Ken Kesey LSD Graduates

Ken Kesey LSD Graduates

Ken Kesey LSD Graduates

In 1938, Albert Hofmann, a Sandoz Pharmaceutical chemist in Basel, Switzerland, was researching drugs for blood. He found lysergic acid diethylamide, a drug we much later came to know simply as LSD.

Ken Kesey Graduates
Albert Hofmann

Five years later, Hofmann accidentally ingested some of the drug. He wrote afterwards, “Last Friday, April 16, 1943, I was forced to interrupt my work in the laboratory in the middle of the afternoon and proceed home, being affected by a remarkable restlessness, combined with a slight dizziness. At home I lay down and sank into a not unpleasant, intoxicated-like condition characterized by an extremely stimulated imagination. In a dreamlike state, with eyes closed (I found the daylight to be unpleasantly glaring), I perceived an uninterrupted stream of fantastic pictures, extraordinary shapes with intense, kaleidoscopic play of colors. After some two hours this condition faded away.”

And so the journey began.

Ken Kesey LSD Graduates

Psychotherapy > Behavior Control > Transcendence

In 1949, research into LSD began in the United States when Boston psychiatrist Max Rinkel and Los Angeles psychiatrist Nicholas Bercel both obtained the drug from Sandoz.

The following year, 1951, the Central Intelligence Agency began research into the use of drugs for behavior control. And one year later, the CIA included LSD in its experimentation, as exemplified in its top secret MK-ULTRA program under Sidney Gottleib.

Al Hubbard

Interestingly, that same year Al Hubbard tried LSD as a “transcendental”  drug.

Most people are walking in their sleep,” Hubbard said. “Turn them around, start them in the opposite direction and they wouldn’t even know the difference. [but]  give them a good dose of LSD and let them see themselves for what they are.

Ken Kesey LSD Graduates

Timothy Leary/Richard Alpert

Richard Alpert in the May 28, 1963 issue of The Harvard Crimson following the Harvard Corporation’s decision to terminate his appointment.

Open research (unlike the government’s secret programs) continued throughout the 1950s and in 1960 Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert established the Psychedelic Research Project at Harvard University.

In 1962,  Sidney Cohen surveyed 5,000 individuals who had taken LSD and concluded it was safe.

Ken Kesey LSD Graduates

Ken Elton Kesey

Ken Kesey LSD Graduates

Ken Kesey was a good student and an excellent wrestler who wanted to write. In 1961 while Kesey was a graduate student in creative writing at Stanford University he enrolled in an Army-sponsored hallucinogenic-drug experiment—which paid him $75 a session—run by Stanford scientists at the Menlo Park VA Hospital. The program was part of the aforementioned CIA’s top secret MKULTRA behavior control program.

Kesey likened the experiment to exploring a haunted house. “[The scientists] didn’t have the guts to do it themselves, so they hired students. ‘Hey, we found this room. Would you please go inside and let us know what’s going on in there?’ When we came back out, they took one look at us and said, ‘Whatever they do, don’t let them go back in that room!’”

“That” room was the LSD room. As a night aide on the psychiatric ward at the hospital he began to write a book. He also had access to the cabinet that contained LSD.  The book became the instant best seller, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in 1962,

Ken Kesey LSD Graduates

On the bus

Ken Kesey LSD Graduates

In 1964, Kesey and his friends, together self-labeled the Merry Pranksters, decided to travel cross-country for the publication of his second novel, Sometimes a Great Notion.

New wave journalist Tom Wolfe’s Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test included Kesey, the Pranksters, and that famous 1964 bus trip (literally and figuratively, of course) among other things.

One of the bus stops along the way was visiting Timothy Leary at the Hitchcock estate in Millbrook, New York. By this point, Harvard had dismissed Leary (1963), but Leary continued his work.

Back in California, Owsley Bear Stanley first succeeded in synthesizing crystalline LSD in February 1965. The Pranksters will set up living in La Honda, California.

