World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

The Smothers Brothers

Article Id: WHEBN0003346424
Reproduction Date:

Title: The Smothers Brothers  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Marx Brothers, Rob Reiner, Super Bowl XXXIV, Jack Benny, Redondo Beach, California, 1967 in music, A Special Sesame Street Christmas, Butch Vig, Diana Muldaur, The Andy Williams Show
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

The Smothers Brothers

The Smothers Brothers
Smothers Brothers performing in August 2004
Genre Variety
Written by Norman Sedawie
Starring Thomas Smothers
Richard Smothers
Narrated by Peter Cullen
Country of origin USA
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 3
No. of episodes 72
Original channel CBS
Picture format 4:3
Audio format Mono
Original run February 5, 1967 (1967-02-05) – April 20, 1969 (1969-04-20)

The Smothers Brothers are Thomas ("Tom" – born February 2, 1937) and Richard ("Dick" – born November 20, 1939), American singers, musicians, comedians and folk heroes. The brothers' trademark double act was performing folk songs (Tommy on acoustic guitar, Dick on string bass), which usually led to arguments between the siblings. Tommy's signature line was, "Mom always liked you best!" Tommy (the elder of the two) acted "slow", and Dick, the straight man, acted "superior".

In the 1960s, the brothers frequently appeared on television variety shows and issued several popular record albums of their stage performances. Their own television variety show, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, became one of the most controversial American TV programs of the Vietnam War era. Despite popular success, the brothers' penchant for material that was critical of the political mainstream and sympathetic to the emerging counterculture led to their firing by the CBS network in 1969. One show was left unaired.[1]

The brothers continued to work, both independently and as a team, on stage and television, and in films during subsequent decades.

Early years

The brothers were both born on Governors Island in New York Harbor, where their father, Thomas B. Smothers, Jr., a West Point graduate and U.S. Army officer, was stationed.[2] Tom was born on February 2, 1937,[2] and Dick was born on November 20, 1939.[3] Major Smothers served in the 45th Infantry Regiment (United States) and died during World War II, while being transported from a Japanese prisoner of war camp in Fukuoka, Japan, to a POW camp in Mukden, Manchukuo.[2] They were raised by their mother in the Los Angeles area.

They graduated from Redondo Union High School in Redondo Beach, California, and attended San Jose State University. After a brief time in a folk group called the Casual Quintet, the Smothers made their first professional appearance as a duo in February 1959 at The Purple Onion in San Francisco. They were a popular act in clubs and released several successful record albums, the most successful being The Smothers Brothers at the Purple Onion in 1961. Their first national television appearance was on The Jack Paar Show on January 28, 1961.[4]

The brothers appeared in a segment of the television series Burke's Law, in 1964, in which they played two compulsive hoarders.[3] Their first television series was a situation comedy, The Smothers Brothers Show (1965–1966).[5] Tom played an angel come back to earth to oversee his brother Dick, who played a swinging bachelor. It did not do well in the ratings and had little of the music that was identified with the brothers. Tom would later say "Four Star (the production company) gave me ulcers."

The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour


The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour started out as only a slightly "hip" version of the typical comedy-variety show of its era, but rapidly evolved into a show that extended the boundaries of what was considered permissible in television satire.[6][7] While the Smothers themselves were at the forefront of these efforts, credit also goes to the roster of writers and regular performers they brought to the show, including Steve Martin, Don Novello ("Father Guido Sarducci"), Rob Reiner, Presidential candidate Pat Paulsen, Bob Einstein ("Super Dave Osborne", "Marty Funkhouser", and "Officer Judy"), Einstein's brother, Albert (who works professionally as Albert Brooks), and resident hippie Leigh French ("Share a Little Tea with Goldie"). The show also introduced audiences to pop singer Jennifer Warnes (originally billed as Jennifer Warren or simply Jennifer), who was a regular on the series. The television premiere of Mason Williams' hit record, Classical Gas, took place on the show; Williams was also the head writer for the series.

