My writing this spring has been comprised of stories about how I ended up making music for a living. I talked about the beginnings of Brewer and Shipley, and some of the things that came about because of our union. At this point, a documentary about our careers has now been released. Fans have begun asking me about the release and how they can go about watching it. At present, it is available on VIMEO on-demand. One Toke Over The Line…And Still Smokin’. They got that one right. Still smokin.’ Being a geezer who has managed to shred his mind and body over the years I find that enough of me has come apart that I now qualify for a medical cannabis card.
I have a card that says it is perfectly legal for me to possess some of the dreaded weed. Being one of the One Toke Over The Line boys for over half a century, you would have thought such a card stating that I was now legal would have been automatic. But no. I had to wait until my hip joints started to give out, some of my internal organs began hinting that they were getting tired, and my vision had collapsed to the point where I should no longer be allowed to use a bow and arrow. So I did the math.
As a teenager growing up in a time of “reefer madness” I was told that smoking this toxin would leave me in the dustbin of life. I would never be successful at anything with the possible exception of becoming a criminal. They hadn’t counted on this youngster reading Jack Kerouac’s famous book “On The Road.” Even at that, I did manage to make it through college without any personal knowledge of the plant. Then came folk music and there went all the good intentions.
I was hanging out at La Cave, the coffee house that had become my musical home. One night, at a party at the club owner’s house, Buzzy Linhart, a fellow musician said, “here try this,” which I did and immediately replied, “how about another,” which Buzzy quickly accommodated. For people who don’t know Buzzy Linhart, he is another fellow who would never be successful at anything because of the dreaded weed. He went on to be in the cast of the film “The Groove Tube,” and write “You’ve Got To Have Friends” for Bette Middler. A great singer, songwriter, musician, and a fellow I’m glad to call my friend.
The other day I was doing the math. The summer of 1964, the year Buzzy ruined me, and the spring of 2021 as I write this, amounts to approximately 57 years. “Perhaps they were wrong,” I thought. “Nonsense,” I said to myself. I saw it on tv. So I just keep waiting. Maybe not having an official card is what was going to ruin everyone’s life. Or perhaps it was the fact that doing something illegal \eventually leads to a life of crime. “But what about all the people who don’t tell the whole truth in April when they do their taxes,” I wondered. That’s a crime and there would be more prisons than houses if that was true.
Back in the day pot-smokers learned the word “paranoia” way before their peers. We all have our “close call’ story. Mine involved trying to get to Toronto after a week at Washington’s Cellar Door club. As I was going through customs the agent opened my guitar case and there, for all the world to see, was a roach clip in the shape of a peace sign with a roach still in it. “What’s this,” the agent asked. “It looks like a peace sign,” I said, doing my best not to throw up in my guitar case. He put the clip on a shelf and continued to search my guitar and its case. Occasionally he would go over to the shelf, pick up the clip, put the roach on his tongue, and put it back on the shelf. “Are you sure you don’t know what this is,” the gray haired agent asked me again? Quickly I remembered an article in Rolling Stone about Jimmy Hendrix and how he dealt with the same issue. “I’m a musician and people are always putting things in my guitar case,” I said. “I should have checked before I got on the plane.” The agent tasted it again and, to my amazement, put the clip still containing the roach back in my case, closed it up, and said “have a nice day.” “If I don’t die of a heart attack I will,” I thought to myself as I headed to the concourse door. This old agent was just messing with me and I thanked the heavens that he had a sense of humor.
I tell this story and talk about my life with cannabis because of the movie that has just been released. “One Toke Over The Line…And Still Smokin’.” How could I not? The movie has been released and after 57 years without getting busted. I’m finally legal and now, more than ever, it’s not just my mind but my body that needs the occasional toke.
I’ll end by stating once again that the Brewer and Shipley documentary has been released and can be found on VIMEO on-demand. Lest anyone thinks I’m promoting this for financial gain you should know that Michael and I have nothing to do with that part of the film. We just answered some questions from the producer and let her follow us around for 10 or 12 years. That’s it. It was fun and I hope you like it.