Ken Kesey LSD Graduates

Acid tests

By the end of 1965, the Pranksters have begun what became a series of so-called Acid Tests (thus the name of Wolfe’s book). (Open Culture article)

Ken Kesey LSD Graduates

In early 1966, Ken Kesey was found guilty of marijuana possession. While awaiting sentencing, he is again found in possession of marijuana (ironically, LSD was still legal).

The second arrest would have led to immediate incarceration, Kesey “committed suicide” and fled to Mexico.

The Acid Tests continued minus Kesey and the media begin to report on this “new” drug and its apparent dangers to life, liberty, and the American way of life. Sandoz recalled the LSD it had previously distributed and withdrew its sponsorship for work with LSD.

Owsley continued manufacturing his synthetic LSD, considered better than Sandoz’s.

Ken Kesey LSD Graduates

Kesey captured

Ken Kesey LSD Graduates

In early October 1966, Kesey secretly came back into the US from Mexico but on October 20, authorities accidentally discovered and arrested Kesey.

Ironically, it was the same month the US made possession of LSD illegal.

Ken Kesey LSD Graduates


Ken Kesey LSD Graduates

As a way to mollify authorities and perhaps put himself in a better light at his upcoming trial, Kesey agreed to have a “farewell to LSD” event that he and the Pranksters labeled the “Acid Test Graduation.”

And so on this date, October 31 (1966), they held the ceremony. Of course the ceremony did not end the use of hallucinogens, but Kesey stepped aside and explained that the doors LSD had opened were now there for anyone to peer through.

Kesey would serve a 6 month sentence and move back to his home state of Oregon where he continued to raise his family.

Ken Kesey LSD Graduates

Ken Kesey LSD Graduates

1964 Teen Age Music International Show

1964 Teen Age Music International Show

October 28 – 29, 1964

1964 Teen Age Music International Show

At first glance the 1964 Teen Age Music International Show and the 1969 Woodstock Music and Art Fair are two very different events, but they do have a few things in common:

  1. the live show was free
  2. the show was recorded
  3. a movie was made of the concert
  4. many of the day’s top stars performed
1964 Teen Age Music International Show

Moondog Coronation Ball

The first rock concert that wasn’t

The idea of a rock and roll show was not new. The honor of the first rock and roll show belongs to Alan Freed who on March 21, 1952, produced the Moondog Coronation Ball at the Cleveland Arena. It attracted nearly 25,000 young people to a hall that only held 10,000. Police shut down the show, which featured artists such as the Dominoes and Paul “Hucklebuck” Williams. Police shut down the show after one song when thousands of ticket-holders, denied entrance, broke through the lines and charged into the venue.

New Wave

As I have mentioned in other blog entries here, 1965 was a turning point in American pop music. In 1964 the Beatles became the avante garde of the British Invasion, but Nobel Laureate Bob Dylan, simply Bob at the time of course, wasn’t working on Maggie’s farm no more, telling her as he left, “It ain’t me, babe.”

After Bob Dylan introduced the Beatles to Mary Jane in 1965 and the Beatles realized that music could be personal, poetic, and still please their fans, they went in a whole new direction.

The 1964 Teen Age Music International Show captured American pop just before that change.

The show itself was free because those who attended were simply extras for the movie that director Steve Binder and television producer Bill Sargent were making with a high-tech method called ‘Electronovision.’ Transferring the video to a movie using this system allowed for greater clarity.

Line up

Binder and Sargent held the show at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. The two gathered quite a line-up, that in my opinion, featured a greater variety than Woodstock would 5 years later:

  • The Barbarians
  • The Beach Boys
  • Chuck Berry
  • James Brown and The Famous Flames
  • Marvin Gaye (with The Blossoms)
  • Gerry & the Pacemakers
  • Lesley Gore
  • Jan and Dean (MCs as well)
  • Billy J. Kramer and The Dakotas
  • Smokey Robinson and The Miracles
  • The Rolling Stones
  • The Supremes

And the house band was no other than the now-famous so-called  Wrecking Crew, under the direction of Jack Nitzsche with drummer Hal Blaine,  Jimmy Bond electric bass, guitarists Tommy Tedesco, Bill Aken, and Glen Campbell, upright bassist Lyle Ritz, pianist Leon Russell, and saxophonist Plas Johnson.

