Augustus Bear Owsley Stanley

Augustus Bear Owsley Stanley

What a long strange trip it was

January 19, 1935 – March 13, 2011

Augustus Bear Owsley Stanley
The cover of Greenfield’s book.

In Robert Greenfield’s The Life and Times of Augustus Owsley Stanley III,” an epigraph quotes Stanley:

I am not interested in having a biography of any kind published about me or any mention of my childhood. anything written about me should be abut the things I’ve done and the skills and talents I have and not, “He grew up here, he went to this school, he was in trouble there” and all that bullshit. Because that the way you create celebrityhood and I’m not into being  celebrity. I don’t give a shit.” January 31, 2007

Augustus Bear Owsley Stanley

Blue-blood Bluegrass Heritage

August Owsley Stanley III had deep roots in Kentucky.  William Stanley, his great grandfather, fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War and became governor of Kentucky.

His grandfather, the first Augustus Owsley Stanley, had a long successful political career as a Democratic Congressman, a US Senator, and the governor of Kentucky. His defeat in a Senate re-election campaign was due mainly to his being against prohibition.

His father, A O Stanley, Jr, worked for President Franklin Roosevelt in the Reconstruction Finance Corporation. He joined the Navy during World War II and was aboard the USS Lexington during the Battle of the Coral Sea the day the Japanese successfully sank the ship.

Augustus Bear Owsley Stanley

Peripatetic Student

Some young people do not fit easily into the typical American educational system’s structure. A O Stanley, III was one of them. He was bright, inquisitive, intuitive, impatient, and did not understand the constraints school rules placed upon students.

After his parents divorced, he moved with his mother to Los Angeles only to move back to Virginia to live with his father who had remarried. He entered the Charlotte Hall Military Academy.  He became part of its boxing team there and its coach encouraged an all-protein diet, something that became permanent part of Stanley’s life. It was while at Charlotte Hall that students nicknamed him “Bear” because of his hairy chest.  The school expelled him after an alcohol-related incident that he had spearheaded.

He then entered the Washington-Lee High School  (now Washington-Liberty) in Arlington, VA, but left there to voluntarily enter St Elizabeth’s Hospital for where he was a patient for 15 months.

He returned to Washington-Lee, but due to a lack of credits, he was kept a Junior. Owsley stayed that year and quit.

Despite not having a high school diploma, he was able to enter  the University of Virginia’s School of Engineering. He didn’t like it much and left after a year.

Augustus Bear Owsley Stanley

Peripatetic Young Adult

He didn’t stay home for long before moving to Washington, DC to live with his paternal grandmother and he didn’t stay there long before moving to Los Angeles and getting a job at Rocketdyne where he stayed for about a year before joining the Air Force in June 1956. The Air Force assigned him to the Rocket Engine Test Facility’s salvage yard in the Mohave Desert.

The Navy discharged him after 18 months and he moved back to Los  Angeles and worked in TV and radio.

He also began to take classes at Los Angeles City College.

Augustus Bear Owsley Stanley

Russian Ballet Roulette

Around this time, Stanley saw Vladimir Vasiliev perform in the Bolshoi Ballet. He fell in love with both the language and the art. He took Russian classes as well as ballet. As much as he loved the training, he realized that he had started far too late to ever achieve the goal of becoming a company dancer. Keeping himself in top physical condition became a priority.

Augustus Bear Owsley Stanley

Marriage Divorce x 2

He married in 1961. Had a son Peter. Divorced and remarried. Had a daughter Nina. He divorced again and moved to Florida.

In January 1964 he moved back to California and entered University of California, Berkeley campus.

Augustus Bear Owsley Stanley

Emergence

He moved into an apartment called the Brown Shoe with a group of Berkeley students. They were grass smokers and a Charles Perry lived there.  Perry would later write for Rolling Stone magazine under the pseudonym of Smokestack El Ropo.

Cannabis was OK for Stanley, but he preferred speed and sold morning glory seeds (for their hallucinogenic use) to purchase methamphetamine.

