Brewer & Shipley are an American folk rock duo who enjoyed their peak success in the late 1960s through the 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 greatest commercial success was the song "One Toke Over the Line" from their 1970 album Tarkio. They had two other singles on the Billboard charts: "Tarkio Road" (1970) and "Shake Off The Demon" (1971). They continue to perform, both separately and together, usually in the Midwest of the USA.
The two Midwestern natives crossed paths numerous times at various coffeehouse gigs before settling in Los Angeles to write music together in 1968, producing their first two albums, Down in L.A. and Weeds. Even though mutual friends in bands such as The Association and Buffalo Springfield lived in Los Angeles, they left California during 1969, returning to Kansas City, Missouri, where they made a meager living playing 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 successful commercially, featuring the song "One Toke Over the Line", which they wrote as a joke while preparing backstage for a performance.
"One Toke Over The Line" was performed on The Lawrence Welk Show, a television program known for its conservative, family-oriented format, by a duo known as "Gail and Dale". At the conclusion of the performance of the song, Welk remarked, without any hint of irony, "There you've heard a modern spiritual by Gail and Dale." This caused 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, Bruce Springsteen, Black Sabbath, and Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead, who played pedal steel guitar for "Oh, Mommy".
Regrouping, touring, and present-day status:
During 1989 they performed a gig together, and a brief time later began composing together again, producing two albums, SHANGHAI (1993) and Heartland (1997). They have continued to tour together, part-time, since the 1990s. At present, Michael Brewer lives outside of Branson, Missouri. Tom Shipley lives in Rolla, Missouri, where he is part of the staff of Missouri University of Science & Technology (formerly the University of Missouri - Rolla). He is is semi-retired as manager of vide productions and continues to work on special video productions for the university. He is a member of Engineers Without Borders and has traveled twice to the Amazon and Andes of Bolivia to produce videos for the organization.