Join 3,440 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Get along Kid Charlemagne
March 13, 2011 12:45 PM   Subscribe

Psychedelic icon Owsley Stanley dies in Australia "Owsley 'Bear' Stanley, a 1960s counterculture figure who flooded the flower power scene with LSD and was an early benefactor of the Grateful Dead, died in a car crash in his adopted home country of Australia on Sunday, his family said. He was believed to be 76." The Bear, previously on MetaFilter.
posted by terrapin (94 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
[.]
posted by loquacious at 12:48 PM on March 13, 2011 [6 favorites]


Oh how tragic. I had such a good time on some of the stuff his spinoff labs made back 15 years ago or so. Indeed a life lived in public service.

.
posted by hippybear at 12:48 PM on March 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


. o O @ WHOA
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:56 PM on March 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


.

Thanks for the dancing test-tubes, man.
I was a fan.
posted by heyho at 1:05 PM on March 13, 2011


.
posted by clavdivs at 1:05 PM on March 13, 2011


He inspired a whole lot of great music. The last embers of an amazing era seem to be going dark before our eyes.
posted by Devils Rancher at 1:07 PM on March 13, 2011


In a more just, reasoned and reasonable world, this man would be a hero.

.
posted by nevercalm at 1:09 PM on March 13, 2011 [12 favorites]


.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:10 PM on March 13, 2011


.
posted by jtron at 1:11 PM on March 13, 2011


Dr Hofmann has probably just finished tearing strips off Timothy Leary in heaven, and is ready for his next patient.
posted by Devonian at 1:15 PM on March 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


.


(- microdot-)

posted by lalochezia at 1:17 PM on March 13, 2011 [6 favorites]


Let that be a lesson to you, kids! Mess with powerful hallucinogens, die accidentally at a ripe old age, leaving behind a wife, four children, eight grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 1:24 PM on March 13, 2011 [44 favorites]


.
posted by horsemuth at 1:24 PM on March 13, 2011


Think I'll just DROP OUT
I'll go to Frisco
Buy a wig & sleep
On Owsley's floor
posted by sourwookie at 1:27 PM on March 13, 2011 [7 favorites]


Heard a story about him on the radio. The guy telling the story was the "manager" of a music club in SoCal. The Dead (or possibly the Stones?) were playing, and this manager was noticing that all the employees seemed to be even more MIA than usual. He went up to the sound booth and found the sound guys on the floor drooling in technicolor, with Stanley working the knobs. He had dosed the staff so he could be the sound guy.
posted by gjc at 1:30 PM on March 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Damn, he was (in some terms) directly responsible for some of the music that I hold most dear, despite never picking up an instrument or singing a note. Hard to imagine where the Dead would have ended up without his lysergic contributions. I was gonna listen to some Dead anyway today, but now it'll be in Bear's honor.
posted by friendlyjuan at 1:30 PM on March 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Always a gentleman in my interactions with him. He will be missed.
posted by Glomar response at 1:37 PM on March 13, 2011


Sad to hear about his dying in a car accident. Glad he had a good long life.

Reading this about Owsley's ancestry on Wikipedia gave me a little frisson of smug mischief.

What a fascinating life he had. Among other things, "Later, inspired by a 1958 performance of the Bolshoi Ballet, he began studying ballet in Los Angeles, supporting himself for a time as a professional dancer."

A page on his website about his designing the Grateful Dead skull/lightning logo.

The half a dozen acid trips I took in the late 1960's changed my understanding of perception and to this day when I look at white ceiling tiles waiting in doctors' offices, I get great flashbacks. Owsley, thank you for that.

After your corporeal exit, may you enjoy resonance with the universe.
posted by nickyskye at 1:51 PM on March 13, 2011 [9 favorites]


Mid '70s. Mr. Natural. Seems like a thousand years ago.

.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 1:54 PM on March 13, 2011


Hard to imagine where the Dead would have ended up without his lysergic contributions.

Oh, Bear did so much more for the Dead than just provide chemicals.

He designed and financed the Wall Of Sound, and started the habit of recording their rehearsals and performances (and developed the miking method to do it right).
posted by hippybear at 1:56 PM on March 13, 2011 [6 favorites]


.

