Mar 23, 2013

October 31, 1966: California Hall, SF


"Sell the sizzle, not the steak," Elmer "Fat Boy" Wheeler's deep religious principle, is acutely tuned to the basic elements in American life.
For a week now, Ken Kesey, the Robin Hood of LSD, has been selling the sizzle of a Halloween "Graduation" party, from which the acid heads were supposed to move on to new plateaus. As a salesman and space grabber, Kesey ranks with Dexter Fellows, P.T. Barnum's flack.
But somewhere along the line, something went wrong. Over the weekend numerous people who were involved in Kesey's project as lieutenants or other functionaries, had second thoughts. Kesey's in-group is called The Merry Pranksters.
More and more people remembered that the Pranksters' motto is "Never Trust a Prankster." And in the event, they didn't trust Ken Kesey.
That's what happened. When the lieutenants voted "No confidence" Kesey was way out there in the blue, riding on a smile like Willy Loman, with no one smiling back.
Once the support faded - and great pressure was brought to bear to keep the support in line, with lawyers laying down their reputations like collateral - Kesey couldn't get Winterland for his frolic and ended up in a warehouse with less than a couple of hundred people instead of the thousands he expected to pay $2.50 each to hear and to see him. The Robin Hood trip was in trouble.

Where the people went Monday night was California Hall, which was jammed all night long even though the six witches and Mimi Farina never did appear. Or maybe the witches did. It was hard to tell. They COULD have been there. It was quite an assembly. A theatrical costume house could have outfitted a regimental ball at Prince Charlie's court from the clothes at the dance.
The Quick and the Dead played for dancing. The Quicksilver Messenger Service and the Grateful Dead, that is, and they filled the hall with the wailing of guitars and the beat of the drums all night long. At midnight when Death was supposed to ride through the hall, a lanky, dark man with long stringy black hair and an opulent red brocade Louis XIV jacket climbed into a rickety old wheelchair and was pushed through the crowd by another man wearing a huge pumpkin for a headdress. Girls screamed in mock terror. A small boy cried fretfully in the lounge, but he'd been frightened by a reveler in a bear's costume, not by Death.
It was somewhat anti-climactic when Death left the wheelchair to do his Dance. He appeared to be out of his elements and could only prance around lamely. But the hall was filled with others who added new dimensions to free form dancing.
The girl in the net pants (just net, that's all) and the girl in the diaphanous gauze dress won the prizes for exotica. And the man with the split face, half coal black and half chalk white, impressed everyone.

The Quicksilver Messenger Service gave Death's wheelchair ride a wildly rhythmic accompaniment (the Bo Diddley riff at maximum volume) and the Grateful Dead did "Viola Lee Blues" and "The LSD Millionare" as though were playing for all time. [sic]
Earlier in the evening, numerous people had arrived at Winterland to find it closed (it was Winterland's withdrawal that cooled the Kesey plot) and had gone on to California Hall. During the evening, some cruised the alley where Kesey's party was in progress and returned to report little happening. At the end of the night the sign "Acid Test Graduation Tickets Not Honored Here" was still up alongside the box office and it symbolized what happened. A vote of "No confidence" had been registered and when they stop smiling back at you, even Elmer Wheeler's credo is useless. The only thing that can save you then, is the steak. The sizzle is not enough.

(by Ralph Gleason, from the "On The Town" column, SF Chronicle, November 2 1966)

Thanks to Corry at Lost Live Dead

Mar 22, 2013

October 1966: Owsley Stanley, LSD Millionaire


Los Angeles
He sped up to the bank of Sunset boulevard on a red motorcycle, screeched to a halt and hopped off.
Then he strode into the bank, clad in boots, black leather jacket, jeans and a white crash helmet. He wasn't the genteel client the bank was used to.
But he had important business.
It came cascading down in a pile of dirty, crumpled bills at the teller's counter. From under his helmet, out of his shirt pockets and finally from his boots he pulled the bills - mostly ones and $5 bills but occasionally a $10 bill - as he built a heaping pile of currency.

