When The Who (Literally) Blew Up The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in 1967

From 1967 to 1969, Tom and Dick Smoth­ers host­ed The Smoth­ers Broth­ers Com­e­dy Hour, a polite­ly edgy com­e­dy show that test­ed the bound­aries of main­stream tele­vi­sion and the patience of CBS exec­u­tives. Play­ing to a younger demo­graph­ic, the show took posi­tions against the Viet­nam War and for the Civ­il Rights Move­ment, while fea­tur­ing musi­cal acts that chal­lenged the norms of the era–everyone from Joan Baez and Pete Seeger, to the Doors and Jef­fer­son Air­plane, to Buf­fa­lo Spring­field and Simon and Gar­funkel.

Then came The Who in Sep­tem­ber 1967. Mak­ing its Amer­i­can net­work TV debut, the band picked up where they left off a few months ago at the Mon­terey Pop Fes­ti­val. They per­formed “My Gen­er­a­tion” and went into auto-destruc­tion mode, smash­ing their gui­tars, top­pling their drums, and cre­at­ing gen­er­al may­hem, before bring­ing the song to a close. But for The Smoth­ers Broth­ers Com­e­dy Hour, The Who added a spe­cial twist, pack­ing Kei­th Moon’s drum kit with explo­sives, a few too many, it turns out.

Here’s how Allan Blye, a pro­duc­er-writer for the show, remem­bers it:

The Who want­ed to do a big explo­sion at the end of their per­for­mance. In dress rehearsal, it was a pow­der puff. So, I say to the spe­cial effects guy, “We have to make a big­ger boom.” Unbe­knownst to us, The Who had told their own guy the same thing. When the explo­sion went off, it affect­ed Pete Townshend’s hear­ing per­ma­nent­ly. Kei­th Moon got blown off his drum­stand, but was too out of it to know.

Stunned yet poised, Tom Smoth­ers walked onto the stage, only to find his acoustic gui­tar snatched from his hands and smashed to smithereens too. He lat­er recalled: “Every­one was so shocked.” “When Town­shend came over and grabbed my gui­tar, I was busy just see­ing where the bod­ies were, see­ing if any­one was injured. He picked the gui­tar up, and peo­ple kept say­ing, ‘Did he real­ly ruin your gui­tar? It looked so real!’ And I’d say. ‘Well it was real! I was con­fused as hell!’ ”

The suits at CBS abrupt­ly can­celed The Smoth­ers Broth­ers Com­e­dy Hour in 1969, lead­ing the broth­ers to file a breach of con­tract law­suit, which they even­tu­al­ly won. (They dis­cuss the sting of that whole expe­ri­ence with David Let­ter­man here.)

Tom Smoth­ers died yes­ter­day at age 86, “fol­low­ing a recent bat­tle with can­cer.” His broth­er Dick announced his pass­ing, stat­ing: “Tom was not only the lov­ing old­er broth­er that every­one would want in their life, he was a one-of-a-kind cre­ative part­ner. I am for­ev­er grate­ful to have spent a life­time togeth­er with him, on and off stage, for over 60 years. Our rela­tion­ship was like a good mar­riage – the longer we were togeth­er, the more we loved and respect­ed one anoth­er. We were tru­ly blessed.” And so were the rest of us.

Relat­ed Con­tent 

Watch Steve Mar­tin Make His First TV Appear­ance: The Smoth­ers Broth­ers Com­e­dy Hour (1968)

Janis Joplin & Tom Jones Bring the House Down in an Unlike­ly Duet of “Raise Your Hand” (1969)

Revis­it “Turn-On,” the Inno­v­a­tive TV Show That Got Can­celed Right in the Mid­dle of Its First Episode (1969)

Kei­th Moon, Drum­mer of The Who, Pass­es Out at 1973 Con­cert; 19-Year-Old Fan Takes Over


by | Permalink | Comments (1) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (1)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
  • Christopher DiFonso says:

    WOW! Amaz­ing per­for­mance, although it’s amus­ing to see how dis­in­ter­est­ed — or down­right bored — John Entwistle seems to be. And: I heard some­where that the stut­ter­ing that Roger Dal­trey incor­po­rat­ed was­n’t ini­tial­ly planned; rather, he strug­gled singing the song and the group decid­ed to have him stut­ter while record­ing and per­form­ing the song from then on.

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.