Was just thinking about him yesterday, and wondering if any tapes would emerge after his death.
Bear also says, "Virtually every band that played on the same bill with the Grateful Dead during my years as soundman, and who did not bring their own soundman, was recorded." (Note that if the other band had their own sound mixer, Bear might not have been interested in taping as it wasn't 'his' work.) "Even when they had an objection, I still wanted to tape them - but I sometimes had to give them the tapes afterward."

That's how the tapes of the Flying Burrito Brothers (from the Avalon, April '69) and the Allman Brothers (Fillmore East, Feb '70) were made - and there must be many more. (He also taped the Stones' Altamont gig, even though the Dead walked out!) Many are in the Vault, and many in Bear's own collection. It would be nice if there were a listing of Bear's tapes....I've always wondered which other bands he taped in those years. (His website says he'll post a list someday, but that hasn't been updated for years.)
posted by Knappster at 1:59 PM on March 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


.
posted by TrialByMedia at 2:07 PM on March 13, 2011


hippybear, you're right that he was instrumental in pushing their sound to be as good as it could be, even if some of his ideas were ahead of their time or suffered from the technological limitations of the time (like the infamous Lead Sled). But in some ways the liquid sunshine that he provided was arguably the catalyst for all of the great music that came after. But fuck all that, no sense in arguing. I just cued up 10-8-89 and it's time to enjoy some tuneage. Cheers and RIP.
posted by friendlyjuan at 2:19 PM on March 13, 2011


He will be missed. This man aimed for a true counter-culture. We need more like him.
posted by rageagainsttherobots at 2:26 PM on March 13, 2011


.
posted by Catblack at 2:29 PM on March 13, 2011



posted by pyramid termite at 2:33 PM on March 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Damn, nickyskye, me too. Those white ceiling tiles are often pleasingly undulant for me as well, particularly if I'm tired or my blood sugar is low. Walking through a corridor of them can be like being inside an aquarium. I'm sometimes tempted to flap my arms and pretend I'm a GIANT MANTA RAY RAAAAAR. Oh LSD, how I love thee. The gift that keeps on giving.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 2:34 PM on March 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


For me it was a stucco ceiling and a flickering lightbulb. Thank goodness there was a mirror I could remove and put in my lap so I didn't get a crook in my neck.
posted by terrapin at 2:38 PM on March 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Shit, I thought I felt a disturbance in the Force.

Thanks, Bear, for all of your Important Contributions over the years. You were the patron to my favorite band of misfits and supported them financially and chemically when they when they were young and broke. Were it not for your penchant for perfectionism there would be no Vault, and no 30 year legacy of live tapes and recorded shows. We owe you big time for that.

RIP, Alice D. Millionaire.
posted by mosk at 2:49 PM on March 13, 2011


I've never done this before, but I'm checking back in to re-register my "." and my genuine sadness...this was a truly interesting soul, and his death is a real loss. Also, to echo this:

He will be missed. This man aimed for a true counter-culture. We need more like him.
posted by rageagainsttherobots


He absolutely changed the world in fundamental ways, mostly for the better.
posted by nevercalm at 2:57 PM on March 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Not to derail, but.. Back in 2000, William Leonard Pickard and Clyde Apperson were busted with possession of millions of hits of acid. We discussed this back in 2005 and the consensus was that the bust took out a major chunk of the world's LSD production. Has the market recovered?
posted by Nelson at 2:57 PM on March 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


.
posted by lester at 3:08 PM on March 13, 2011


.
posted by philip-random at 3:14 PM on March 13, 2011


.

Thanks, Owsley. Seriously.
posted by Ron Thanagar at 3:18 PM on March 13, 2011


Ah, my friend, I hardly knew ye. But your work occasionally made me whole. And fragmented. And then a whole again, greater than the parts.

There are not words enough to thank for your Great Work. So I simply give you my love and respect. For what it's worth.

.
posted by Splunge at 3:30 PM on March 13, 2011


.
posted by gingerbeer at 3:37 PM on March 13, 2011


lots of respect and love. Sad that there are so many people who should know of him but don't.
posted by zombieApoc at 3:39 PM on March 13, 2011


OK, so there's the giant... somebody stand on his shoulders already.

