‘Two Chairs No Waiting’ podcast keeps spirit of Mayberry alive

Mayberry — that fictional Southern town where neighbors are family and life moves at a snail’s pace — seems far removed from the turbulent, divisive world of 2017. But what if it were just a click away? Huntsville resident Allan Newsome is the man behind iMayberry.com, a virtual community of fans of “The Andy Griffith Show,” as well as “Two Chairs No Waiting,” a weekly podcast that has been keeping the show and the Mayberry spirit alive since 2008. The title of the podcast is inspired by a line about Floyd the Barber’s dreams of expansion in the season two episode, “The Bookie Barber.” “Gee whiz, two chairs. And I’ve got the magazines to swing it!” Floyd tells Sheriff Andy Taylor. During the week, Newsome works as an engineer, but many of his weekends throughout the year are spent portraying the Mayberry barber at TAGS fan events all over the country. His work as a tribute artist allowed him to meet and develop friendships with many original cast members, including Jasper’s own George “Goober” Lindsey. An interview with Lindsey conducted in 1998 became the first four episodes of “Two Chairs No Waiting” a decade later. Newsome originally posted his interviews with cast members such as Lindsey, Elinor Donahue, Bernard Fox, James Best and others as RealAudio files. When he began converting them to mp3 files several years later for an easier listening experience, the idea for the podcast was born. “I expected to do 10 episodes or so,” Newsome said. That was 414 episodes ago. Each week, TAGS fans tune in via audio or livestream to dive into trivia, hear more recent interviews from people affiliated with the show or learn how Mayberry continues to influence popular culture more than 50 years after Andy and Opie took their first stroll to their favorite fishing hole. “Two Chairs No Waiting” now covers TAGS from all possible angles. Last year, Newsome read an article called “Why a Black Woman is Fascinated with Mayberrry and Andy Griffith” on-air, took listeners inside Betty Lynn’s 90th birthday celebration, explored Mayberry connections to old-time radio and paid tribute to Russell Hiatt, barber of Mt. Airy, North Carolina, the town that inspired Mayberry. One of the newest additions to the podcast is “This Week in Mayberry History,” timely fun facts compiled by Randy Turner of “The Gomer and Goober Pyle Comic Book Literary Guild” Facebook page. This week marked a significant anniversary for the show — the final day of filming in 1968. In podcast lingo, the episodes are referred to as evergreen, which means first-time listeners can enjoy the newer shows without having to catch up on past content. Listenership continues to grow. Newsome said most episodes have been downloaded over 500 times within two months of being posted, and several hundred more watch via YouTube. The podcast has not only been a hit with listeners but has also opened doors for Newsome that he couldn’t have imagined in 2008. “When Andy Griffith passed away, Ron Howard submitted some raw audio to be presented at Mayberry Days during an Andy Griffith memorial they were doing. Because of the podcast, the Surry Arts Council in Mt. Airy asked me to edit the audio,” Newsome said. TAGS fans can find two other podcasts at iMayberry.com, “Burke on Mayberry” and “The Mayberry Bible Study Podcast.” The latter is also hosted by Newsome. Podcasts, Facebook pages, chat rooms, a Mayberry channel on YouTube, a virtual Weaver’s Department stocked with TAGS-related items —who could have guessed that a show whose appeal is a connection to a simpler time would be so adaptable to a high-tech world?

Other classic TV shows haven’t fared so well. “I Love Lucy,” the mother of all sitcoms, remains popular with fans and brought in $20 million in revenue for CBS as recently as 2012, but no podcast celebrating its place in TV history exists. Perhaps one explanation is that “I Love Lucy” fans don’t necessarily pine for 1950s New York, but TAGS fans have always wanted to recreate Mayberry in their own lives. The sentiment is reborn each generation. According to Newsome, approximately 20 percent of TAGS fans are under the age of 35, which means their parents were children when the show first aired. “Two Chairs No Waiting,” like the show it celebrates, prides itself on bringing people together and providing a weekly refuge in a world of turmoil. “People really enjoy it because sometimes they don’t realize that there are other people like them who really love the show and get into the details of it. It’s a discovery that you’re not alone,” Newsome said. Jennifer Cohron is the Daily Mountain Eagle’s features editor.