Ken Fritz was a co-executive producer of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour and was instrumental in getting The Summer Brothers Smothers Show (subsequently The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour) greenlighted as its summer replacement in 1969. But it wasn’t easy, with CBS censors already nervous about the Smothers’ brand of irreverent humor. In a guest column for Deadline a day after Campbell’s death, Fritz reveals how the censors finally relented:
In the late ’60s The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour deal at CBS included the right to produce our summer replacement variety show. Having weathered months of high-profile political and social censorship, the network offered us a buyout for the time slot, which Tom and Dick refused. The programming department then suggested Noel Harrison (Rex’s son) or Lou Rawls. We demurred.
That week I’d seen Glen Campbell perform and interviewed on ABC’s The Joey Bishop Show. Although we were well aware of his legendary guitar prowess and iconic voice, it was not until Glen’s natural banter with Joey that it was clear he’d be perfect for the summer slot. In those days, just getting a 2” tape copy to show CBS wasn’t easy, but trying to sell Glen to them was well beyond that bump because Black Rock and Television City were leery that he’d become the “Son of Smothers,” thereby creating more headaches for the censors.
But when they viewed his down-home personality and impactful music, both coasts relented. Soon the calls started coming from Joe Curl, at network sales telling us that sponsors, wanting to steer clear of the Comedy Hour’s censorship issues, were not exactly lining up.
Spreading my arms to the left and right, I assured Joe that on the political continuum, Glen’s show would be at the far end of where Tom and Dick already were positioned. Emphasizing this All-American, chart-topping country and pop music star’s following, I suggested that Chevrolet should be our prime target because Glen could be their next Dinah Shore. With that statement Joe organized a meeting in a bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel with Chevy’s agency, Campbell Ewald, wherein I repeated the arms-spread pitch about the continuum and the references to Dinah. The agency and clients seemed to agree, and within days they committed to the show.
To the surprise and certainly the relief of the CBS and Detroit brass, the reviews and ratings were great. For those who remember the omnipresent California MFR license plates that dotted L.A., some of us on the show — courtesy of Glen hitting it out of the park — were loaned the Chevy of our choice. Corvette or wagon, Impala, whatever.
With his telegenic and musical magnetism The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour continued a few years beyond the Comedy Hour‘s censor-driven boot. So here’s to the best damned pickin’, singin’ and entertainin’ Rhinestone Cowboy who’ll always be Gentle on My Mind. Whether in Phoenix, Wichita, Galveston or beyond, he brought joy…
Over more than four decades, Ken Fritz’s solo or jointly represented personal management clients included the Smothers Brothers, John Hartford, Mason Williams, Pat Paulson, Peter, Paul & Mary, Neil Diamond, Minnie Riperton, George Benson, Doc Severinsen and Kenny G. With Tom Smothers and Ken Kragen he produced the nearly three-year run of Hair at the Aquarius Theater on Sunset. Later he conceived Diamond’s legendary “Hot August Night” concerts at the Greek Theatre, followed by a 20 show run at Broadway’s Wintergarden.