He dropped out of Berkeley and got a tech job with KGO-TV. His Brown Shoe roomies threw  out the manic Bear. Constant middle of the night roaring motorcycle rev ups were the final straws.

While looking for some accurate scales at Berkeley to weigh some speed, he met Mellisa Cargill, a chemistry grad student. They befriended, he enticed her away from her boyfriend, and she moved in with him.

Augustus Bear Owsley Stanley

LSD

This Melissa Cargill picture is from a tweet. Follow the link above to read more.

Someone gave LSD to him. He liked it and wanted more, but could not find what he wanted. He decided, with the help of Cargill, he could make some.

He formed Bear Research Group, which enabled him to purchase the necessary chemicals under its business aegis. Stanley’s intensity, enthusiasm, and money combined with Cargill’s knowledge of chemistry, would trial and error them to an unequaled expertise.

Augustus Bear Owsley Stanley

He Fought the Law

On February 21, 1965 police raided their lab under the assumption that Stanley was making speed, which was illegal. He was, but he’d hidden most of that evidence and the only thing the police took as evidence were some chemicals for LSD, which was not illegal.

After an expensive trial Stanley (financed from his speed sales) that “showed” what the police had seized was not speed, the court dismissed the case.

On March 30, 1965, 100 grams of lysergic monohydrate, one of the necessary ingredients for LSD,  arrived. By May, the first LSD went on sale.

Despite his canonized reputation as a chemist, Stanley never considered himself to be one. My father once observed, “If you can read, you can cook.” Stanley described himself as a great chef.

Augustus Bear Owsley Stanley

The Kybalion 

Always attracted to esoteric knowledge, Stanley found The Kybalion, a book published in 1908. Among its many tenets was that all is mind and nothing can exist unless it is first thought. Physicality comes from a mental manifestation of that thing.

For someone who had discovered LSD, such an idea influenced him immensely.

Stanley also thought of alchemy. For most of us, when we hear alchemy we think of early scientists’ attempt to turn lead into gold, but the idea behind that latter description was the search for insight: the road from lead (ignorance) to gold (enlightenment).

Again, Stanley’s use of LSD fit hand in glove with such a perspective.

Augustus Bear Owsley Stanley

Merry Pranksters/Muir Beach

In October 1965, Owsley met Ken Kesey (both 30) and his Merry Pranksters. Neither was particularly impressed  with the other. Kesey already had a source for LSD, but Kesey and the Pranksters gradually found Owsley’s product superior and a relationship developed which meant that acid tests became part of Stanley’s life.

December 10, 1965: Stanley attended the Mime Troupe Benefit organized by Bill Graham at the Fillmore Auditorium. The Jefferson Airplane, the Great Society, John Handy Quintet, the Mystery Trend, the Gentlemen’s Band, the VIP’s and the Grateful Dead performed. It was the first time Stanley had heard the Dead,

Robert Greenfield quotes Stanley’s response to the Dead in the book Dark Star “In December ’65, I really heard the Grateful Dead for the first time. …I was standing in the hall and they were playing and they scared me to death. Jerry’s guitar terrified me. I had never before heard that much power. That much thought. That much emotion. I thought to myself, “These guys could be bigger than the Beatles.”

Augustus Bear Owsley Stanley

The next night, December 11, 1965 was the Muir Beach Lodge acid test, the third acid test, and the first for Stanley.  The combination of the Dead and taking his own acid abundantly lead to an historic relationship, but after Stanley had a trip that for many would have been their last.

Though he did not meet Stanley in person until January 8, 1966, Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh, in his Searching for the Sound, described Stanley’s experience that night: He first showed up on our screens pushing a chair around the floor, in love with the screeching sound of plastic on linoleum, reminding me how I had once felt that the sound of an unlubricated truck transmission was singing to me. I didn’t meet him that night; after the Test was over, he crashed his car on the way home up Mt. Tam. As he related it to us later, he’d spun off the road and seen his whole life — all the incidents of a crowded lifetime in seconds — as a tape loop. Where the splice is, “That’s birth and death”, he swore.