Rolling Stones Regrets

The Rolling Stones were still looking for the type of big time name recognition and record sales that their friends John, Paul, George, and Ringo enjoyed. To James Brown’s dismay and to the Stone’s insistence, the Stones followed Brown who had put on his usual spectacular performance. In 18 minutes he blew away the crowd.

The Stone’s set was fine, but even today they voice regret at having to follow one of the people whose music put them on the map to begin with.

1964 Teen Age Music International Show


The movie came out on 29 December 1964. Howard Thompson’s New York Times review was light on the accolades and heavy on the sarcasm: For two solid hours, against a blend of musical din and ear-splitting shriek; from a bobby-sox audience, a procession of young performers parades before the poor camera, all but shattering it. Here’s the menu, for the squares who never heard of the popular recording artists: Meet the Barbarians, Chuck Berry, Marvin Gaye, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Lesley Gore, Jan and Dean, Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles and the Supremes.

1964 Teen Age Music International Show

Stones Meet Sullivan

Stones Meet Sullivan

October 25, 1964
but first, Dean Martin’s Hollywood Palace

The Stones appeared on Dean Martin’s Hollywood Palace on June 3, 1964. It was the the start of their first American tour (June 5 > June 20) promoting the release of their first album, The Rolling Stones, England’s Newest Hitmakers

You can easily hear how so-called established musicians like Martin thought these visitors were a temporary fad and one easily made fun of. Certainly Martin’s writers thought so.

True to their roots, the Stones played Willie Dixon’s  “I Just Want to Make Love to You.”

The band’s tour had eleven shows. While not having the kind of success that the Beatles had, the tour did give the Stones enough visibility and radio-play to keep them amongst the many British musicians dominating the charts.

Stones Meet Sullivan

After meeting Dean Martin

It had been 259 days since THE night. That is, 259 days since John, Paul, George, and Ringo changed the way we Americans listened to music and what music we listened to.

For three weeks in a row we had sat in our Sunday evening seats–likely a living room–in front of the TV–likely a black and white–and smiled at our group. Not our parents’ group.

British Invasion

The Beatles were dominating the charts. By October 1964 they’d had five #1 songs and three #1 albums. In fact, the A Hard Day’s Night soundtrack album had just dropped out of the #1 spot on October 24 after 14 weeks!

Of course, it wasn’t just the Beatles. The flood gates had opened and British performer after British performer saturated the top ten airwaves:

  • Dusty Springfield
  • Dave Clark Five
  • The Searchers
  • Billy J Kramer
  • Peter and Gordon
  • Gerry & the Pacemakers
  • The Animals
  • Manfred MAnn
  • Chad & Jeremy
  • The Honeycombs
  • The Nashville Teens
  • The Kinks
  • The Zombies
  • Herman’s Hermits

Stones Meet Sullivan

October 7, 1966

Ed Sullivan Meets Rolling Stones

And here came the Rolling Stones. Now their second American tour of 1964. This one from October 24 thru November 15, 1964. On this tour, the band supported their second album 12 X 5. There first chart hit would not come until “Time Is On My Side” which reached a high point of #6 on Billboard on November 7 that year.

They performed on The Ed Sullivan Show for the first time on October 25. Still true to their roots, their first song was Chuck Berry’s “Around and Around.”  Their second song, also a cover was “Time On My Side” written by record producer extraordinaire, Jerry Ragovoy.

The audience, mainly teenage girls, screamed over their song, an occurrence now familiar to viewers. Ed Sullivan, as he’d done with the Beatles, gushed over their performance while some critics felt that the Beatles, formally not very clean-cut, appeared dapper compared to the “unkempt” Stones. Such it would be. One critic sent a telegram calling the act “trash.”

Rolling Stones Meet Ed Sullivan

The Rolling Stones returned to the Sullivan show the following spring and eventually went on to make 6 appearances. Here’s the list.

Stones Meet Sullivan