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).