Don Knotts grew up getting free haircuts in his uncle's barber shop
Like Floyd's Barber Shop in Mayberry, Knotts spent many hours there.
One of the most cherished episodes to take place in Floyd’s Barber Shop is "The Bookie Barber," which came in the second season of The Andy Griffith Show.
In the episode, Floyd hires a second barber, who it turns out is actually a bookie.
This prompts Deputy Barney Fife to go undercover, appearing at the barber shop not in his police uniform but disguised as a woman.
For Don Knotts, who played Barney Fife, hanging out in a barber shop wasn’t a new activity when he arrived in Mayberry.
In the book Andy and Don: The Making of a Friendship and a Classic TV Show, author Daniel de Visé wrote that as a young boy, Knotts would scurry off from his childhood home frequently to hang out for hours on end at his uncle’s barber shop.
Knotts’ uncle was not called Floyd, but at Uncle Lawrence’s barber shop, Knotts found a community to nestle into just like Mayberry had in Floyd’s.
It was possibly while there that Knotts learned how to hold an audience rapt.
"Uncle Lawrence, in some ways an antecedent to Mayberry’s Floyd, would keep the customers laughing for hours with jokes and tall tales, while Don sat and soaked it up," de Visé wrote in his book.
It was also at Uncle Lawrence’s where Knotts, who rose to fame in part because of his striking appearance with protruding ears and wide eyes, would get his famous ears lowered.
According to de Visé, if Knotts hung around long enough, once the last paying customer had left Uncle Lawrence’s chair, young Don would be invited to hop up at last, don a cape, and enjoy a free haircut.
You might think that maybe Uncle Lawrence helped inspire the character of Floyd the Barber, being so close to Knotts’ heart growing up, but there’s long been a mild controversy over who exactly inspired the beloved Mayberry barber.
It might be best to avoid the trouble and say all barbers did.
The controversy started when a barber in the real world named Russell Hiatt, who has a shop in Andy Griffith’s hometown Mt. Airy, famously claimed that he cut Griffith’s hair as a boy when The Andy Griffith Show first became popular.
He renamed his shop Floyd’s Barber Shop, and since then, his connection to the character has been stamped into history under the feet of tourists, as many fans of The Andy Griffith Show consider Hiatt’s shop part of TV history.
Griffith has disputed that Hiatt ever cut his hair, though, and all we really know for sure is that the barbers who cut Andy’s hair when he was growing up served as inspiration for Floyd, whoever they were.
It’s possible that having that shared experience as a boy who spent all his time in a barber shop meant that when Knotts looked at Howard McNear, he saw a little of his Uncle Lawrence.