Smothers’ shenanigans give Pops fund-raiser a lift
Boston Globe
By Ellen Pfeifer
Globe Correspondent

Over the course of their 42-year career, the Smothers Brothers have made an art form out of sibling rivalry. From San Francisco’s Purple Onion in 1959 to weekly television, from Las Vegas to the symphony orchestra stage, they have refined and elaborated their special brand of fraternal putdown, provocation, one-upmanship, and attention-getting misbehavior. On Wednesday night, they brought their shenanigans to the Boston Pops, where they regaled local CEOs at the annual “Presidents at Pops” fund-raising bash.

Rodgers’s “Surrey with the Fringe on Top” that combined jazzy big-band idioms with Spike Jones color effects. Lockhart confided that the arrangement dated from 1960, when Williams was still known as Johnny Williams and conducted a big band.

The “Sound of Music” sing along that concluded the Rodgers tribute was considerably more staid than the campy “Rocky Horror Picture Show” – like reenactments that have recently become popular. No one dressed up like singing nuns or lonely goatherds. Alas, the communal singing was also restrained.

But it was Dick and Tommy – cross-talking, singing, and accompanying themselves on bass guitar – whom everyone wanted to hear. And there was good reason for that. Not only have the Smothers retained their youthful, lean-and-fit appearance, they have managed to keep their material vigorous. Dick personifies the straight-arrow older brother, the upholder of conventional virtues and decorum. His weapons are the withering stare, the silent treatment, and the relentless interrogation. Tom is, of course, the whimsical and capricious, dumb but cunning, brother. He delights in the shameless and highly embroidered fabrication, the nonsense of a highly personal Spanglish, the subversion of a “serious” song, the occasional revelation of Fool’s truth. (Dick: “Why did you lie?” Tommy: “It’s national policy.”) Mother Smothers would have been proud of the way her boys made all those CEOs laugh in the midst of hard times.


It was Dick and Tommy - cross-talking and singing - whom everyone wanted to hear

The gala brought in $800,000 for the Pops’ parent organization, the Boston Symphony Orchestra – a figure somewhat lower than in more prosperous economic times, but certainly nothing to sniff at.

Conductor Keith Lockhart framed the Smothers Brothers’ set with birthday tributes to two of America’s composing giants: John Williams, much honored film-score composer and Pops conductor laureate, turned 70 in February. Broadway great Richard Rodgers would have been 100 this year. A particularly charming rarity was Williams’s clever arrangement of

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