After a brief time in a folk group called the "Casual Quintet," the Smothers made their debut as a duo in 1959. They were a popular act in clubs and released several successful record albums.
The brothers' trademark act was performing folk songs (Tommy on acoustic guitar, Dick on stand-up bass), which usually led to fake arguments between the two siblings. Tommy's signature line was, "Mom always liked you best". Tommy (the elder of the two) acted 'slow', and Dick acted 'superior'.
In real life Tommy was not 'slow' at all: He handled their business affairs and later gained fame as a yo-yo expert as The Yo-Yo Man, even starring in his own special program on television.
The brothers appeared on numerous television shows since the mid-1960s and hosted two variety shows of their own, The Smothers Brothers Show 1965-1966 and The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in 1967. The latter show became increasingly controversial for its references to youth culture, racism, and the Vietnam War, thus getting the comedians into regular conflicts with the network censors. The show also featured an impressive list of writers and regular performers who would eventually become some of the biggest names in comedy, like Pat Paulson, Steve Martin, Don Novello, and Rob Reiner. CBS abrubtly canceled the show in 1969, leading the brothers to file a successful breach of contract suit against the network. Despite the cancellation, the show went on to win the Emmy Award that year for best writing. The saga of the cancellation of the show is the subject of a 2002 documentary film, "Smothered".
The Smothers Brothers operate the Remick Ridge Vineyards in Sonoma County, California and as late as 2003 continued to tour.