.
posted by Meatbomb at 3:48 PM on March 13, 2011


.
posted by parki at 3:51 PM on March 13, 2011


Bear Owsley speaks on Australian talk back radio 1995
posted by homunculus at 3:53 PM on March 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


From Acid Dreams - The Complete Social History of LSD: The CIA, The Sixties, and Beyond (completely online!):

Owsley's personal history is something of an enigma—what can you say about someone who ate four steaks a day because he was convinced that vegetables were poison? His father was a government attorney, and his grandfather a US senator from Kentucky. Owsley had been expelled in the ninth grade for bringing intoxicating beverages onto school grounds, after which he was shunted from one prep school to the next. By the age of eighteen he had severed all family ties. He then did a short hitch in the air force, drifted around the West Coast for a few years and hooked up with Melissa Cargill, a young Berkeley chemistry major. Together they began to mass-produce the LSD that would make him a youth culture legend.

There's more about Owsley there (starts on page 116).
posted by twoleftfeet at 3:57 PM on March 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


Goodbye Kid Charlemagne.

.
posted by Sailormom at 3:58 PM on March 13, 2011


Shiiiiiit! I was just wondering about him last week.

.
posted by clarknova at 4:10 PM on March 13, 2011


The acid was interesting, but the music mixing and sound design work changed my life. RIP old dude.

.
posted by mmahaffie at 4:12 PM on March 13, 2011


Thank you for posting the Acid Dreams link. I've owned, given away and mangled a number of copies. Finally, it's properly interneted.
posted by uraniumwilly at 4:13 PM on March 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


.
posted by Maias at 4:15 PM on March 13, 2011


.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:21 PM on March 13, 2011


Omg BitterOldPunk, you have those spreading your wings like a manta ray urges too?!!! That's amazing. Really. You've just outed one of my long time secret fantasies that I was shy to talk about with anybody 'cause it sounds, I don't know, so weird. Glad for the company. I even have a stingray pin tucked into a drawer as a reminder of those intense yearnings to flap-glide across landscapes.
posted by nickyskye at 4:49 PM on March 13, 2011


I was inspired to find that wikipedia has a page on the Merry Pranksters with a photo of the bus!

Owsley was a great great character. Rest in peace.
posted by bukvich at 4:49 PM on March 13, 2011


You people should all have been posting little squares instead of pebbles, if you get my drift.
posted by MattMangels at 4:50 PM on March 13, 2011


This is sad news for us day trippers around the world :(
posted by Bubbles Devere at 4:52 PM on March 13, 2011


.
posted by klangklangston at 4:56 PM on March 13, 2011


Aww, somebody turned off the blink tag.
posted by klangklangston at 4:57 PM on March 13, 2011


This explains a lot about metafilter.
posted by happyroach at 5:02 PM on March 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Was I a criminal? No. I was a good member of society. Only my society and the one making the laws are different.”

.
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:17 PM on March 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was at an environmental conference at my local museum last week. During lunch I went to look at a new exhibit of psychedelic art and pondered the link between LSD and the back-to-the-land movement in the sixties. I know for sure that the Owsley acid I ingested starting in 1965 definitely opened my eyes to, and gave me a deeper appreciation of, nature and ecosystems.
posted by mareli at 5:24 PM on March 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


"suddenly someone is there at the turnstile.....
posted by kitchenrat at 5:35 PM on March 13, 2011



posted by jenkinsEar at 5:38 PM on March 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


This is a real loss. While I rejoice in his life, he will be missed. Bear's Choice was what initially got me involved in the Dead some 35+ years ago. Irecently heard an interview with Bob Weir talking about that album. He said essentially that we just told Owsley to listen, pick, mix and let us know how it turns out.

So much I could say, but the fact that his grandfather was Gov of Kentucky in 1915 and he went on to ballet dance, make fun paper, really fun paper, influence and preserve so much music, be Kid Charlemagne etc is just so cool. Not only did he live his life to the fullest, but he facilitated so many others to do so as well.

As for the ceiling tiles a la NickySkye, I go back to two shows in Oakland in 1982 including a New Year's show where I spent considerable time staring at the popcorn ceiling in my hotel room after the show just trying to relax enough to stop staring at the ceiling. It was sort of circular reasoning that made so much sense at the time. Keep staring so I could stop staring.

He did have some interesting ideas too. He was the opposite of a vegetarian. He said he only ate meat. He moved to Australia because he was fearful of a new ice age.