Musical guests

The series showcased new musical artists that other comedy-variety shows rarely gave airtime, due to the nature of their music or their political affiliations. George Harrison, Joan Baez, Buffalo Springfield, Cass Elliot, Harry Belafonte, Cream, Donovan, The Doors, Janis Ian, Jefferson Airplane, Peter, Paul and Mary, Spanky and Our Gang, Ringo Starr, Steppenwolf, Simon and Garfunkel, The Who and even Pete Seeger were showcased on the show, despite the advertiser-sensitive nature of their music.

Seeger's appearance was his first appearance on network television since being blacklisted in the 1950s; it became controversial because of his song choice: Waist Deep in the Big Muddy, an anti-war song that the network perceived was an insult to Lyndon Johnson and his Vietnam War policy. The song was censored on Seeger's first appearance but permitted on a later appearance.[8]

In 1968, the show broadcast in successive weeks "music videos" (not called that at the time) for The Beatles' popular songs Hey Jude and Revolution. Before a rowdy crowd at the Los Angeles Forum, Jimi Hendrix dedicated I Don't Live Today to the Smothers Brothers, as heard on The Jimi Hendrix Box Set.

The Who incident

The performance by The Who in 1967 was another defining moment in the series. As they often did during that period, The Who destroyed their instruments at the conclusion of their performance of "My Generation", with the usual addition of mild explosives for light pyrotechnic effect. The piece would end with guitarist Pete Townshend grabbing Tommy's guitar and smashing it. On the Smothers Brothers show that night, a small amount of explosive was put into the small cannon that Keith Moon kept in his bass drum. But it didn't go off during the rehearsal. Unbeknownst to Moon, a stage hand had added another explosive before the taping, and later Moon added another charge so that now there were three explosive charges in the cannon instead of one.[9] When Moon detonated it, the explosion was so intense that a piece of cymbal shrapnel cut into Moon's arm; Moon is heard moaning in pain toward the end of the piece. Townshend, who had been in front of Moon's drums at the time, had his hair singed by the blast; he is seen putting out sparks in his hair before finishing the sketch with a visibly shocked Tommy Smothers. Allegedly, the blast contributed heavily to Townshend's long-term hearing loss.

Controversies and cancellation

With the focus of the show having evolved towards a more youth-oriented one,[10] the show became both popular and controversial for those same references to youth culture and the issues that both interested and affected this particular target audience. Three specific targets of satire — racism, the President of the United States, and the Vietnam War—would wind up defining the show's content for the remainder of its run, and eventually lead to its demise.[11]

Whereas most older audiences were tuning into shows like the western Bonanza, the younger generation—ages 15–25—were watching the Smothers' more socially-relevant humor.

The Brothers soon found themselves in regular conflicts with CBS' network censors. At the start of the 1968/69 season, the network ordered that the Smothers deliver their shows finished and ready to air ten days before airdate so that the censors could edit the shows as necessary. In the season premiere, CBS deleted the entire segment of Belafonte singing "Lord, Don't Stop the Carnival" against a backdrop of the havoc during the 1968 Democratic National Convention, along with two lines from a satire of their main competitor, Bonanza. As the year progressed, battles over content continued, including a David Steinberg sermon about Moses and the Burning Bush.

With some local stations making their own deletions of controversial skits or comments, the continuing problems over the show reached a boiling point after CBS showed a rerun on March 9, 1969. The network explained the decision by stating that because that week's episode did not arrive in time to be previewed, it would not be shown. In that program, Joan Baez paid tribute to her then-husband, David Harris, who was entering jail after refusing military service, while comedian Jackie Mason made a joke about children "playing doctor." When the show finally did air, two months later, the network allowed Baez to state that her husband was in prison, but edited out the reason.

