The Devastating Story of a Brilliant Mind

Mary Payne sits down with her friend Doug Budin to discuss the blockbuster podcast called S-Town, which dives into the life of the enigmatic John B. McLemore. s-town

A Groundbreaking Podcast

Released in 2017, S-Town has become one of the most popular and critically acclaimed true crime podcasts over the past two years due to its brilliant storytelling, fascinating characters, and hauntingly beautiful music. S-Town was created by the producers of Serial and This American Life and is hosted by Brian Reed

The podcast has not been without controversy. Soon after the podcast aired, McLemore’s Estate sued the producers of S-Town for revealing details of the now-deceased McLermore’s personal life without his permission. Despite the ongoing legal battle, S-Town continues to receive praise from listeners who are enthralled by the life of John.

The Unusual Friendship of Brian Reed and John B. McLemore

Mary Payne and Doug take us through the seven episodes of S-Town. Several years ago, Brian Reed began receiving messages from a stranger named John B. McLemore about a murder that occurred in his hometown of Bibb County, Alabama (which is not-so-affectionately called “Shittown” by John). When Brian traveled to Bibb County to look into John’s allegations, he quickly found that the real story was not with the now-debunked murder story, but rather with John himself. The first few episodes follow the budding friendship between Brian and John.

S-Town takes a shocking turn when John committed suicide in 2015. The remainder of the series unravels John’s life, as seen through his friends and acquaintances. It also follows the legal battles for John’s Estate between his close friend Tyler and his relatives, Reta and Charlie. Mary Payne and Doug are more sympathetic toward Tyler, who, despite his own legal troubles and shady history, had a close and loving relationship with John.

A Portrait of a Suffering Genius 

Mary Payne and Doug find John to be a complex and intriguing character. A profane and ranting “redneck” from rural Alabama, John was also a mechanical genius, horologist, and self-educated expert on issues like climate change. He developed a number of close friendships and romantic relationships throughout his life, only to cut himself off once others came into the picture. John and his friends also discussed his struggles as a gay man in his rural South community. 

John’s penchant for retreating from relationships and diving into rant-fueled depressions could be linked to his dangerous habit of fire gilding while working on clocks. This revelation provides us with a more complete understanding of S-Town’s protagonist. 

Overall, Mary Payne and Doug recommend that everyone listen (at least twice) to this emotional and compelling podcast series. 

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Find Doug at:

Instagram – @dougbudin

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