Owsley Stanley, (Augustus Owsley Stanley III), “audio engineer and clandestine chemist”, iconic figure of the counter-culture, “Acid King”, “Bear”(as he was affectionately known),
is our focus today.
See Tom Taylor’s account of his life and times published late last year in Far Out magazine
Joel Selvin also wrote an extensive note on Owsley back in 2007 on the occasion of his (only temporary) return to his original home-base, San Francisco from long-time residence in rural Australia – “For the unrepentant patriarch of LSD, long strange trip winds back to Bay Area”
Here’s an absolutely invaluable recording – David Gans’s interview with “Bear” from January of 1991 (broadcast subsequently on KPFA (San Francisco local radio) on “Deadhead” Gans’s “Dead To The World” radio show, following Owsley’s tragic and untimely automobile death in Queensland, Australia in March of 2011)
The Grateful Dead – Owsley connection was of course primary. He was involved with them almost from the band’s beginnings (at Ken Kesey’s notorious and legendary Acid Tests). He was their first patron and, briefly, their manager. He bought the band sound equipment and began, early on. using them as a laboratory for his pioneering audio research.
In 1966, he made the first public address system specifically dedicated to music (a huge achievement!, one of many), not to mention simultaneously facilitating them (and Kesey and so many other great innovators) with his superior “product”! – by conservative estimates, Bear Research Group (sic) manufactured more than 1.25 million doses of LSD between 1965 and 1967, essentially seeding the entire modern psychedelic movement!)
The memorial pages set up on the Grateful Dead official site –“Remembering Owsley “Bear” Stanley are, of course, essential reading – see here
The New York Times,
Robert Greenfield’s 2016 definitive biography
The spirit of Owsley lives on and most astonishingly lives on in The Owsley Stanley Foundation and the remarkable “Bear’s Sonic Journals”
As the Foundation explains:
The Owsley Stanley Foundation is dedicated to the preservation of “Bear’s Sonic Journals,” Owsley’s archive of more than 1,300 live concert soundboard recordings from the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, including recordings by Miles Davis, Johnny Cash, The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Fleetwood Mac, Janis Joplin, and more than eighty other artists across nearly every musical idiom”
This (“Bear’s Sonic Journals”) is an ongoing project (vintage live recording of the Irish band The Chieftains is their most recent recording) and more can be learnt about it here.