“Welcome to Moe’s!” the man sang to us.

He was pushing a mop, wiping down tables at Moe’s Southwest Grill in Daphne, Alabama.

We walked into the restaurant and were greeted by an older man in a faded cap and a T-shirt which read HERE FOR THE QUESO.

He was singing his greeting along to the melody of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.

“Welcome to da Moe’s….
“Welcome to da Moe’s….”

We had been on the road for a week. We were tired, depleted, suffering the adverse effects of road-trip calorie deficit. What we needed were fats and carbs. What we needed were intravenous burritos.

“We gonna take care of yooooooooou at da Moe’s!” sang the man with the mop. “Oh yeeeeeah!”

His name was Roger. He was smiling, singing his greeting to all who entered.

He used different melodies for each welcome. He borrowed his melodies from Aretha Franklin, James Taylor, Boy George, and Prince. But the gist was always the same:

Welcome to da Moe’s.

Most customers smiled when the vocalist gave the salutation. And, amazingly, almost everyone would sing back.

Many impromptu performers would warble:

“Thank you!” Or: “Okaaaay now!” You could tell these customers weren’t exactly trained singers inasmuch as many sounded like English Springer spaniels with sinus infections.

“Welcome to da Moe’s!” Roger sand to a college kid.

“Thank you!” the kid replied in the style of Elvis Presley.

“Welcome to da Moe’s!” Roger sang to an elderly woman.

She began to blush. Finally, the woman caved and sang her reply in the tremulous alto voice of a front-row Baptist. “Thannnnk yooooou!”

“I been working at da Moe’s for 13 years,” he said. “Every day I try to cheer people up. You know how it is, people have bad days sometimes. We all have’em. But when you sing, it give you reason to forget your bad day.”

Roger used to be a janitor at Daphne Middle School—Home of the Trojans. For years he would work the dayshift at school, then hustle across town to Moe’s Southwest Grill to cover the night shift. After he retired from the school, he stayed on here.

In many ways, it seems Roger sort of keeps this place running.

“I do lotta stuff here. I wash dishes, mop floors, take out trash, scrub all the dirty places, clean the bathrooms.”

And he sings while he does it. You could tell the staff—mostly high-schoolers and college kids—were taken with him.

“Yeah, we love Roger,” said one young employee. “Never seen him in a bad mood. I don’t think he has them.”

I asked the kid whether Roger sang every day or just some days.

“He never stops.”

I asked Roger why he does it. After all, singing is not part of the job description. True, Moe’s is known for welcoming customers with hearty greetings. But I’ve never had anyone sing to me.

“Why I do it? Well, I do it because you ain’t never know who need a little cheering up. We’s all in this together, know what I mean? We need each other.”

I finished my burrito. And on my way out the door, I sang, “Thank you, Roger!” at the top of my voice.

“Okay!” he sang back. “I’ll be seein’ you next time, brother man!”

Yes, Roger, you certainly will.

Sean Dietrich is a columnist and novelist known for his commentary on life in the American South. He has authored nine books and is the creator of the “Sean of the South” blog and podcast. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to [email protected].

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