Most people just participate in this experiment on this planet; he contributed too.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 6:06 PM on March 13, 2011


Oh LSD, how I love thee. The gift that keeps on giving.

Yeah, I try not to believe in much, but one thing I do believe is that LSD, in its way, probably saved the world from cold war, paranoid nuclear apocalypse. I could go on at length to back this assertion up, but perhaps a simple Youtube link would be more effective.

Thanks, Mr. Owsley ... but that STP shit was a bad idea.
posted by philip-random at 6:14 PM on March 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


◻◻◻◻◻◻◻◻◻◻
◻◻◻◻◻◻◻◻◻◻
◻◻◻◻◻◻◻◻◻◻
◻◻◻◻◻◻◻◻◻◻
◻◻◻◻◻◻◻◻◻◻
◻◻◻◻◻◻◻◻◻◻
◻◻◻◻◻◻◻◻◻◻
◻◻◻◻◻◻◻◻◻◻
◻◻◻◻◻◻◻◻◻◻
◻◻◻◻◻◻◻◻◻◻
posted by telstar at 6:22 PM on March 13, 2011 [8 favorites]


.
posted by doctor_negative at 6:34 PM on March 13, 2011


Passing but pleasant woo woo thought: Surely the Mandelbrot set and Owsley were on the same morphic resonance wavelength.
posted by nickyskye at 6:40 PM on March 13, 2011


.
posted by peeedro at 9:08 PM on March 13, 2011


via @stevesilberman, here's a clip about the Wall of Sound.
posted by muckster at 9:08 PM on March 13, 2011


.
posted by Mister Bijou at 9:28 PM on March 13, 2011


Changed my life. Thank you, Sir Chemist.

Had no effect on my music, though. That has always puzzled me. LSD broke all the links of normal social and aesthetic intercourse, so when high on psychedelics, I could do no more than replicate previously learned musical tropes. The emotional nuances were too complex to decipher in any meaningful way, just as it was too complicated to deal with a random door-to-door salesman while tripping. Maybe it was just me. Even Coltrane was inspired by the drug.
posted by kozad at 9:33 PM on March 13, 2011


.
posted by juv3nal at 9:41 PM on March 13, 2011


Yep, them drugs is dangerous, alright. Hmmm.No wonder why they made it illegal?
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 9:53 PM on March 13, 2011


The next time someone tries to tell you about some fad diet or another, you tell them about the guy who lived on butter and LSD for 60 years, and they had to run him over with a fucking car to get rid of him.
posted by popechunk at 10:11 PM on March 13, 2011 [6 favorites]


Yep, them drugs is dangerous, alright. Hmmm.No wonder why they made it illegal?

Oh, you should never play with guns when you're dosed. It's tough enough to remember that cars are dangerous.

My Ann Arbor crew had a little rhyme we'd use for outdoor adventures, "There's nothing neat in the street!" for those prone to breaking away from the group to go all magpie in traffic for some shiny bit of god-knows-what. Ah, fun times!
posted by heyho at 10:34 PM on March 13, 2011


.
posted by the Real Dan at 11:18 PM on March 13, 2011


.
posted by kilo hertz at 11:28 PM on March 13, 2011


He saved my life long ago. Gave me a lifeline back to interconnectedness of all things. Farewell true friend.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 12:57 AM on March 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, damn. This is a real bummer. I ate a whole lot of paper from '89 to the late 90s thanks to the efforts of this man. Always wished I could've tried his clean stuff, 'cause the occasional stomach cramping on the impure stuff sure sucked. Anywho, thank you, Owsley, for making it possible for me to enjoy different realities. Hmmm, now that I think about it, I've got some old shrooms stashed away somewhere. I should go look for them and have a proper wake.

.
posted by frodisaur at 1:00 AM on March 14, 2011


.
and thank you.
posted by adamvasco at 1:32 AM on March 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


.
posted by lapolla at 2:29 AM on March 14, 2011


The next time someone tries to tell you about some fad diet or another, you tell them about the guy who lived on butter and LSD for 60 years, and they had to run him over with a fucking car to get rid of him.

And my grandpa smoked till he was 100.

