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« Through the doors of perception | Main | More Trippy Al »

Let's talk about the Bear


"There's nothing wrong with Bear that a few billion less brain cells wouldn't cure."

Here is another in my series on some fascinating LSD Pioneers that I came across in the research for my novel, Fall In One Day.

When I first came across the person either named Owsley Stanley, or Stanley Owsley, I never could figure it out,... he seemed almost mythical. Here was a character linked to Kesey and his Electric Kool-Aid tests, the Grateful Dead, and then overlaps with Aldous Huxley, Leary, and Dr. Osmond back in Saskatchewan - and then the kicker for me, the subject of a Steely Dan tune?

The deeper I went, the weirder it got - provider of the purest LSD in North America in the 60's, probably supplier from everyone in the Dead to Cary Grant (!), inventor of a monitor system that was at least a decade ahead of it time, and and and... my point is not to do an exhaustive treatment of him, more just a flavour of a brilliant, and probably very troubled man, that saw the power of LSD, and the possible goodness in it;

Hard to know where to start with the Bear (his nickname because of a preponderance of chest hair as a teenager). His full name was Augustus Owsley Stanley - often known just as Owsley, or to some friends August. I came across that last bit when deciding how to put him into the novel - but of course, now I can't find that piece of research.

I also recall not finding a lot of articles online about him when I first started researching - but since his death in 2011, there seems to have been an explosion of material written about him.

Here is an excerpt from the start of a piece the NY Times wrote about him after his death.


Mr. Stanley, the Dead’s former financial backer, pharmaceutical supplier and sound engineer, was in recent decades a reclusive, almost mythically enigmatic figure. He moved to Australia in the 1980s, as he explained in his rare interviews, so he might survive what he believed to be a coming Ice Age that would annihilate the Northern Hemisphere.

Once renowned as an artisan of acid, Mr. Stanley turned out LSD said to be purer and finer than any other. He was also among the first individuals (in many accounts, the very first) to mass-produce the drug; its resulting wide availability provided the chemical underpinnings of an era of love, music, grooviness and much else. Conservatively tallied, Mr. Stanley’s career output was more than a million doses, in some estimates more than five million.

His was the acid behind the Acid Tests conducted by the novelist Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters, the group of psychedelic adherents whose exploits were chronicled by Tom Wolfe in his 1968 book “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.” The music world immortalized Mr. Stanley in a host of songs, including the Dead’s “Alice D. Millionaire” (a play on a newspaper headline, describing one of his several arrests, that called him an “LSD Millionaire”) and Steely Dan’s “Kid Charlemagne.”


Yes, that was the Steely Dan tune. And I love how it took a while for Donald Fagen (or maybe it was Becker) to admit that's who they were singing about.

Here's a link to the rest of the NYT article:

And here, of course, is the Dan.

(oh, and a great article that does a close read of the lyrics)


Some more about Owsley in my next post. 


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