Saturday, July 15, 2017

One toke over the line

First off, my thanks to Paul Pape for alerting me to this.

Back in the early days of television up until the early '70a, ABC featured THE LAWRENCE WELK SHOW.  This was a wholesome variety show aimed at anyone born in the 19th Century.   Lawrence Welk was an old band leader with a strange accent who had trouble reading cue cards.  One time he announced:  "And now a medley of songs from World War Eye."

Anyway, they tried on rare occasion to do contemporary songs.  In this clip they do the Brewer & Shipley hit, "One Toke Over the Line."  Because Jesus is mentioned I guess they think it's a spiritual tune.   But clearly it's a marijuana song.   The FCC even banned it briefly.   So that makes this rendition even funnier.   Pass the doobie, take a toke, and enjoy this ode to drugs. 

34 comments :

Pat Reeder said...

This is one of my favorite goofy musical clips, and I have quite a collection. I also have a secondhand connection to Lawrence Welk. My wife Laura's late dad (whom I never met) was the renowned big band jazz saxophonist and clarinetist Bill Ainsworth. He played with everyone from Tommy Dorsey to Ray McKinley to Ernie Felice; arranged, sang on and led classic radio jingle sessions; and played in showrooms behind every supper club star of the '60s-'80s (Tony Bennett, Mel Torme, Tom Jones, etc.)

I've been told that at one point when gigs were very hard to come by for big band jazz musicians, he was offered a place on the Welk TV show, and even went in to meet everyone and watch a taping. This was considered a dream gig because the Welk TV show was the steadiest paycheck this side of the Tonight Show Band. But even though he had a family to feed and really needed the work, he turned it down. Laura said he just couldn't bring himself to play music that square.

ScottyB said...

Ugh. It's like Republican Top 40. Compared to that, The Carpenters' performances were pornographic. (BTW, for anyone too young to have lived thru pop Country of the 1970s, Ken's video is a pretty fair depiction.)

Stoney said...

Casey Kasem, on a couple occasions, relayed the story AT40 got from Brewer & Shipley that "toke" was short for "token"; coinage for a train ride.

That was not Lawrence Welk giving the intro. Gotta wonder; was the show so low-budget that they couldn't give the guy a re-take because of the bug in his throat?

As Stan Freberg said, "Wunnerful, Wunnerful!"

Rashad Khan said...

The best part, of course, is Myron Floren literally choking back the laughter in his introduction. (Or was he choking on account of some funny-smelling smoke?)

Neil said...

Welk was a canny businessman. His show ran for some fifteen years on ABC, and when they dropped him in the early '70s, Welk, unperturbed, kept his show going in syndication, selling new episodes directly to local stations for another decade. Reruns of the series continue to be a regularly Saturday night staple on many PBS stations.

E. Yarber said...

Unfortunately, YouTube doesn't have the Welk version of "Good Morning Starshine" where they dressed up as robots on a moon set and tried to pass "Gliddy glub gloopy..." as some sort of space talk, but that was burnt into my brain for life.

Don K. said...

THAT is hilarious. You'd like to think the savvier of the bunch there KNEW what the song was about. Welk thanking them at the end for that "modern spiritual" was just icing on the cake.

There was a group extremely popular in San Diego from the mid-80's to mid-90's called the Beat Farmers. Their leader was a giant of a man, stage named Country Dick Montana. Sadly, Dick died on stage in 1995 of a heart attack. They recorded a song called "Are You Drinkin' With Me Jesus", which has one of the great all time lines "I know you can walk on the water but can you walk on THIS MUCH BEER???"

I'd like to think now that Welk would have seen his way clear to feature THAT song. :)

Hank Gillette said...

That was not Lawrence Welk giving the intro.

No, but it is Mr. Welk calling it a “modern spiritual” at the end.

(“Those kids today. They worship the drugs.”)

Hank Gillette said...

But even though he had a family to feed and really needed the work, he turned it down. Laura said he just couldn't bring himself to play music that square.

Lots of people have taken much worse jobs to support their families. Sounds as though he was a bit full of himself.

Hank Gillette said...

Casey Kasem, on a couple occasions, relayed the story AT40 got from Brewer & Shipley that "toke" was short for "token"; coinage for a train ride.

“Plausible” deniability. Who would say “one token over the line”?

Rashad Khan said...

I wonder how Welk's crew might have re-interpreted a song like "Don't Fear the Reaper."

sanford said...

What is funny about how he speaks is that he was born in North Dakota.

Welk was born in the German-speaking community of Strasburg, North Dakota.[2] He was sixth of the eight children of Ludwig and Christiana (née Schwahn) Welk, Roman Catholics ethnic Germans who immigrated in 1892 from Odessa, Russian Empire (now Ukraine).[3][4 I am guessing that the family and the other members of the community spoke German. Guessing they named the city after the German city of Strasburg. By the second generation most people are pretty assimilated and lose the accents.

Ted said...

Lest anyone think the performers were not hip to the lyrics, the show was taped in Hollywood.

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

Funny stuff, but I have to pause a bit to understand that the appreciation my parents had for Lawrence Welk's music has to be considered in light of the times. When my folks watched and enjoyed the weekly show, it had been approximately only 15 years since WWII ended. Somehow the benign music of the North Dakota bandleader helped them forget for a moment the chaos of the war that saw more 60 million die, relatives included.

Alan C said...

I especially love how the singers are dressed like they're going to an ice cream social in the 1890's.

Lawrence Welk was the only TV show I remember my grandmother (born in 1891) watching.

Paul Duca said...

Welk was willing to endeavor to keep up...especially during the time he was paired with this show on Saturdays:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zXaY3hJDLyw

Anonymous said...

