Yes, Brewer and Shipley are a perfect example of the species known as one-hit wonders.
Everybody remembers them for one song, “One Toke Over the Line,” a Top 10 hit in 1971. Nobody remembers them for anything else.
Yet, as they will no doubt demonstrate in a free concert on Saturday at the Liberty Lake Pavillion, they had a career that went way beyond that one single toke.
They started as Midwest folkies on the coffeehouse circuit, hooking up together in L.A. in 1967. They moved back to Kansas City, signed with a label, and had immediate underground success with an adapted Indian chant, “Witchi Tai To.” They made the rounds of folk clubs such as the Bitter End in New York, but their main circuit was through the colleges and clubs of northwestern Missouri. They dubbed it their “Tarkio Road” after Tarkio, Mo., and it became the title of their breakthrough album, “Tarkio.”
“One Toke Over the Line” was the big radio hit off that album, hindered only slightly (and maybe even helped) by the fact that the FCC threatened to ban it for its marijuana references.
They had a couple of moderately successful albums after that, but no hits. They were content to live quiet lives with their families in rural Missouri.
Their legacy was summed up in the Rolling Stone Record Guide, which said they “created the line of demarcation between Simon and Garfunkel imitators (they may have been the best) and Brewer and Shipley imitators (an insufferable legion led by Seals and Crofts).”
The point being, they were important enough to have imitators. It’s not their fault if the imitators were insufferable.
The Kama Sutra label issued a greatest hits album in 1989, and they recorded a new album in 1993 on their own label. Today, low-key as always, they make rare live appearances as an acoustic duo.
If you attend, you’ll see that their range extends farther than “One Toke Over the Line.” As one-hit wonders go, they’ve had a long and productive career.
, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: Brewer and Shipley will perform a free concert at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Liberty Lake Pavillion (take the Liberty Lake exit from I-90 and look for the yellow-and-black signs). An opening act will take the stage at 6 p.m.
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