Dick Smothers – The 200-MPH Comedian
(Check out the fun videos at the bottom of this post!)
How many comedians can claim that they drove a 427 Corvette over 200-MPH at Le Mans? Probably none, except for Dick Smothers. If you are a baby boomer and were watching TV in the ‘60s, hardly a week went by when you didn’t see Tom and Dick Smothers on the tube. In the early ‘60s with the advent of 33-1/3 LP records (long-play vinyl records with five or six tracks on each side) nearly all comedians had comedy records. Some people (myself included) had collections of comedy albums that were fun to play at parties.
But the Smothers Brothers were a little different. While the comedy team format was common (Hope & Crosby, Burns & Allen, Martin & Lewis, Burns & Carlin (George), what made The Smothers Brothers different was that they were also folk singers, aka ‘Folkies.” Tom played guitar, Dick played a full-size bass, and they were dressed in matching suits with skinny ties. And when they weren’t jabbing at one another and just sang, that were quite nice and covered the standard folkie songs of the day. Their 1962 album “The Two Sides of the Smothers brothers” featured sweet songs, such as “Stella’s Got a New Dress Today” (see below video) on one side and comedy bits including as “I Fell In A Vat of Chocolate.” (see below video)
But it was their late ‘60s TV show, “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” that polarized them to mainstream Americans because of their jabs and pokes at President Nixon and the Vietnam War. Their comedy program is available on NetFlix and in retrospect, compared to modern comics, such as Jon Steward and Bill Maher, Tommy and Dicky were VERY tame.
But Dick Smothers was a genuine motorhead. He started racing in ‘67 with a Brabham BT 21 Formula B car and later an assortment of Formula cars. Smothers also raced a Porsche 906 E at Sebring. Dick also liked American muscle cars and campaigned an Oldsmobile in NHRA Stock Eliminator competition. But it was Smothers’ association with John Greenwood that made his mark on the Corvette community. Dick co-drove with Greenwood at the ‘71 12 Hours at Sebring race, Watkins Glen in ‘72 and at Le Mans. Although Smothers’ official racing win record wasn’t especially impressive, he consistently qualified in the top 4 or 5 cars. It was observed and noted that he was appropriately aggressive on the track and he was always improving.
PSS – Enjoy the videos!
Smothers Brothers Clips & Commercials (see if you can spot a VERY young Steve Martin!)
Smothers Brothers Career Retrospective
Smothers Brothers, “I Fell In A Vat of Chocolate”
Smothers Brothers, “the Folkies” singing, “Stella’s Got a New Dress Today” Sweet!
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