workshops.
The original Archie’s Barbershop in Washington served as the Foundation’s home and as a museum and educational center until 2008 when the building was sold for redevelopment. For the next 10 years, Archie’s Barbershop was housed in a historic building next to the railroad tracks in Riverdale Park, Maryland, where the music was accompanied by the sound of an occasional train whistle. In 2019, Archie's Barbershop moved to a vintage storefront in the arts district in nearby Hyattsville, Maryland.
The Archie Edwards Blues Heritage Foundation is a 501(c)3 charitable organization chartered in the District of Columbia. A list and biographies of the Foundation’s current officers and directors and copies of recent annual report are linked below.