One Toke. Everyone’s High

Here’s an August smile.

The last few weeks have been filled with the legacy of Woodstock. While the story is often told as one of the youth culture in opposition to the status quo, it’s worth remembering how often the radical art of today becomes the accepted culture of tomorrow.

Take Mike Brewer’s and Tom Shipley’s classic One Toke Over the Line. The folk/rock duo wrote the song in 1970 as a way to kill some time backstage, and as a bit of a joke. When it was released in 1971 it seemed as though a lot people were taking one too many tokes.

Vice-President Spiro Agnew labeled the singers and their song as subversive. A US government agency tried to get the song banned from radio play for using the work “toke.”

And yet, who could resist such a good and easy to sing-a-long song?

Even Lawrence Welk was tempted. Welk’s television show ran from 1951 to 1982, and is still regularly available in syndication throughout America. If you want to understand the solid middle of America, you must watch Welk TV; in addition, you just might find yourself getting hooked on the singing, dancing, and oh-so-bubbly approach to home grown showbiz. The show usually plays on Saturdays at the end of day or early evening. There is something so comforting about the experience that the show can easily become an addiction.

On to that toke. Amazingly, the song was performed on the show. Welk singers Oklahoma and Iowa born Gail Farrell and Dick Dale, “an attractive couple,” are brought on stage to sing one of those “newer songs.” They know how to light it up.

If the old fashioned couple singing about smoking dope in such cute costumes was not enough, how about Lawrence’s post performance comment?

“There, you’ve heard a modern spiritual.”

What a country: always reaching for new highs.

- Bill Reichblum

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