Did Lawrence Welk Seriously Feature “One Toke Over the Line” on His Show?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about TV and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the TV urban legends featured so far.

TV URBAN 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 ever.

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

See?

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.

The legend is…

STATUS: True

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com.

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