1971 Brewer & Shipley – One Toke Over The Line
Mike Brewer and Tom Shipley were singer/songwriters from the Midwest, who began singing as a duo in the Los Angeles area in 1968. They played folk-rock music and recorded their first album for A&M Records using studio musicians including Jim Gordon, Hal Blaine, Jim Messina, and Joe Osborn. They recorded their second album on Kama Sutra Records in 1969 and used a different lineup of studio musicians that boasted help from Nicky Hopkins and Mike Bloomfield.
When neither album did much to move their career forward, they moved to Kansas City. They were relegated to playing small sets in nearby campus towns. While waiting for one performance to begin, they were joking around with a new song and wrote One Toke Over The Line. The tune turned out to be a real crowd-pleaser, so they recorded the song when they cut their third album in 1970. Jerry Garcia played steel guitar on the album, which had a more Country-rock feel than their past work.
They released One Toke Over The Line as a single in 1970 and it first reached the Hot 100 in February 1971 and soon peaked at #10.
The song was not without controversy: the Nixon administration fought hard against what it saw as a disruptive drug subculture and even warned radio stations that they could lose their licenses if they played pro-drug songs. They not only attacked the Brewer and Shipley song, which was clearly about smoking pot, but they also went after Puff The Magic Dragon because it sounded like a drug song. It wasn’t.
Amid the battles over the record, which led a lot of stations to remove One Toke Over The Line, The Lawrence Welk Show actually included a cover of the song on one of their weekly shows. Lawrence referred to the song as a “modern spiritual,” perhaps as a way to distract his older listeners from what the song was all about.
Brewer and Shipley released more singles through 1975, but never reached the top forty again. They continued to appear in public as solo acts or together. Michael lives near Branson and sometimes sings there. Tom is semi-retired and works part-time on special video projects for the Missouri University of Science & Technology.
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