:Lawrence Welk actually had one rock group, actually a surf group, on his show- in 1963 the Chantays played Pipeline.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Ken, a Friday question: You seem to embrace all sorts of new experiences, and as you may know, next month will be a total solar eclipse that cuts a swath all the way across the country from the coast of South Carolina to Oregon. It seems like it ought to pop up as a reference in some of the fall sitcoms; every town in its path seems to be planning parties and science fairs, though I believe the largest city in its path will be Nashville. It's amazing to look at all the precise detail we know about where and how longer, etc., and remember A CONNECTICUT YANKEE IN KING ARTHUR'S COURT. Do you have plans to see it? And if you were writing a fall episode would you take advantage of it somehow?

wg

Donald Benson said...

I watched as a kid, remembering it as being cornball but 100% old songs. No guest stars, no sketches, no plug patter. And the end, where Lawrence would dance with old ladies from the audience as other old ladies pushed and shoved for their chance.

One vivid memory: A quartet in cheesy bird costumes walking around a giant egg while singing "Red Red Robin". Suddenly the top pops off the egg and a woman in a worse bird costume appears. Taking most of the egg with her, she wobbles over to a piano and does the song in double-speed ragtime. Because her beak wasn't quite in place, you could see her automatically grinning like a fool whenever she faced the camera.

Also remember "Sing Along With Mitch". Saw him live on tour at San Jose Civic Auditorium, where they livened up the visual presentation with hats, tambourines, and energetic hula dancers.

Lloyd said...

I grew up in the UK, where the BBC aired, up to the mid-late '70s, a programme whose musical content was not dissimilar from that on the Welk show. The BBC series, however, was titled 'The Black & White Minstrel Show' and featured performers in blackface. Unimaginable in the US, but then we have a far less contentious racial history than you. And it was a growing belief that the blackface thing was no longer acceptable that led to the show's cancellation. Well, that and old age. The series had been on some twenty years by then.

JoeyH said...

Since the Welk band included a good number of alumni from the touring big bands, I'm sure most of them knew exactly what the toke was. Heck, who knows, maybe Larry himself toked a few.

thevidiot said...

"And-a now, I ask the director to take a closeup of the entire band while Myron plays a song. Myron, you go over there while I go over here & beat off the band."

Mike Doran said...

I think it was in the mid-to-late '60s that Lawrence Welk gave an interview to TV Guide (one of many he gave over the years).
During its course, Welk mentioned how he was in pretty good physical shape for someone his age, which would have been early 60s at that time.
Welk reminisced about his early band days on the road, and noted that he had outlived many of his bandmates:
" ... some of those boys were smoking ... weed ..."
The quote is approximate.

I suppose the point would be that Lawrence Welk was hardly the elderly "babe in the woods" that many of his detractors wanted him to be.
If he was "out of touch" with modern vices , it was most likely from choice.
If, in turn, the members of his band kept some vices of their own away from his knowledge - well, that was their business, wasn't it?

By the way, that story about "World War Eye" -
Urban legend.
It never happened.
But some stories just take on lives of their own ...

YEKIMI said...

Seeing as this is sort of about a possible misunderstanding of the song lyrics.....Way back in 1974 when First Class had a hit with "Beach Baby" it came on the radio so I turned the song up. My old man became upset and started yelling about how they could get away with "playing this filth on the radio". I was like "What in the world are you talking about? This song is about a guy calling a girl his "beach baby. There's nothing dirty about it". He said "Oh.....I thought he was singing "Bitch Baby". I think I stopped laughing about the end of 1975.

Buttermilk Sky said...

This is even better than Pat Boone covering Little Richard.

Mitch said...

I knew the producer of the Welk show, and he was a pretty hip guy. In the early days of L.A. television he operated Jim Hawthorne's subjective TV camera, Eggbert. I'm pretty sure he knew what that song was about.

Chris said...

When a friend of mine first saw this, he immediately started to imagine what was REALLY going on behind the scenes, prompting me to scribble out "Fear and Loathing in the Aragon Ballroom"... it wasn't pretty. :)

Brian said...

Well, they did a good job on the song, but I can't imagine how somebody in charge didn't say "What are you doing a drug song for"?

Mike Doran said...

If I've got the timeline right, this was after Welk left ABC and went indie - which means nobody was "in charge".
The one who came closest was Matty Rosenhaus, who ran the pharma company that was bankrolling Welk's syndie operation.
You may draw whatever inferences you like.

My own Big Laff:
The "boy singer" here was Dick Dale, not to be confused with the famous surf guitarist.
Welk's Dick Dale started out with the Six Fat Dutchmen.
Go where you like from there ...

Andrew said...

I've seen clips from the Lawrence Welk show of some very impressive tap dancing, but the dancers have these huge frozen smiles on their faces. It's really unsettling.

Albert Giesbrecht said...

This clip has been around since the debut of YouTube. I keep track of the demographics of the Welk Show.

Welk would be 114 years old this year. His primary audience would be 124 years old. The secondary audience would be 104 years old (none are known to exist) the tertiary audience would be 84.

So who is contributing to PBS to keep these shows on the air?

Joel Strewth said...

Baaaad craziness.

Lloyd - just looked up that Black and White Minstrel Show thing on Wikipedia. Amusing to see the British thought up Bamboozled forty years before Spike Lee did. ;)

scottmc said...

Thank you for posting this. It was a wonderful surprise.

Greg Ehrbar said...

Smiling tap dancer Bobby Burgess devoted a chapter in his autobiography to "Welkisms," one of which was something like, "And now we welcome this year's Wisconsin State Queen to come on the stage to cut the cheese."