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  •  Thursday: Odds & Ends (22+ / 0-)

    CHEERS to Bill and Michael in PWM, triciawyse plus all those who host when Bill is away and ......... a group dedicated to being good hosts home-and-away: the C&J squadron.

    ART NOTES - works in watercolor and clay by artists from the Cleveland School of style are at the Canton, Ohio Museum of Art through March 11th.

    ALTHOUGH we liberals do tend to take seriously conditions in our own prisons ...... somehow I think we'll not spend much time over complaints by the convicted Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik - who claims 'aggravated torture' over being held in solitary confinement (among other issues).

    THE FACULTY of the philosophy department at the University of Düsseldorf has voted 12-2 to strip the PhD (due to plagiarism of her dissertation) of Annette Schavan, who is Germany's Minister of ...... umm .... Education - and she is among several high officials in Europe who have similarly been exposed.

    THURSDAY's CHILD is Penguin the Cat - a Montana kitteh found by a shelter whose front right leg needed to be amputated ..... but is on the mend and will soon be up for adoption.

    LEST YOU THINK that it's only in the US where conservatives are running up against non-white constituencies unhappy with their policies: in the past decade ethnic minorities have gone from being 9% of the population of England and Wales to 14%, and no longer concentrated in cities .... and the UK's Conservatives have occasionally run dog-whistle campaigns against immigration and "multiculturalism".

    EVEN THOUGH she's been dead for nearly 200 years, devotees of Jane Austen - or as they refer to themselves, "The Janeites" - organize period dress parties and lectures, with a North American society boasting 4,500 members in 65 branches.

    SEPARATED at BIRTH - Franklin Foer, author and the editor of the New Republic and the NY Times poll analyst Nate Silver.

       

    ....... and finally, for a song of the week ..................................few people would probably be able to guess that the longest-performing comedy duo in history is the Smothers Brothers – in part because they combined music, social commentary and TV hosting as well as their jokes. But it seems their greatest gift to the entertainment world may well be: the people they hired/gave their first break to on their 1967-69 TV show, as well as the musical acts of the day that they gave a platform to.

    They were born on Governor’s Island off lower Manhattan which – until last decade - served as an Army or Coast Guard base. Their father (Major Thomas Smothers) died during WW-II, after which their mother relocated them to Southern California. They joined a folk band called the Casual Quintet, and to pad their limited repertoire: Tom’s biting, (seemingly) dull-witted sarcasm bounced off Dick’s straight man lines, and the two set out on their own in 1958, at the precipice of the burgeoning folk music boom.

    At first, music was their prime vehicle: singing traditional folk tunes (Tom on guitar, Dick on double bass) such as "Tom Dooley", "They Call the Wind Maria" from 'Paint Your Wagon' and tunes by The Weavers. Their comedy was mainly in their introductions, often ending with Tom’s famous "Mom always liked you best!" Gradually their topical humor in the changing 60’s became their calling, especially after their 1961 debut at San Francisco’s Purple Onion - where their first album was recorded.

    They also became involved with television: first as regulars on the Steve Allen show (with material written by Pat Paulsen for them) and had a short-lived 1965 sitcom "The Smothers Brothers Show". In the meantime, their recordings more properly belong in the “comedy” section and they gained a larger audience – leading to CBS offering them their own variety show in 1966 as a mid-season replacement. And why not? They were merely the latest sacrificial lamb to be thrown against NBC’s top-rated "Bonanza", they had that youthful appeal (but conservative look) the network was looking for and had the redoubtable Nelson Riddle as musical director when the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour (SBCH) premiered in February of 1967.

    As Glen Campbell recounted years later on a "700 Club" interview: the brothers assembled an all-star lineup on and off-stage. Jennifer Warnes, John Hartford (of Gentle on my Mind fame) and Mason Williams (soon to record Classical Gas that won several Grammys) were some of their music writers/performers. Williams hired (out of his own pocket at first) a then dark-haired Steve Martin as a staff writer, but he had company: Rob Reiner and Albert Brooks spent time there. Some other writers (Stan Burns, Bob Einstein, Carl Gottlieb) are not household names, but went on to write for the Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Carol Burnett Show, Bob Newhart and other notable TV series. And, of course, Pat Paulsen's presidential campaign.

    And their work paid off: the SBCH’s perfectly-timed satire, irreverence and amazing guests was a ratings hit, with over 70 episodes to follow. But it wasn’t until the E! Network re-ran many of these shows in 1993 that I recalled some guests: Joan Baez, Harry Belafonte, Donovan, The Doors, Steppenwolf, Cass Elliott and Pete Seeger. The Who, whose drummer Keith Moon famously had his bass drum explode on-stage – symbolized the “expect the unexpected” attitude of the show (which Who lead singer Roger Daltrey later admitted could have gotten the brothers fired over).

    Yet the SBCH also had the appearance of a standard variety show (with traditional guest such as George Burns, Elaine May, Vikki Carr and Moms Mabley). And Glen Campbell’s appearances led to his being offered a summer replacement show (remember those?) that jump-started his career.

    Yet they ran into the network’s desire to avoid controversy: rumor had it that in 1969 Richard Nixon pressured CBS to cancel 'The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour'. Whether he did or not: the network had already cut out satires on religion, Vietnam and racism and ultimately CBS head Bill Paley axed the show in April of 1970 (the brothers were able to sue successfully for breach-of-contract, yet were off-the-air).

    The controversies had their effect on their careers. Although the Smothers Brothers had two short-lived TV shows - a 1975 variety show for NBC (which introduced Don “Father Guido Sarducci” Novello) as well as a 20 year reunion series in 1988 for CBS – they were never able to re-capture their magic, the brothers have not made a new recording since the 1960’s and it took a 1998 re-issue to be able to listen to many of their old recordings (long out-of-print).

    Yet they have never disappeared: besides hosting retrospectives, the brothers have been involved in acting (Dick was a Nevada state senator in Martin Scorsese’s film Casino from 1993, they retired from touring in 2010 (after 51 years) just after the release of author David Bianculli's biography of the brothers, Tom’s wife Marcy has been a radio and podcast host of cooking shows and in 2008, Tom was awarded a belated 1968 Emmy Award for writing for the SBCH (he had left his name off as a way to avoid controversy).

    Tom and Dick (at age 76 and 73, respectively) today run Remick Ridge Vineyards (their mother’s family name is Remick) in Sonoma County, California.

    That they have no new music recordings since the 1960’s leaves not much to review, but one tune that characterizes their pre-SBCH days is 1963's You Go Thisaway that is credited to: blues singer Leadbelly (as well as John and Alan Lomax, the Library of Congress employees who helped establish him) plus folksingers Bob Gibson and Shel Silverstein. That’s some provenance - and below you can listen to it.

    When I was a baby
    on my momma's knee
    My momma told me
    The old lady told me
    Women gonna bring you misery

    So I will hug and kiss you
    Baby I'll sing you lotsa pretty songs
    And just about the time
    You think you got me:
    You'll turn around
    and I'll be gone

    You go thisaway
    I go thataway
    You go thisaway
    And then, oh then:
    You go thisaway
    I go thataway
    See you sometime
    But I don't know when

    "We should pay attention to that man behind the curtain."

    by Ed Tracey on Thu Feb 07, 2013 at 06:02:22 AM PST

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