Augustus Bear Owsley Stanley

Soundman/Financier/Trips Festival

On that January 8 Lesh mentioned to Owsley that the band needed a soundman. A door opened and Owsley rushed in to forge an historic relationship with the band that resulted not only his becoming their soundman, but their financial backer as well.

Mainly organized by Stewart Brand. the Trips Festival on January 21, 22, & 23 at the Longshoremen’s Hall at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco followed.

The advertisement for the festival said that it would be “…the FIRST gathering of its kind anywhere. the TRIP –or electronic performance –is a new medium of communication & entertainment. Stanley provided the LSD and the what became the biggest Acid Test of all.

Augustus Bear Owsley Stanley

LA Tests

By February 1966, Stanley was part of the Dead and flew them to LA to participate in the continuing series of acid tests and to play other gigs as well.

When he was 18, Stanley had permanently injured his right ear while swimming, which lessened his ability to hear high-pitched sounds in that ear. He compensated for the loss by learning more about sound and learning electronics to do that.

His idea was record the Dead so they could self-evaluate their shows came out of that recording ability and many of Stanley’s recordings are outstanding ones even though recorded live–and often while very high.

While in LA the band did four acid tests:

Augustus Bear Owsley Stanley

Augustus Bear Owsley Stanley

Olompali

Their time together in LA was difficult for the Dead living with Stanley. Among the issues faced was his all-protein diet (Bob Weir reportedly became a vegetarian in reaction) and need to be in control.

Leaving LA, the Dead rented a mansion in Olompali State Historic Park, about 45 miles north of San Francisco while Stanley stayed mainly in Berkeley.

The Dead also broke with Stanley regarding his insistence on certain sound equipment that was so heavy to set up, break down, and transport, that it took hours to do. He exchanged the old equipment he’d paid for for a still high quality lighter sound system that he also paid for. Stanley’s insistence on quality sound permanently stuck with the Dead.

Augustus Bear Owsley Stanley

Media Fear and Loathing

By the spring of 1966, the media had discovered LSD and wrote stories that emphasized its danger to youth who the media already considered dangerous.

Life Magazine’s March 25 issue had an article: “The Exploding Threat of the Mind-Drug That Got Out of Hand.”

On May 31, 1966, California and Nevada passed legislation making illegal the manufacture, sale, and possession of LSD.

On October 6, 1966, the LA Times did a full-length feature on Stanley, referring to him as Mr LSD. Two days later, the San Francisco Chronicle reprinted the article.

The Dead got such a kick out of Stanley’s exposure (completely unwanted by Stanley himself) that they wrote the song Alice B Millionare.

Your yesterday’s are all left behind
There’s a brand new light in your mind
You don’t need a key to define
What’s written on the magic sign
There’s no time to cry

Augustus Bear Owsley Stanley

1967

Gathering of the Tribes

On January 14, 1967, Owsley supplied LSD for an even larger festival, The Gathering of the Tribes, a Human Be-In, held in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.

In April, Owsley visited Timothy Leary, the east coast figurehead of LSD, at the Hitchcock Estate in  Millbrook, NY. Stanley and Leary had met in LA in the spring of 1966, but Stanley wasn’t impressed. He left Millbrook in 1967 equally unimpressed after the lukewarm reception he received there.

On his way back to New York City, a State Police Officer, who had earlier given directions to Stanley, pulled over the car, searched it, “found” incriminating evidence, and arrested Stanley.

Thousands of dollars later, the case was tossed and the judge reprimanded the officer.

Monterey Pop Festival

June 16 – 18 was the Monterey Pop Festival. Though the Fantasy Fair the week before was the first rock festival, Monterey is far better known because of D.A. Pennebaker’s amazing film, its soundtrack, and the revelatory performances of Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix.