Stanley was a pioneer and a hero. But that doesn't mean what he did is necessarily the best way for everyone.
posted by gjc at 4:13 AM on March 14, 2011


I'm not quite old enough to have benefited directly from Mr. Owsley's work. I am quite aware of the indirect benefits.

I can not begin to even suppose where the benefits of my own direct experience ends, and the benefit of living in a culture that was saturated with acid heads begins. There is simply too much there that seems both inside as well as outside.

Profound hallucinations I have never had. I figure I'm just not the type. But the flow of the river of ideas that runs in my head is an amazing place. Ha. Understatement.

.
posted by Goofyy at 5:24 AM on March 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


RIP Bear.
posted by fixedgear at 5:25 AM on March 14, 2011


I didn't know much about the 60's stuff, but knew of him from zero carb and paleo diet forums.

He was an early follower of the work of Stefansson and followed a near zero carb diet for around 50 years, eating only meat, fat and dairy. He apparently enjoyed good health for his age.
posted by Not Supplied at 6:43 AM on March 14, 2011


Part of me really wants to live a life where people aren't entirely sure of my age by the end of it.

.
posted by TheOtherGuy at 7:27 AM on March 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


Gave me a lifeline back to interconnectedness of all things.

I remember once, a younger person asking me for my definition of psychedelic, because he just though it meant "weird in a druggy sort of way." My answer, based on experience not anything I was conscious of having read or heard, was a simple yet loaded "the interconnectedness of all things". So yeah, thanks for that, Mr. Owsley, for doing your bit toward helping me see beyond the divisive surface of things and forever guaranteeing that I could never deny my integral involvement in the universe and its strange, strange movements.
posted by philip-random at 8:16 AM on March 14, 2011 [2 favorites]



posted by Mental Wimp at 11:43 AM on March 14, 2011


I don't usually chime in on the obit threads (or any threads, for that matter), but I suppose I have to give a shout-out to Bear for posterity's sake, as his lighting bolt logo is forever tattooed on my arm. To bite a line from a friend, without Owsley the trip might have been as long, but not nearly as strange.
posted by Banky_Edwards at 3:11 PM on March 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 8:54 PM on March 14, 2011


...a green ford truck with an "owsley" license plate.
...searching for tybee sand dollars at midnight.
...exploding water droplets at splash water falls.
...charlotte '91
.
posted by root beer tastes like fire ants smell at 9:33 PM on March 14, 2011


.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:43 AM on March 15, 2011


Oh, and you can get acid again, though it's a little scarce and quite expensive... I tripped with new wife (her first time) right after we were married!

Waaay back in the 80s, I got 500 hits of acid one summer... at $0.75 a hit. As you can imagine, we had a lot of fun parties...

It's too time-consuming for me now except for occasionally, but it changed my consciousness, for the better.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:45 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm checking in here late, but I couldn't let Owsley pass without thanking him publicly for all his great gifts, to me and to so many others.

Thank you Bear!

Those of you who wish LSD and other psychedelics were more readily available might want to check out MAPS, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies. They are working to support clinical trials and hopefully the medical rehabilitation of MDMA, marijuana, and other psychedelics. There's still a lot of work to be done, but as the memories and grudges of the 1960's fade, more reasonable voices may prevail.

Let's hope the positive treatment of the Bear's life by the NYTimes is a sign of change.
posted by alms at 7:34 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]



Oh, and you can get acid again, though it's a little scarce and quite expensive
Oh, and you can get acid again, though it's a little scarce and quite expensive

Oh, and you can get acid again, though it's a little scarce and quite expensive
Oh, and you can get acid again, though it's a little scarce and quite expensive


:D

That is FPP-worthy news, right there!
posted by jtron at 12:12 PM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


Roommate Charles Perry's Rolling Stone piece and an updated rememberance.
posted by Ideefixe at 3:06 PM on March 15, 2011


> Oh, and you can get acid again, though it's a little scarce and quite expensive

Ask your neighborhood seller of smokeable hemp products, that's what I did.

I felt I really shouldn't marry someone I hadn't tripped with. :-D
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:51 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Bear Owsley – A Practical Solution to Prohibition (dated Jan 11 2011)
posted by telstar at 10:41 PM on March 19, 2011


« Older Researchers at UCSD...  |  Rebecca Black's Friday is a vi... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments