One Toke Over The Line – Brewer & Shipley

Brewer & Shipley were a folk rock duo of the late 1960s through 1970s, consisting of singer-songwriters Mike Brewer and Tom Shipley. They were known for their intricate guitar work, vocal harmonies and socially conscious lyrics, which reflected the concerns of their generation-especially the Vietnam War, and the struggles for personal and political freedom. Their biggest hit was the song “One Toke Over the Line” from their 1970 album Tarkio.

The two Midwestern natives crossed paths numerous times at various coffeehouse gigs before settling in Los Angeles to write music together, producing their first two albums Down in L.A. and Weeds. Even though mutual friends in bands such as The Association and Buffalo Springfield also lived in Los Angeles, they left California in 1969, returning to Kansas City, where they made a meager living through playing in college towns. They derived the name of their next album, Tarkio, from a regular gig they played in Tarkio, Missouri. This album was their most commercially successful, featuring the hit “One Toke Over the Line”, which they wrote as a joke while preparing backstage for a performance.

Following airplay of the single, President Richard Nixon labeled Brewer & Shipley public miscreants. In retaliation, they referred to Nixon by name in their song, “Oh Mommy,” (from Tarkio).

Their song “One Toke Over The Line” was performed on The Lawrence Welk Show, a television program known for its conservative, family-oriented bent, by a duo known as “Gail and Dale.” At the conclusion of the performance of the song, Welk remarked, without any hint of humor, “There you’ve heard a modern spiritual by Gail and Dale.”

This led Michael Brewer to comment:

The Vice President of the United States, Spiro Agnew, named us personally as a subversive to American youth, but at exactly the same time Lawrence Welk performed the crazy thing and introduced it as a gospel song. That shows how absurd it really is. Of course, we got more publicity than we could have paid for.

Brewer & Shipley have performed with many notable acts, including Stephen Stills of Crosby, Stills & Nash, Bruce Springsteen, Black Sabbath, and Jerry Garcia of Grateful Dead fame, who played pedal steel guitar on “Oh, Mommy”.

One Toke Over The Line

Mike Brewer says of the song’s origin: “We wrote that one night in the dressing room of a coffee house. We were literally just entertaining ourselves. The next day we got together to do some picking and said, ‘What was that we were messing with last night?’ We remembered it, and in about an hour, we’d written ‘One Toke Over the Line.’ Just making ourselves laugh, really. We had no idea that it would ever even be considered as a single, because it was just another song to us. Actually Tom and I always thought that our ballads were our forte.”

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One toke over the line sweet Jesus
One toke over the line
Sittin’ downtown in a railway station
One toke over the line

Awaitin’ for the train that goes home, sweet Mary
Hopin’ that the train is on time
Sittin’ downtown in a railway station
One toke over the line

Whoooo do you love, I hope it’s me
I’ve bin a changin’, as you can plainly see
I felt the joy and I learned about the pain that my momma said
If I should choose to make a part of me, surely strike me dead
Now I’m one toke over the line sweet Jesus
One toke over the line
Sittin’ downtown in a railway station
One toke over the line
I’m waitin’ for the train that goes home sweet Mary
Hopin’ that the train is on time
Sittin’ downtown in a railway station
One toke over the line

I sail away a country mile,
Now I’m returnin’ showin’ off a smile
I met all the girls and loved myself a few
Ended by surprise like everything else I’ve been through
It opened up my eyes and now I’m
One toke over the line sweet Jesus
One toke over the line
Sittin’ downtown in a railway station
Don’t you just know I waitin’ for the train that goes home sweet Mary
Hopin’ that the train is on time
Sittin’ downtown in a railway station
One toke over the line

Don’t you just know I waitin’ for the train that goes home sweet Mary
Hopin’ that the train is on time
Sittin’ downtown in a railway station
One toke over the line

I want to be
One toke over the line sweet Jesus
One toke over the line
Sittin’ downtown in a railway station
One toke over the line
Don’t you just know I waitin’ for the train that goes home sweet Mary
Hopin’ that the train is on time
Sittin’ downtown in a railway station
One toke over the line
Sittin’ downtown in a railway station
One toke over line
One toke, one toke over the line

  • Audio from the 1970 album, Tarkio, but now available on:

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About DJ Allyn

DJ Allyn is a burned out radio guy who went on to become a burned out sound engineer for a few Seattle area grunge bands in the 1980s and 1990s. Left the madness of worldwide tours with bands, cleaned up my act and went into the relative sanity of sound engineering for television series. Currently working as the Director of Sound for a television series being filmed in North Vancouver, British Columbia. I am always on the lookout for interesting videos, old music, and fun.

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