The Smothers Brothers have, for several decades, been a wonderful act . . . for me to poop on!!! Joshing aside, all the edgy TV comedy you currently enjoy—from the fecal-obsessive, gross-out humor of TV Funhouse to the sharp political satire of The Daily Show to the still-subversive cultural commentary of The Simpsons—had its genesis in The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, which ran on CBS from 1967 to 1969. But reams have been written about the show's sociopolitical importance, of course, and this is supposed to be a column about music, so . . .
The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour was a great music show. This is often forgotten because of the show's groundbreaking comedy. Da boys began as regulars on the hipster's jubilee The Steve Allen Show as an irreverent but often infantile folk duo (Tom's idiot act could be grating in large doses). Their two-part harmonies were crystalline gorgeous, their musicianship (acoustic guitar and bass) was right in the pocket, and their song selection was predictably predictable—yet with little brother Dick's faux-scholarly song introductions and big brother Tom's deliberately moronic interruptions, they effectively lampooned the pious, self-righteous brand of phony liberalism that characterized such early '60s folkie stalwarts as Peter, Paul & Mary and Ian & Sylvia. By the time The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour debuted, the duo's formula was sealed—gentle n'yuk-n'yuks accompanied by real purty singin' and strummin'.
As the show progressed, their humor began to change into something nastier—more pissed-off and un-American—and their testicle girths increased proportionately in terms of who they proffered as musical guests and how the acts were presented. I remember being thrilled and scared shitless (I was a kid) when the Jefferson Airplane played the Smothers' show. The garish light show, the drug-glorifying song "White Rabbit," and Grace Slick's saucer-sized, dilated pupils coming into America's collective living room was a chilling intrusion of the counterculture at a time when America was still very much Ozzie & Harriet. Then there was the legendary Who performance: Keith Moon loaded up some flashpots with an excess of explosives and when the blast went off, Pete Townshend got battered. He staggered across the stage to Tommy Smothers, grabbed his acoustic guitar and smashed it to splinters. Powerful stuff! Surreal stuff! Wonderful stuff!
With the Smothers boys lighting fires under the asses of organized religion, the war machine and mean-spirited American values in general—all to a soundtrack of insurgent rock & roll—the ugly, early end was inevitable. The show was summarily canceled—the last installment airing on June 8, 1969 —and the Smothers' careers never recovered. Mission accomplished, J. Edgar. Nice pumps!
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So what have Tom and Dick been up to all those years since? Honestly, I have no idea. The only Smothers product currently in print is a "best of" collection of their gentle, pre-radical, early '60s material. Will they have any seditious nuggets—musical or comedic —to offer when they play the Sun Theatre on Tuesday night? Or have they regressed into the appalling "Mom Always Liked You Best" shtick? I dunno, but I'm real interested to find out. Either way, it's good to see these guys working again after 30-plus years of being effectively blacklisted. Right on! Up against the wall! The Man can't stop us!
I love The Blazers, and you should, too. These guys are what East LA compatriots Los Lobos used to be before they got artsy-fartsy on us. They rock the house with so much power, volume and grease you could lubricate a dozen T-Birds with their sound; then they turn around and play undiluted, acoustic Mexican folk music (as on their most recent CD, Puro Blazers) with so much joy and spirit that the most Anglo among us will be moved to "ay-yi-yi" with an extra serving of Tapitio sauce. They also put on a great show and are fun just to look at: Ruben weighs 98 pounds soaking wet and scary, and gigantic Manuel is a poster boy for glandular disorders. The Blazers are what the greatest rock & roll is all about. Go check 'em out Thursday night, April 26, at the Blue Cafe, and don't say I didn't warn ya.
A lot of people got bent when I made fun of Jonny Lang a few weeks ago—poor widdle snoogy-oogums! Now another virus just as heinous infects the county this week, as Kenny Wayne Shepherd plays the House of Blues Monday and Tuesday nights. In blues circles, Shepherd plays Christina Aguilera to Lang's Britney Spears. I hate this dirty, little, overplaying, towheaded bitch right down to his fallopian tubes. How much do I hate Kenny Wayne Shepherd? May he be buried alive in a mountain of Louie Anderson's toe cheese—that's how much. May he be damned to hell with Maggie Thatcher performing bottomless table dances in front of him for all eternity, that's how much. No, seriously—Kenny Wayne Shepherd is really a gifted blues-guitar genius . . . for me to poop on!
The Smothers Brothers perform at the Sun Theatre, 2200 E. Katella Ave., Anaheim, (714) 712-2700. Tues., 8:30 p.m. $27.50-$37.50 All ages; the Blazers play at the Blue Cafe, 210 The Promenade, Long Beach, (562) 983-7111. Thurs., April 26, 10 p.m. $6. 21+; Kenny Wayne Shepherd with Double Trouble and Lizzie West perform at the House of Blues, 1530 S. Disneyland Dr., Anaheim, (714) 778-2583. Mon.-Tues., 8 p.m. $35-$50. 21+.