Despite the conflict, the show was picked up for the 1969-70 season on March 14, seemingly ending the debate over the show's status. However, network CEO and President, William S. Paley, abruptly canceled the show on April 4, 1969. The reason given by CBS was based on the Smothers' refusal to meet the pre-air delivery dates as specified by the network in order to accommodate review by the censors before airing. This cancellation led the Brothers to file a successful breach of contract suit against the network, although the suit failed to see the Brothers or their show returned to the air.[12] Despite this cancellation, the show went on to win the Emmy Award that year for best writing. The saga of the cancellation of the show is the subject of a 2002 documentary film, Smothered.[13]

Later career and retirement

The Smothers Brothers had further television shows: a 1968 CBS summer replacement series, The Summer Brothers Smothers Show;[14] The Smothers Brothers Show (1975),[15] initially produced by Joe Hamilton (who concurrently produced The Carol Burnett Show, starring his wife), which was an unsuccessful attempt to recapture the look and feel of the original comedy-variety series without the controversy; and The Tom and Dick Smothers Brothers Specials I and II in 1980.

In 1978, the brothers starred in a replacement cast for I Love My Wife, Cy Coleman's and Michael Stewart's Broadway musical satire on the sexual revolution of the 1970s, directed by Gene Saks.

In 1981, Tom and Dick Smothers played non-brothers in a light TV drama, set in San Francisco, titled Fitz and Bones. Both characters worked at a Bay Area television station; Tom played cameraman Bones Howard and Dick played Ryan Fitzpatrick, an investigative reporter. The show was cancelled after five episodes.[16]

Later, there was The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour (1988–1989).[17] This show began production during a 1988 Writers Guild of America strike. As writer-performers, the brothers were allowed to perform their own material during the strike, as were their staff and guest stars. Prior to this they had reportedly saved an episode of Saturday Night Live by breaking through a picket line and hosting the show against the union's wishes; the episode was a ratings smash the likes of which the series had not seen since the 1970s.

In 2004, they guest starred on Bonnie Hunt's Life With Bonnie.

We still disagree about everything. I mean, he's more conservative politically and also is a pragmatist. He's very pragmatic and wants everything to line up and put in a box. And I'm a little bit looser.

—Tommy Smothers (on his brother Dick),
from a 2006 interview.[18]

The brothers have worked independently as well; Dick has appeared as an actor in films, including a rare dramatic role as a Nevada state senator in Martin Scorsese's Casino. Tom appeared in the 2005 made-for-television movie Once Upon a Mattress.

They appeared in the documentary The Aristocrats in 2005, and had separate cameos in the 2009 film The Informant!. In December 2009, the duo guest starred in a 21st-season episode of The Simpsons that also featured Cooper, Peyton and Eli Manning.[19]

After more than 51 years of touring, the Smothers Brothers officially announced their retirement from touring during their final performance at the Orleans Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Sunday May 16, 2010.[20] The affair was kept low key with some family members and friends in attendance.

The brothers operate the Remick Ridge Vineyards (Remick was their mother's maiden name) in Sonoma County, California.

Marcy Smothers, Tom's wife, went to film school at UCLA and was Tom's producer before they married. Marcy hosted a news/talk show on KSRO, Santa Rosa, California; then moved to KGO, the market leader in San Francisco, for 18 months; and then did a syndicated show "The Food Guy and Marcy" with Guy Fieri from 2006 to 2009 (available, in 2011, online). In mid-2011, Marcy was marketing a new show, titled "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?"[21]


In 2003, the brothers were awarded the George Carlin Freedom of Expression Award from the Video Software Dealers’ Association. The award recognizes the brothers' “extraordinary comic gifts and their unfailing support of the First Amendment.” In the same year, they both received Honorary Doctorate Degrees from San Jose State University. The Boston Comedy Festival presented a Lifetime Achievement Award to the brothers in 2008.[4]

In September 2008, during the 60th Primetime Emmy Awards, Tommy Smothers, a lead writer of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, was belatedly awarded a 1968 Emmy for Outstanding Writing In A Comedic Series. In 1968, Tommy Smothers had refused to let his name be on the list of writers nominated for the Emmy because he felt his name was too controversial, and thus when the writing staff won he was the only member not to receive the award.[4][22]

The Smothers Brothers were inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame in 2010.



External links

  • Discography at
  • discography at MusicBrainz
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.