Vintage Video: Lawrence Welk Goes "One Toke Over the Line" (1971)

by VVN Music

Today we go back to the innocent times of the early 70's, when everyone was singing upbeat, fun songs and also those nasty, drug related tunes were relegated to the free-form radio stations on the FM dial.

Then, in early-1971, this country-folk song hit the AM airwaves that used the popular phrase "toke". They couldn't possibly be talking about drugs in that song. I mean, the lyrics also mention "Jesus".

In fact, though, "toke" really was the standard use of the word. Performed by the duo of Mike Brewer and Tom Shipley, One Toke Over the Line came from their third album Tarkio which had been released the year before. Brewer was once asked about the meaning of the song and he basically said it is what it sounds like. "One day we were pretty much stoned and all and Tom says, 'Man, I’m one toke over the line tonight.' I liked the way that sounded and so I wrote a song around it."

One Toke Over the Line went to number 10 in the spring of 1971 and became Brewer & Shipley's biggest hit.

At the same time that the song was a hit, The Lawrence Welk Show was stepping into new waters. The reliably old-fashioned and stiff variety show had a regular troop of performers who changed over the years. It first went on the air in 1951 on KTLA in Los Angeles and moved to a national broadcast on ABC starting in 1955. By the 1966-67 season, it was the number 12 program on TV, pulling in an average 22.79 rating, an unheard of number in this day and age when even the biggest shows rarely get out of single digits.

In 1971, the show still had relatively good ratings but the producers wanted to update things a bit by, occasionally, including songs from the popular music charts and so, on a night in early 1971, accordion player Myron Floren took to the stage and introduced Gail Farrell and Dick Dale to sing "one of the newer songs".

To make things worse, Welk came out of the song saying "...and there you heard a modern spiritual by Gail and Dale."


For those who may have forgotten, here's the original performed by Brewer & Shipley:


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