"Would you change it into 100s?" he asked the startled teller.
He walked from the bank and remounted his motorcycle, but soon came rushing back in a panic.
In his pocket were 250 crisp new $100 bills.
By accident he had also pocketed a wad of the bank's money.
Bank officials were on the phone calling police when he returned it.
Augustus Owsley Stanley III wanted no contact with the law.
It would have meant questions on the source of Stanley's wealth.

In a year, it was to make Stanley a millionaire - at the age of 31. And it would call for not one criminal act.
For Stanley, known more often simply as Owsley, was the West Coast's major manufacturer and supplier of LSD.
It was lucrative business, but it supplied more than money.
Owsley was a big man among the growing army of "acid heads" and recognition was something he always had sought.
As a student at Washington and Lee High School in Arlington, Va. he got it by trading on the name of his grandfather, a former Kentucky governor.

On the West Coast though, he came into his own as "Mr. LSD." Any time he appeared at a public gathering of the acid set, he could count on a round of applause.
In the San Francisco area, where he was more widely known, it often would be a standing ovation.
Although he is known to thousands, even Owsley's close friends and associates do not know his complete name or his origins. But information has begun to trickle out.
On a new Capitol Records documentary LP entitled "LSD," his name, truncated to Owsley Stanley, appears on the record jacket as the sponsor of The Grateful Dead, a way-out rock 'n' roll group supplying the background music.
The dialogue involves him even more.

After the narrator comments on a chemist who made $1 million on LSD, users recorded at an acid party are heard talking about their supplier. The dialogue goes like this.
"Owsley makes great acid."
Muffled inaudible reply. "Owsley really knows how to make acid."
Another inaudible reply. "So that - so that all the impurities are taken out."
"Owsley really has dynamite. Righteous acid."
Police have complete dossiers on Owsley and his operations have been detailed before both a California legislative committee and a committee of the United States Senate, but in both cases his identity was not revealed.

The testimony, and Stanley's operations, took place before passage of Federal and State laws outlawing traffic in LSD. His actions were not illegal.
What kind of a man is he?
By reputation, he is a drifter, a dapper ladies' man and a professional student.
One of his two ex-wives calls him "just a little boy afraid to grow up - a Peter Pan."
Stanley attended the University of Virginia, Los Angeles City College and the University of California at Berkeley, but at each institution barely squeezed in.
In June 1956 he entered the Air Force and served honorably at Edwards Air Force Base until his discharge a year and a half later. During his tour he developed electronics skills which later opened the door to a dozen broadcasting and engineering jobs.

He held few of them more than two or three months. Most of the time he drew unemployment checks.
In 1963 he moved to the San Francisco Bay Area and enrolled at Berkeley. He lasted one semester, then dropped out with bad grades.
But there he met a 21-year-old coed who became his girlfriend and later, police suspect, invaluable lab assistant.
Stanley in all his academic meanderings never took a course in chemistry.
His girlfriend Melissa, however, had majored in chemistry and apparently had the skill to master the complicated process involved in the manufacture of LSD.
The two of them dropped out of the university and rented quarters behind a vacant store in Berkeley, where Stanley set up a makeshift lab in the bathroom.
Soon information that Methedrine was being sold to teenagers at the store reached police and they got a warrant and raided it on February 27, 1965.
But the raid was premature. Nine bottles of a drug assumed to be illegal Methedrine which was confiscated along with the lab equipment later proved to be one step shy of the completed product. The charges were dropped.
Stanley then obtained a court order and forced the State to return his laboratory equipment, and he and Melissa left town.

By April they showed up at his family home in Alexandria but it was a wasted trip.
"He was only four miles away but we spoke over the phone," his father, a well-placed government official, recalled. "He got mad at me, tried to tell me booze is worse than drugs.
"I told him to wash his hands and come back and talk to me about it. I wouldn't see him."
It apparently was one of a series of blowups between Stanley, who left home at the age of 18, and his father, who said [his son is] emotionally unbalanced but has a brilliant mind.