Made at his new facility in Colorado, Stanley provided his “Monterey Purple” LSD to any who wanted it. Ravi Shankar adamantly refused and was upset with even Stanley’s offer. Lighting person Chip Monck had simply wanted something to keep him awake, but accidentally took some. Brian Jones, instructed by John Lennon, brought back a supply to the UK hidden in a camera lens. That LSD helped fuel the filming of the Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour.

A few days after the festival, Stanley convinced Jimi Hendrix to imbibe and then allow Stanley to record a solo performance. Afterwards, Jimi asked to see the cassette and summarily threw it into a fire. Lost forever. Jimi had a sense of  humor, though, and  he can be heard at the end of his live cover of the Beatles’ “Day-Tripper,” saying “Oh, Owsley, can you hear me now?

Summer of Love Fiasco

With the media’s exaggerated reports of drug use, hippie culture, and free love, San Francisco’s 1967 Summer of Love became instead a failed haven for runaways and a successful one for those looking to take advantage of them despite the altruistic attempts to help by such groups as the Diggers.

In fact, on October 6, the Diggers organized Death of Hippie, a mock funeral staged meant to signal the end of the Summer of Love.  Leaders carried a coffin down Haight Street and the crowd stopped for a “kneel-in” at the corner of Haight and Ashbury.

Lab Raid

To cap off Stanley’s increasingly tense year,  agents raided his Orinda lab on December 21.

The Salem Capitol Journal reportedFive persons, including a college dropout known as “king of acid” who allegedly earned a million dollars manufacturing and selling LSD, faced federal arraignment today on conspiracy charges.

Augustus Owsley Stanley III, 32, whose grandfather was a Kentucky governor, congressman and U.S. senator,  was arrested by agents of the Federal Bureau of Drug Abuse Thursday in a raid on a fashionable two-story home in this residential community 40 miles east of San Francisco. Stanley is known throughout the west as “king of acid.”

Pat Fuller, western director of the bureau, said the home contained “a very sophisticated chemical laboratory” and large quantities of chemicals.

Others seized were William A. Spires, 24, Robert D. Thomas, 29, Melissa Cargill, 25, and Rhona Helen Gissen, 26. They were booked on charges of “conspiracy to illegally manufacture a controlled drug.”

Augustus Bear Owsley Stanley

1968

Carousel Ballroom

With his LSD operation on hold, Stanley went back to being a soundman, this time at San Francisco’s Carousel Ballroom, a short-lived rock venue. (In July 1968, Bill Graham would takeover the Carousel and rename it the Fillmore West.)

Back with the Dead

In August 1968, Dan Healy, the Dead’s soundman, left the band and the Dead asked Owsley if he would like to come back. He accepted and also accepted the challenge of trying to dose Bill Graham. Graham was intensely suspicious of the Dead’s LSD pranks and took extreme measures (wrapping and taping tight his food to avoid a trick contact with the chemical, but on August 20 the Dead’s road crew successfully tainted the top of some soda cans that Graham unknowingly used.

Graham jammed with the band on a cowbell drummer Mickey Hart handed him for most of the show. Unfortunately, there is no known recording of Graham’s performance.

His arrest had forced more media exposure upon Stanley and reclusive to begin with, he decided to become Bear again. As a soundman, he also decided to help the band and himself by keeping a “sonic journal” of the shows, that is, recording them so he and the band could listen and learn how to sound better when playing live.

These and subsequent recordings by other sound recorders (notably Betty Cantor) as well as allowing the audience to record their shows have given the band an unequaled recorded canon.

Augustus Bear Owsley Stanley

1969, 1970, 1971

Steal Your Face

Augustus Bear Owsley Stanley

In June 1969, Stanley also came up with a practical idea: marking the Dead’s equipment with an easily identifiable mark to facilitate work at gigs and make sure the expensive equipment he’d purchased for them stayed with them.

Bob Thomas drew it and the ‘Steal Your Face’ lightning skull was born.

Woodstock

Woodstock happened for the Dead and Bear, but their set is considered by most to be below par. Equipment problems, weather, and other concerns were present for all of the performers, but those issues affected the Dead’s performance more than others.

