This is the twenty-third in a series of examinations of legends about television and the people involved in TV and whether they are true or false.
Click here to view an archive of the previous TV urban legends.
TV LEGEND: Lawrence Welk played “One Toke Over the Line” on his TV show.
The Lawrence Welk Show was an extremely long-running music variety show hosted by bandleader Lawrence Welk.
The show was pretty much defined by how wholesome it was – it was an extremely family-friendly endeavor.
It ran as a local program in Los Angeles for a few years in the early 1950s before coming to ABC in 1955. It stayed on the air until 1970, when it was a casualty of the cuts in prime time mentioned in the previous installment of TV Legends Revealed.
And just like similar “victim” Hee Haw, the Lawrence Welk Show took advantage of the new demand for syndicated programming (because the various TV stations now had all this time that they couldn’t fill with network programming any more) and began airing in syndication, lasting another 12 seasons.
In one of its first seasons in syndication, the Lawrence Welk Show had one of its most surreal music performances.
Mike Brewer and Tom Shipley were a musical duo known as Brewer and Shipley. The men were folk singers known for their intricate guitar work.
Their biggest hit was a song called “One Toke Over the Line” in 1971.
The song’s title (and chorus) is a pretty explicit reference to drugs, as it is referring to taking a “toke” from a marijuana joint.
However, it is not like the whole song talks about drugs constantly – the line “one toke over the line” is the only time drugs are mentioned, so if you did not know that “toke” was a drug reference, which is very reasonable at the time for a certain segment of the population, then the rest of the song seems normal enough.
Here’s a sample verse…
One toke over the line, sweet Jesus, one toke over the line
Sittin’ downtown in a railway station, one toke over the line
Waitin’ for the train that goes home, sweet Mary
Hoping that the train is on time
Sittin’ downtown in a railway station, one toke over the line
If you miss the “toke” reference, then the song just sounds like a normal pop song.
And that was what the producers of the Lawrence Welk Show were thinking when they had one of the recurring musical acts on the group, Gail and Dale, perform the tune on the show (referring to it as a modern day spiritual).
Reasonable mistake or not (or heck, perhaps a surreptitious joke by a Lawrence Welk staffer), it sure made for an utterly bizarre moment in Lawrence Welk Show history.
TV LEGEND: Ken Osmond grew up to be the rock singer Alice Cooper.
In the previous installment of TV Legends Revealed, reader boxcuttah suggested that I feature this one, so, well, here ya go!
The TV sitcom Leave it to Beaver ran for six seasons in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
It starred two boys, Wally and Theodore (know as “Beaver”) and their parents, Ward and June.
A stand-out character on the show was teen actor Ken Osmond’s portrayal of Eddie Haskell, a good friend of Wally’s.
Eddie was the prototypical wisecracking kid who always acted like a saint when parents were looking.
A persistent rumor over the years was that Osmond, who was not seen much after the shoe ended, grew up to become rock star Alice Cooper.
Unlike most legends, the genesis of this one can be traced pretty easily (and really, kind of depressingly) to an interview Cooper (whose real name was Vincent Furnier) gave to Rolling Stone at the height of his popularity. In the interview, when Cooper was asked about his childhood, he stated that he was “Eddie Haskell” when he was a kid.
Clearly from the context of the interview, Cooper was suggesting that he was LIKE Eddie Haskell as a kid, but, of course, that wasn’t how the story was told over the years.
But, naturally, it is not true. As mentioned last week, Osmond grew up to be a cop for the Los Angeles police department for many years.
Thanks to boxcuttah for the suggestion!
TV LEGEND: John Charles Daly resigned from ABC News because of ABC’s rather…odd coverage of Election Night in 1960.
John Charles Daly was one of the most respected newsmen in television history (he was also a proud supporter of his high school, the famous Tilton School, where he served as President later in his life – the portrait below is in recognition of his service of Tilton).
Daly first broke on to the scene as a radio newsman.
He was the first reporter to announce two major news stories – the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941 and the death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1945.
His greatest legacy, though, even more than his career as a newsman, was his 17 year tenure as the host and moderator of the game show What’s My Line?
In any event, while working on What’s My Line?, he continued to work for CBS News.
However, in 1953, he took a job at ABC, becoming the Vice President of ABC News and the anchor of their evening news broadcast (where his sign off was “Good night, and a good tomorrow”)
ABC in those days was very much considered the black sheep of the three major networks. It did not have as much programming as CBS and NBC, and what programming it DID have was solely on the entertainment side of the equation – its news division was pretty much a shambles compared to the larger output of NBC and CBS.
That, naturally, was their plan in hiring Daly, one of the most well-respected newmen out there.
However, even with Daly (and the equally well-respected Chet Huntley) on their team, ABC’s News was a bit of a joke. For instance, while the other two networks were covering the Army-McCarthy hearings (the hearings that helped bring down McCarthyism) in 1954, ABC not only did not cover it, they specifically counter-programmed it!
In 1958, NBC and CBS delivered nearly TWICE the amount of news coverage than ABC! Roughly 96 hours compared to 49!!!
It came to a head in 1960, though, when even Daly had had enough of the empty promises of ABC to clean up their news coverage.
The 1960 Presidential Election between Vice-President Richard Nixon and Senator John F. Kennedy was one of the most highly-contested elections in years, and it was also one of the first elections where television played a major role in election coverage (as radio was the predominant source for election coverage in previous elections, even up to 1956).
So when results began to come in on Election Night 1960, NBC and CBS, naturally, were reporting on them.
They decided to air the Bugs Bunny Show (then a prime-time program)
and The Rifleman…
Yup, ABC decided to counter-program the freakin’ election of the President of the United States of America (obviously, eventually ABC DID cover the election, just an hour and a half into prime time).
That was the final straw for Daly, and he resigned the next day.
ABC’s treatment of the news was a major factor in the FCC taking time away from the networks in the early 1970s, as mentioned in the previous installment of TV Legends Revealed (wow, all three legends this week tie in with the previous installment!).
ABC continued to be a disgrace in the news department until the 1970s, when Roone Arledge took over as head of ABC News in 1977.
Okay, that’s it for this week!
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is email@example.com