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The Smothers Brothers

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Biography

Ironically enough for an act built around the tensions of sibling rivalry, the Smothers Brothers were the longest-lived comedy team in history; originally a folk duo, the brothers tempered their childlike, irreverent musical humor with enough sly satire and subtle political commentary to earn both an ardent following from the counterculture and considerable backlash from more conservative quarters. Tom (born February 2, 1937) and Dick (born November 20, 1939) first teamed professionally while attending San Jose State University. After a tenure in a folk group dubbed the Casual Quintet, the Smothers broke off as a duo in 1959; while their act initially consisted of straightforward folk tunes, audiences responded even more favorably to their between-song banter, and gradually all of the brothers' material reflected their offbeat comic sensibility, a perennially wide-eyed world-view steeped in playful sibling rivalry primarily directed at Tom's supposed dull wit. By the time of their 1961 live debut, At the Purple Onion (released concurrently with their season-long tenure as regulars on The Steve Allen Show), the Smothers' act still skewed toward straight songs, and the comedic content of their performance resided primarily in the introductions to the musical performances. As indicated by its title, 1962's Top 40 hit The Two Sides of the Smothers Brothers reflected the dichotomy even more clearly; while one half of the record was devoted to serious, if lightweight, songs like "If It Fits Your Fancy" and "Stella's Got a New Dress," the remainder focused on comic numbers like "Cabbage" and "Chocolate," the latter penned by frequent accomplice Pat Paulsen. With 1963's (Think Ethnic!), their transformation into pure comedy was complete; all of the songs were performed with tongues planted firmly in cheek, punctuated by breezy banter and lighthearted bickering. Curb Your Tongue, Knave! followed later in the year and was the duo's biggest hit, falling just short of the Top Ten, while 1964's It Must Have Been Something I Said! reflected their continued growth as performers capable of everything from love song send-ups ("Jenny Brown") to cracked history lessons ("Civil War Song"). With 1964's Tour de Farce American History and Other Unrelated Subjects and the following year's Aesop's Fables the Smothers Brothers Way, the duo turned toward music aimed specifically for younger audiences, while 1965's Mom Always Liked You Best! (its title the brothers' definitive tag line) crystallized their sibling squabbling antics. A short-lived sitcom, The Smothers Brothers Show, debuted that same year, while Golden Hits of the Smothers Brothers, Vol. 2 -- there was, of course, no Vol. 1 -- featured re-recorded renditions of favorite bits, and appeared in 1966. In February 1967, the duo launched The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, a variety program for the CBS network. An immediate hit, the series was topical and irreverent, poking fun at institutions ranging from the government to motherhood. As a result, it was also highly controversial, and the Smothers frequently butted heads with network censors. While very much a traditional show in terms of format and structure, the Comedy Hour won a devoted following from the burgeoning youth culture; while not overtly political, the show was far more topical than anything else on the air -- co-star Pat Paulsen launched a 1968 presidential campaign, while blacklisted folkie Pete Seeger, a frequent guest, made waves by performing his Vietnam protest song "Waist Deep in the Big Muddy." After a 1969 sketch satirizing organized religion drew fire from the nation's clergy and forced an on-air apology, CBS threw in the towel and canceled the show despite high ratings and a recent Emmy Award for writing. A year later, the program resurfaced on ABC, but its momentum was destroyed, and it again disappeared a few months later. Ultimately, the controversies crippled the Smothers' career; they did not return to recording, and toured sporadically over the next several years. Another variety series, The Smothers Brothers Show, debuted on NBC in 1975, but lasted only 13 weeks. After over a decade of low-visibility touring and nightclub performances by the brothers, CBS brought back The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in 1988; after little more than a year on the air, it too was canceled, and the team returned to the live circuit once again. ~ Jason Ankeny
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Top Tracks

  1.   Track
    Popularity
  2.   The Incredible Jazz Banjoist
  3.   The Put-on Song
  4.   Tom Dooley
  5.   Chocolate
  6.   The Saga of John Henry
  7.   Swiss Christmas
  8.   The Military Lovers
  9.   Pretoria
  10.   Yesterday
  11.   The Two Frogs
  12.   The Four Winds and the Seven Seas
  13.   Jezebel
  14.   Jenny Brown
  15.   The Dog and the Thief
  16.   Daniel Boone
  17.   Crabs Walk Sideways
  18.   Cabbage
  19.   The Boy Who Cried Wolf
  20.   The Bird and the Jar
  21.   Hiawatha
  22.   Someone to Talk My Troubles to
  23.   The Fox and the Grapes
  24.   The First Time (Ever I Saw Your Face)
  25.   Hound Dog Blues
  26.   Aesop Knew (Reprise)
  27.   Lark Day
  28.   Laredo
  29.   Little Sacka Sugar
  30.   Gnus
  31.   That's My Song
  32.   They Are Gone
  33.   The Farmer and His Sons
  34.   Silver Threads and Golden Needles
  35.   They Banter About Their Childhood
  36.   Apples Peaches and Cherries
  37.   Wanderlove
  38.   Anne Marie and Jean Pierre
  39.   We Love Us
  40.   A Fox (Maybe I'd Better Stay Me)
  41.   I Wish I Wuz in Peoria/They Call the Wind Maria
  42.   Map of the World
  43.   Since My Canary Died
  44.   Siblings
  45.   The Write of Songs
  46.   Where the Lilac Grows
  47.   The Last Great Waltz
  48.   Soap
  49.   Slithery Dee
  50.   Santa Claus Is Coming To Town
  51.   Santa Claus
  52.   Reminiscences
  53.   Population Explosion
  54.   My Old Man
  55.   Mom Always Liked You Best
  56.   Michael, Row the Boat Ashore
  57.   Longtime Blues
  58.   Little Known Song and Dance
  59.   I Talk to the Trees
  60.   I Never Will Marry
  61.   I Don't Care
  62.   Hangman
  63.   Down in the Valley
  64.   Dance, Boatman, Dance
  65.   American History - 1A
  66.   Black Is the Color of My True Love's Hair
  67.   Carnival
  68.   Church Bells
  69.   People Change
  70.   The Measle Song
  71.   Mediocre Fred
  72.   Life and the Song of Life
  73.   Mary Was Pretty
  74.   The Wreck of the Old 49
  75.   The Three Song
  76.   That's Show Business (Continued)
  77.   Civil War Song
  78.   Flamenco
  79.   Venezuelan Rain Dance
  80.   Lonesome Traveler
  81.   If It Fits Your Fancy
  82.   The Saga of the John Henry
  83.   Time and Song of Time
  84.   Almost
  85.   The Greedy Dog
  86.   The Fox
  87.   You Can Call Me Stupid
  88.   Eskimo Dog
  89.   Down in the Valley/Tzena, Tzena. Tzena, Tzena
  90.   Intermission Bit
  91.   The Shrimp
  92.   Impersonation
  93.   Stella's Got a New Dress
  94.   She's Gone Forever
  95.   Tattoo Song
  96.   American History - II-A
  97.   Overture-Aesop's Fables Our Way
  98.   Sailor's Lament
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