While the Dead were part of the impetus of December’s Altamont Speedway Free Festival,  they dropped out and only Bear was part of what Bill Graham would later call the “Pearl Harbor of Rock.”

Jailed

On January 30, 1970,  a police raided at their hotel resulted in Bear and most of the Dead band being arrested. Luckily a good lawyer knew an ambitious district attorney and a $50,000 political contribution dropped the flimsy charges.

Unfortunately for Bear, though, on July 31, his bail was revoked and he went to jail. While their, Janis Joplin died on October 4.  She was important to Bear and among the many sonic journals he’d made was live recording of Big Brother at the Carousel in June 1968. The recording, Live at the Carousel Ballroom 1968 was not released until 2012.

He felt close to Joplin also because they shared a birthday as well as the birthdays of Edgar Allen Poe, Richard Lester, Robert E Lee, and Paul Cézanne.

Fatherhood in jail

While he was still in jail, girlfriend Rhoney Gussen gave birth to a son (Starfinder) on December 21, 1970. Three months later girlfriend Melissa Cargill gave birth to a daughter. Iridesca, who later changed her name to Redbird.

While imprisoned at the Terminal Island penitentiary in San Pedro, California, Bear was assigned to food services, an ideal placement for him as he could manage to continue his all-protein diet.

Dead in jail

The Dead did a concert in the Terminal Island library on  August 4, 1971.

Augustus Bear Owsley Stanley

1972

Release and back with the Dead (sort of)

After being transferred to a low security facility in Lompoc, CA, Bear was released a year early (of his 3-year sentence) on July 15, 1972.

He returned to the Dead family, but in his absence the crew created their own routine that, not surprisingly, Bear disagreed with.

He tried to contribute in his persnickety manner, but he no longer had the seniority he once had.

He was able to add to his sonic journals from Dead performances as well as other band.

Augustus Bear Owsley Stanley

Wall of Sound

He did convince the band that he could create the best sounding PA system that anyone ever had. He did and it became known as the Wall of Sound.

The problem with this amazing sound system was the number of components, its size, and its weight. Assembled, it stood 40 feet high and 70 feet wide. There were 174 12″ and 288 5″ JBL speakers as well as 54 Electro Voice tweeters.

It required 26,000 watts to drive and that meant 55 McIntash MC-3000 amps. There were 9 different channels and 4-way crossover.

It cost $35,000 and weighed 75 tons.

Drummer Bill Kreutzman described the Wall as “Owsley’s brain in material form.

It first appeared on March 23, 1974 at the Cow Palace in Daly City, CA.

By August, the crew threatened to quit en masse because of the impossibility of setting up and breaking down the massive system.

Augustus Bear Owsley Stanley

Weed Farmer: 1974 – 1981

With the Dead taking a hiatus and the chances to manufacture LSD drastically curtailed, Bear turned to weed, though the amount he could grow vs the amount of money he could make by selling it was still not even close to his LSD profit margin.

In fact, he was nearly killed in an attempted robbery his crop.

Augustus Bear Owsley Stanley

Soundman/Dreams/Australia

The Dead invited him to do sound for a Seva Foundation benefit concert on April 25, 1981.

He assisted the band awhile, but in 1984 he began to have the same disturbing dream for several weeks. The dream centered around the Earth’s Northern Hemisphere and flooding. After researching and speaking with meteorologists, Bear came to the conclusion that there was going to be another Biblical deluge followed by a new ice age.

In 1984, he moved to Atherton, Australia with his family and some acquaintances and squatted on more than 100 acres. He set up buildings, a water collection system, and eventually succeeded in legally occupying the land despite initial resistance by Australian authorities.

Augustus Bear Owsley Stanley

Sheilah Manning

Owsley continued to come back to the United States and attend Dead concerts. Sheilah Manning worked for the Dead in their ticket office. As had regularly happened in his live, Owsley fell in love and doggedly pursued Sheilah. He sent her a round trip ticket to Australia. She did go, but it took four years of back and forth before she decided to stay. They would mary in 1995.

