What a Long Strange Trip It Actually Was – R.I.P. Augustus "Bear'" Owsley Stanley III

Probably the first private individual to manufacture LSD, Augustus “Bear'” Owsley Stanley III produced more than1.25 million doses of LSD between 1965 and 1967.  Stanley was the grandson of one-time Kentucky governor and senator Augustus Owsley Stanley. He served in the U.S. Air Force for 18 months, studied ballet in Los Angeles and then enrolled at UC Berkeley. In addition to producing and advocating LSD, he adhered to an all-meat diet.  His pioneering role made the name “Owsley,” a popular slang term for the drug.  Also an accomplished sound engineer, Bear was the longtime sound man and financier for psychedelic rock band the Grateful Dead. Stanley designed some of the first high-fidelity sound systems for rock music, culminating in the massive “Wall of Sound” electrical amplification system used by the Grateful Dead in their live shows, at the time a highly innovative feat of engineering.  Hendrix’s song “Purple Haze” was reputedly inspired by a batch of Stanley’s product, though the guitarist denied any drug link. The ear-splitting psychedelic-blues combo Blue Cheer took its named from another batch. He was involved with the founding of high-end musical instrument maker Alembic Inc and concert sound equipment manufacturer Meyer Sound.

Along with his close friend Bob Thomas, he designed the Lightning Bolt Skull Logo, often referred to by fans as “Steal Your Face”.  The 13-point lightning bolt was derived from a stencil Stanley created to spray-paint on the Grateful Dead’s equipment boxes.

A naturalized Australian citizen since 1996, Stanley and his wife Sheilah lived in the bush of Far Northern Tropical Queensland where he worked to create sculpture, much of it wearable art.  Bear moved to Australia in the 1980s after growing convinced that the northern hemisphere would be subsumed by another ice age and sold enamel sculptures on the Internet. He was killed when the car he was driving swerved off a highway Saturday during a storm and down an embankment into a tree.  His wife, who was with him in the car, suffered minor injuries.  He is survived by two sons and two daughters by four different women; Peter (1957), Nina (1962), Starfinder and Redbird (1970).

Categories: SAINTS | Tags: | 2 Comments

About Jay Babcock

I am the co-founder and editor of Arthur Magazine (2002-2008, 2012-13) and curator of the three Arthur music festival events (Arthurfest, ArthurBall, and Arthur Nights) (2005-6). Prior to that I was a district office staffer for Congressman Henry A. Waxman, a DJ at Silver Lake pirate radio station KBLT, a copy editor at Larry Flynt Publications, an editor at Mean magazine, and a freelance journalist contributing work to LAWeekly, Mojo, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Vibe, Rap Pages and many other print and online outlets. An extended piece I wrote on Fela Kuti was selected for the Da Capo Best Music Writing 2000 anthology. In 2006, I was one of five Angelenos listed in the Music section of Los Angeles Magazine's annual "Power" issue. In 2007-8, I produced a blog called "Nature Trumps," about the L.A. River. Today, I live a peaceful life in the rural wilderness of Joshua Tree, California, where I am a partner in JTHomesteader.com with Stephanie Smith.

2 thoughts on “What a Long Strange Trip It Actually Was – R.I.P. Augustus "Bear'" Owsley Stanley III

  1. R.I.P. brother bear…only sampled your ‘product’ once and found all others to be mere imitators. where can i get some good acid , anyone ?

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