Stanley left and landed in Los Angeles. The same month he made his first buy of lysergic acid from Cyclo Chemical Corp. Lysergic acid is the basic ingredient of LSD.
Before he was through he had bought 500 grams from Cyclo Chemical Corp and about [X00] grams from International Chemical and Nuclear Corp.
The purchases were not illegal but Stanley was required to sign affidavits that it was for research.
Later [the] president of International Chemical became suspicious and cut Stanley off. But Stanley apparently already had a sufficient supply.
"We didn't cut him off," said Dr. Herman Plant, president at Cyclo. "We filled one order for 500 grams and he never placed another."

Invoices for the purchases, made out to Bear Research Group, were submitted to a Senate committee before which Captain Alfred W. Trembly, Los Angeles Police Department Narcotics [testified in] May.
[illegible paragraph]
...did not [name] Stanley but said he knew that in March, April and May 1965 he had manufactured and wholesaled LSD from a laboratory at his home at 2205 Lafler Road overlooking the campus of California State College at Los Angeles.
Trembly said Stanley paid $20,000 in new $100 bills for the 500 grams of lysergic acid he brought from Cyclo Chemical.

[illegible paragraph]
...order from Portland, Ore. [which was] found in Stanley's trashcan.
Addressed to Owsley, it asked for a shipment of [X] LSD capsules and included a [hello] to Melissa.
With the lysergic acid he bought, Stanley had the potential to manufacture at least [15] million and perhaps many more doses of LSD, which was selling on the streets at around $5 a dose.
Some of Stanley's acquaintances say he turned out ten million [black] aspirin-sized tablets which later became his trademark.

Some were imprinted with symbols, in one case the [image] of Batman, signifying the strength of the tablet.
Eventually he moved back to the Bay Area, which became the center of the LSD craze.
For a while he took a rock 'n' roll group under his wing and allowed them to practice at his cottage behind a dilipidated apartment house on Berkeley way in Berkeley.
But the neighbors complained and he stopped.
In May, Federal laws became effective and Stanley dropped from sight. Police say they don't know where he is and wonder if he is still in business.
One officer said he doubted it. "With all that money, why should he take the chance?"

(by George Reasons, from the San Francisco Chronicle, October 5 1966)

Thanks to Corry at Lost Live Dead

* * *

(The following article, from 1968, draws heavily on the Chronicle article above, and adds some updates.) 


SAN FRANCISCO, CALIF. - Millionare Augustus Owsley Stanley III, revered among hippies as the "King of Acid," finally has run into big, big trouble with the federal narcotics boys.
After a year-long investigations, agents raided a two-story home in suburban Orinda, picked up Stanley, his girl friend, and three others.
They said they found a sophisticated chemical laboratory and enough LSD to make more than 200 pills - which at $5 a copy would mean an easy $10 million.

Now they are trying to get an indictment for illegal manufacture of controlled drugs, which could mean some years behind bars for Stanley, if he is convicted.
This would be a sharp turn of fate for the 22-year-old  grandson and namesake of a distinguished U.S. senator from Kentucky. Up to now he has been able to get away from his few brushes with the law with only a reprimand, or at the most a fine and suspended sentence.
And usually he has been able to stay entirely out of the hands of the law.

Even among his most ardent admirers in Hippie Heaven, the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco, he's a mystery man. Few of his associates know his full name, or his strange history. He has tried to guard his identity.
His story has been told in detail to a committee of the California Legislature and to a committee of the U.S. Senate. In each case his identity was not revealed. The story helped prod both committees into recommending passage of a law making LSD (called "acid") illegal.
Before that came about, in April, 1966, Stanley turned out millions of his blue, aspirin-sized tablets, some imprinted with symbols like Batman, to indicate their strength.

In one documented purchase alone, Stanley bought 500 grams of lysergic acid, the basic stuff of the LSD pill, from a chemical company for $20,000 paid for in $100 bills. That's enough acid to make 1,500,000 doses, which sell on the street for about $5 a dose.
On the west coast, Stanley became known as "Mr. LSD." Whenever he showed up at a gathering of acid heads, he would be sure to get a round of applause.
He sponsored a way-out rock 'n' roll group, the Grateful Dead, which later had a run-in with the law over narcotics. That group supplied the background music for a Capitol Records documentary long-playing record entitled "LSD."

In the record, a narrator comments on a chemist who made a million on LSD. Users, recorded at an acid party, are heard commenting, like this --
"Owsley makes great acid...Owsley really knows how to make that all the impurities are taken out...Owsley really has dynamite. Righteous..."
One day he drove up to a bank on Sunset Boulevard, the hippie district in Los Angeles, [and] dumped a pile of dirty, crumpled bills at a teller's counter -- mostly ones and fives and an occasional $10. He asked that it all be changed into bigger new bills.
While picking up his own $25,000, he also accidentally picked up a stack of the bank's own money, and he rushed back in a few minutes to return it, even as bank officials were on the phone calling police.
He wanted no contact with the law which would ask him questions about where he got his money.

Who is Stanley and where did he come from?
He's the son of a well-placed government official who lives in Alexandria, Va. He left home at 18 after a series of family blowups. His father described him as "brilliant, but emotionally unbalanced."
Stanley attended the University of Virginia, Los Angeles City College, and the University of California at Berkeley, but just barely squeezed by.
He married twice, but left both women, each with a child. He was picked up for writing $645 in bad checks and let off with a lecture. He was caught in a hotel room with a 14-year-old girl and given a 180-day suspended sentence and a $250 fine.
He served in the Air Force for a year and a half, [and] picked up some electronics skills, which later opened the way for a dozen broadcasting and engineering jobs, none of which lasted more than a couple of months.
He never earned more than $8,000 a month. Then he met Melissa Diane Cargill, 25, a chemistry major at Berkeley. She became what the columnists describe as his "constant companion." She also had the skills to master the complicated process of manufacturing LSD. Stanley had never taken a chemistry course.
Once police were tipped that Stanley was selling methedrine, known in the hippie set as "speed," to teen-agers.
They raided his lab, set up behind a vacant store in Berkeley, and confiscated nine bottles of drugs along with the lab equipment.
But a later analysis showed that the stuff was just one chemical step short of becoming methedrine and the charges were dropped. Stanley also got a court order forcing police to return his equipment.
He and Melissa dropped out of sight and police figured they had seen the last of them.

"With all that money," one policeman commented, "why should he take a chance now that LSD's illegal?"
Then, just before Christmas, federal agents raided the Orinda lab. They found Stanley and Melissa there along with William A. Spires, 24, Robert D. Thomas, 29, and Rona Glisson, 26.
All appeared before U.S. Commissioner Harold W. Jewett in Oakland, each was released on $5,000 bail last Thursday. Jewett set their preliminary hearing for Feb. 2, but federal officials said they expect to come up with an indictment before then.

(by Bob Rose, from the Des Moines Tribune, 15 January 1968)

Thanks to Dave Davis.

See also: 

July 1964: Mother McCree's Interview

PETE WANGER: Now a while back after these guys were on, my partner Wayne Ott went downstairs in the bottom of the Tangent and got a good interview with these guys, so if you want to know what makes a group that sounds this crazy, if you want to know what makes this kind of a group tick, listen in now with an interview with the jugband by Wayne Ott.
OTT: OK, we're downstairs at the Tangent, and we're going to talk to one of the groups which performed tonight and is on the tape; this is Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions, and you are -
GARCIA: Jerry Garcia.
OTT: Why don't you tell us something about the origin of the group, where are the individual people from?
GARCIA: Well, you mean recently, or originally?
OTT: Well, both, if you can cover it.
GARCIA: Well, I'd rather let everybody speak for themselves. I'm originally from San Francisco and recently from Palo Alto. I live in the area and I'm a music teacher.
OTT: Are you more or less the originator or the organizer?
GARCIA: More or less, yeah.
OTT: Well who's next on the list?
GARCIA: Uh...well...go ahead.
WEIR: Who's next on the list.
GARCIA: Go ahead, you are.
WEIR: About everybody's next - oh, well, yeah. My name's Bob Weir, and I was originally from San Francisco and now live in Atherton, and...I have nothing to say. (laughs)
OTT: OK, what are you doing -
WEIR: You won't get anything from me but my name! Oh, what am I doing in the band.
OTT: Yeah, what do you do, what's your function?
WEIR: Well, I play a whole mess of instruments - guitar, washtub bass, jug, kazoo. I sing, I dance -
GARCIA: You tell funny stories.
WEIR: - tell funny stories. Play the [foot thresher] every once in a while and things like that...
OTT: OK, why don't we pass it on?
STONE: This is Tom Stone. I was originally born in Boston, and then my father being an engineer, have mopped around the world until I finally ended up here in Palo Alto, and was playing, and then was somehow drafted into the jug band as banjo player and occasional mandolin player and second guitar player.
PARKER: Great. My name is Dave Parker, I live here in Palo Alto, I joined the jug band about 5 or 6 months ago. I play the washboard and double, as just about everybody in the band does, on a couple other instruments - kazoos and assorted rhythm instruments.
OTT: Very good. That's a pretty fair cross-section, I think, wasn't it?
GARCIA: There are two missing, they also have equally peculiar functions; one of them is Ron Pigpen McKernan. He plays harmonica and sings blues quite well, I might add.
OTT: The total is six, right?
GARCIA: Six, right, and then there's another fellow whose function we haven't quite established but sometimes plays bass and sometimes plays second guitar and kazoo and just a general assortment of things; his name is Mike Garbett.
OTT: Very good. One question I think which many people have is, where is music like this chosen? What gives you the ideas for these selections, where do they come from?
GARCIA: I think there are about four major categories of music that we actually play, and we boil it down under the name of jugband music. Actual jugband music is a sort of early blues-band music that was recorded during the '20s and '30s, not sophisticated music; it might feature guitar and harmonica played blues-style, kazoo, possibly a five-string banjo, possibly a jug, which acts as a tuba does in an old-time dixieland band. That is one of our major areas of material, one of our sources. Another is early dixieland, you know, New Orleans jazz. We get some 1920s, 1930s popular music, and a lot of - not a lot of, but a certain amount of more recent blues, from within the last 10 or 15 years, that includes some very recent, within the last 3 or 4 years, rhythm & blues songs. So we have quite a large area, and it makes it more fun for us, and certainly more satisfying because it doesn't restrict us to one particular idea or one particular style, and the result I think is pretty interesting, and it's a great - just a gas, I'd say. Anybody want to add to that?
OTT: I think it's very interesting for the audience too. One question then, to wrap things up - where does the future lead from here? What are you guys gonna do next?
GARCIA: I'm gonna go home and go to bed! No, it's hard to tell - I think we'll play the music probably as long as we're together, we all live in the same area. Like I say, it's fun, it's rewarding, it's great to get together. We don't expect to make a fortune at it, or ever be popular or famous or worshipped, or hit the Ed Sullivan show or anything like that, or the circuses or the big top or whatever. Anyway, we play at a few places in the area; I think that we may be restricted to that, just because it's impractical to travel too long a distance. But as long as we can play, we'll play, regardless of what it's for, who it's for, or anything. It's fun for us, that's the important thing.
OTT: OK, great, thanks an awful lot for being on the microphone tonight, and thank you also for allowing us to have the recordings. We appreciate them very much.