I awake this morning to the news that Owsley Stanley, “Bear” to his friends, has passed away as the result of a car accident in Australia at the age of 76.
The following is from today’s “Yahoo” News page:
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – 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 76.
The renegade grandson of a former governor of Kentucky, Stanley helped lay the foundation for the psychedelic era by producing more than a million doses of LSD at his labs in San Francisco’s Bay Area.
“He made acid so pure and wonderful that people like Jimi Hendrix wrote hit songs about it and others named their band in its honor,” former rock ‘n’ roll tour manager Sam Cutler wrote in his 2008 memoirs “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”
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.
Stanley briefly managed the Grateful Dead, and oversaw every aspect of their live sound at a time when little thought was given to amplification in public venues. His tape recordings of Dead concerts were turned into live albums, providing him with a healthy income in later life.
“When it came to technology, the Bear was one of the most far-out and interesting guys on the planet,” Cutler wrote. “The first FM live simulcast could be, in part, attributed to his vision, as could the first quadraphonic simulcast on radio.”
The Dead, a fabled rock band formed in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1965 known for its improvisational live concerts, wrote about him in their song “Alice D. Millionaire” after a 1967 arrest prompted a newspaper to describe Stanley as an “LSD millionaire.”
Steely Dan’s 1976 single “Kid Charlemagne” was loosely inspired by Stanley’s exploits.
I never knew him, of course, I couldn’t have. But he has featured in my life on an almost daily basis. Being a tie-dyed in the wool Deadhead, his dancing bears image (above) and the unforgettable skull flash image which he co-designed with his friend Bob Thomas, have never been far from what identifies me as a music fan and maybe even, me as me.
R.I.P. Mr.Bear, you lived through some extraordinary times. “May the four winds blow you safely home…………”