INDIANAPOLIS — Sixteen years ago, Chris Martin was locking the doors at Clippers Barber Shop when one of his young customers made an impression on him that would last a lifetime.
That customer is now a grown man, fighting cancer, and Martin is looking to help him out.
Macklin Swinney, 26, is a Ben Davis High School graduate with stage four melanoma. This is his second bout with cancer as he thought he had it beaten two years ago.
Martin will use his love of music to put on a benefit concert for Swinney and his family from 8 p.m. to midnight April 19 at Indy West Conference Center.
“He was my last customer one night,” recalls Martin of his chance friendship with Swinney. “After I cut his hair, he asked ‘how much do I owe you?’ and whatever it was back then, I told him. He had exactly that and he said ‘I don’t have enough money,’ and I said ‘yeah you do, right there.’”
Swinney said that meant he didn’t have enough for a tip, and that “you always tip your barber.”
“Well, I knew he was a good kid right there,” Martin said, adding that he told the then 11-year-old that as long as he’d keep coming back to get haircuts, he’d never ask him for a tip.
“He said ‘no, I’m going to make this right with you.’” Martin recalls. “I went to clean up, do the books, locking up as I’m leaving and here he comes waving a dollar at me saying ‘Wait! Wait!’ Well, we were fast friends right after that.
“He’s the kind of kid, if you meet him, he’s a bright spot in the middle of the day. He comes in and the room lights up. If you knew him, you’d like him and be friends with him. That’s just the way he is.”
The barber and his loyal customer embarked on friendship that has only grown stronger over the years.
Just over a month ago, Swinney came in to tell Martin that his cancer had not only returned but had spread to his bones, liver, and lymph nodes. Martin said he knew he had to do something to help, especially since he’s seen first-hand the war cancer can wage, having gone through his wife beating stage four breast cancer seven years ago.
“We had a rough time,” he said. “I just about lost her. A bunch of our friends came together to help us. The main thing they did was make meals for us. You don’t have to go to the grocery store and you don’t have to cook. You don’t know what a big deal that is. It might seem like it’s not a lot, but it’s a huge thing.”
Martin said he was heartbroken when he learned Swinney’s cancer had returned.
“He said ‘oh, I’ll be fine,’” Martin said. “If a can-do attitude has anything to do with it, you know, he’ll be fine. And my heart got running faster than my mouth and I said, ‘hey, how about we do a benefit show for you?’”
Martin discovered his love of singing one night in a karaoke bar and now owns a disc jockey business that he runs on the side.
Tickets to the benefit concert for Swinney are $20 each.
“I figure going to a movie costs $14, and by the time you buy popcorn you’re going to spend over $20,” Martin said. “The show’s either going to be really great or I’m going to crash and burn. Either way, there’s entertainment value. Mack and his family are really appreciative.”
Martin will have at least three other singers helping him out with the concert, and the Wayne Township fire Department is also pitching in. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. and there will be a cash bar.
Martin sings Tuesday nights at Taps and Dolls in Indianapolis and also occasionally at the Avon American Legion post. He says he’s seen music change people’s lives for the better, and hopes this concert continues that.
“I hope people come out and have a good time,” Martin said. “I don’t know how it’s going to work out. According to Mack, everything’s going to be just fine. That’s him.”
Tickets may be purchased at Clippers, 6309 Rockville Road. For more information or to make a donation, call Martin at 490-3391. The Indy West Conference Center is at 400 N. High School Road.
Just the facts
WHAT: Macklin Swinney benefit concert
WHEN: 8 p.m. to midnight April 19
WHERE: Indy West Conference Center, 400 N. High School Road