(8 pm. – promoted by ek hornbeck)
Those San Francisco nights
You were the best in town
Just by chance you crossed the diamond with the pearl
You turned it on the world
That’s when you turned the world around
Did you feel like Jesus?
Did you realize?
That you were a champion in their eyes
On the hill the stuff was laced with kerosene
But yours was kitchen clean
Everyone stopped to stare at your technicolor motor home
Every A-Frame had your number on the wall
You must have had it all
You’d go to L.A. on a dare
And you’d go it alone
Could you live forever?
Could you see the day?
Could you feel your whole world fall apart and fade away?
Get along, get along Kid Charlemagne
Get along Kid Charlemagne
Now your patrons have all left you in the red
Your low rent friends are dead
This life can be very strange
All those dayglow freaks who used to paint the face
They’ve joined the human race
Some things will never change
Son you were mistaken
You are obsolete
Look at all the white men on the street
Clean this mess up else we’ll all end up in jail
Those test tubes and the scale
Just get them all out of here
Is there gas in the car?
Yes, there’s gas in the car
I think the people down the hall
Know who you are
Careful what you carry
‘Cause the man is wise
You are still an outlaw in their eyes
Owsley Stanley Obituary
by Michael Carlson,
Tuesday 15 March 2011
The American psychologist Timothy Leary’s famous invitation to “tune in, turn on and drop out” changed a generation. The key element was “turn on” and it was Owsley Stanley who provided the means to do just that. Stanley, who has died aged 76, produced millions of doses of “acid”, the psychedelic drug LSD, which fuelled the 1967 Summer of Love in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district, and spread around the world.
Jimi Hendrix’s Purple Haze was the consequence of Stanley’s Monterey Purple acid; his varieties included White Lightning and Blue Cheer and aficionados called the best acid simply “Owsley”. He supplied the Beatles at the time of their Magical Mystery Tour television film (1967), and provided the acid to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest novelist Ken Kesey and his “Merry Pranksters”, whose 1964 bus trip across America was chronicled by Tom Wolfe in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (1968).
Stanley’s acid turned hippies on and he also tuned them in. The band on Kesey’s bus was the Grateful Dead, with whom Owsley began an instantly synergistic relationship. The Dead took to his acid with such enthusiasm that Jerry Garcia became “Captain Trips”, while Stanley funded their career and became their sound engineer, creating their unique live sound and, by recording each concert, providing the most complete archive of any band of the era. Along with Bob Thomas, he designed the band’s “Steal Your Face” lightning bolt and skull logo, originally so his masses of sound equipment could be identified easily.
Stanley was also the quintessential drop-out. Born Augustus Owsley Stanley III, his grandfather of the same name had been governor of Kentucky, a US senator and congressman. His father, a state’s attorney, was pushed by wartime experiences into alcoholism. After his parents separated, he lived first with his mother in Los Angeles, then returned to his father and was sent to military school.
Nicknamed “Bear” when he began sprouting body hair, he was expelled from school for getting his ninth-grade classmates drunk. He spent more than a year as a patient at St Elizabeth’s, the Washington psychiatric hospital that also housed Ezra Pound, and tried college, but eventually joined the air force. His electronics training there led to work on radio stations in Los Angeles, while studying ballet and working as a dancer.
In 1963 he enrolled at the University of California, Berkeley, where he began smoking marijuana and selling fellow students morning-glory seeds for a legal high. The next year, he encountered LSD. He spent three weeks studying the then-legal drug’s chemistry, and began producing it himself. Quitting college and working at a local radio station, he set up the “Bear Research Group” to make acid. By the time he met Kesey in September 1965, he had become the first private producer of LSD on a grand scale.
Along with Tim Scully he set up a massive lab in Port Richmond, at the northern end of San Francisco Bay; when LSD became illegal in California in 1966, Scully moved to a location opposite the Denver zoo. Stanley stayed ahead of the law by keeping his acid in a small trunk which he shipped between bus stations, but after a 1967 raid his defence was that the 350,000 acid tabs police confiscated were for his personal use. He fought the case for two years, but his bail was revoked when he and the Dead were busted in New Orleans in 1970, and he was sentenced to three years in prison.
Once released, he resumed working for the Dead. His mentoring of the band had floundered in 1966, because while sharing his house in Los Angeles’s Watts ghetto they also had to share his carnivorous life-style. Stanley believed that carbohydrates poisoned the body and vegetables interfered with nutrition. Arguing with his fierce but erratic intelligence was challenging: “There’s nothing wrong with Bear that a few billion less brain cells wouldn’t cure,” said Garcia.
On a practical level, Stanley’s perfectionism meant that sound systems took too long to set up and take down, and he feuded with the business-first approach of Lenny Hart, the band’s manager and father of drummer Mickey. But in 1973 he delved into his archive to release Bear’s Choice, a tribute to the recently deceased Dead co-founder, Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, and in 1974, at a concert in San Francisco’s Cow Palace, he inaugurated the 604-speaker Wall of Sound.
Owsley later organised sound for Jefferson Starship and Dead bassist Phil Lesh’s solo projects, and scraped a living selling marijuana and making jewellery, a trade he learned in prison. In 1985 he met his third wife, Sheilah, and they moved to the Australian outback, squatting on 120 acres of remote land outside Cairns, convinced there was an oncoming Ice Age which would be best survived there. He believed that global warming was part of a natural cycle, rather than man-made.
In 2005, Stanley contracted throat cancer, attributing his survival to starving the tumour of glucose through diet. He died and his wife was injured when his car ran off a road in Queensland, and crashed into a tree. He is survived by Sheilah; by two sons, Pete and Starfinder; by two daughters, Nina and Redbird; and is remembered in the Dead’s song Alice D Millionaire and Steely Dan’s Kid Charlemagne.
• Augustus Owsley Stanley, drug producer and sound engineer, born 19 January 1935; died 13 March 2011