In the meantime, Australia told him that his tourist visa had expired and if he wanted to live there he needed to apply for residency. He applied as a “distinguished artist” and got friends to support the claim. Rolling Stones Keith Richards letter may have tipped the scales in Stanley’s favor.

Augustus Bear Owsley Stanley

Health decline/World Tour

In 2000, he had heart issues (blockages), but an operation was able to remedy them. His excellent physical condition aided his recovery.

In 2004 Stanley was diagnosed with cancer in his neck. Intense radiation treatments saved his life, but permanently affected his speech and ability to chew and eat.

In 2007, John Meyer, an old friend and a very successful founder of Meyer Sound, sent Stanley two tickets for a round the world tour. Done in a typical Stanley manner and accompanied by an extremely patient Sheilah, most flights were missed and hotel exits late. Overall, he and Sheilah had a wonderful time though.

On March 11, 2011, he and Sheilah were on their way home after a long trip that had resulted in the good news that Owsley had reached the five-year cancer free goal of all cancer patients.

Owsley was driving, the road was wet, and the car hit an oil patch. The paramedics arrived, but Owsley and Sheilah were trapped in the car.

In the end, an uninjured Sheilah had to hear an insensitive paramedic coldly tell her, “He’s dead.”

A funeral was held on March 22. Among the many tributes was a eulogy by Dead lyricist Robert Hunter:

An Anthem For Bear

Augustus Owsley Stanley III
Being less a name than a designation
The bearer of the appellation
Became, of his own inspiration
The Bear

Thus he became and thus remained
And every old-timer worth his salt
Has a tale or two to tell regarding same
Of the time the Bear did this or that
Incredibly singular, utterly apposite
Action without apology or shame
To his own particular undying fame

Unreachable, unteachable
A flame in the light of his own magnificence
Reflected in deeds dwarfing the achievements
Of the run-of-the-mill creative sort
By a factor of ten or more

King of many things was he
Of mortal physiology, the soul’s chemistry
Geography, geology
Not to mention the applied physics of sound

Regarding which, deaf in one ear
He pronounced stereo to be a distraction
Affording only one perfect seat in the house
Upon which to work its elusive illusions
And setting himself to design
The world’s most powerful hi-fi system to prove it

One suspects that, had he but one leg
He’d have seen the advantage in that
And invented accordingly, ingeniously
And, it goes without saying, successfully

Lovable and loving in the abstract
Effusiveness was not his hole card
His judgement swift, certain and irrevocable
The last word was his personal property
For the few times he was wrong, there is no accounting

Was there ever a man who changed so many
While himself changing so little
A cardinal sign, were there ever one
Fixed like a bright white star in dark blue heaven

Save sentimental eulogies for lesser men
And leave it that he was a king of many things
Of perfected personal taste and detailed opinion
First and last a scientist
And propounder of a brand new species of reason

No bucolic heaven for such as Bear
Rather a Rock of Ages
From where an eagle in full flight might dare
A sudden detour into endless dawn
Sail on, dear brother Bear
Sail on

Augustus Bear Owsley Stanley

Fare Thee Well

 

Grateful Dead/Attics of My Life/July 5, 2015

In 2015, the remaining members of the Grateful Dead played two series of concerts, one in Santa Clara, CA and one in Chicago, IL. Owsley’s son Starfinder brought some of Bear’s ashes to the Chicago concerts on July 3, 4, and 5 and placed the container in the soundboard.

In the attics of my life
Full of cloudy dreams unreal
Full of tastes no tongue can know
And lights no eye can see
When there was no ear to hear

You sang to me.
I have spent my life
Seeking all that’s still unsung
Bent my ear to hear the tune
And closed my eyes to see
When there were no strings to play
You played to me

In the book of love’s own dream
Where all the print is blood
Where all the pages are my days
And all my lights grow old
When I had no wings to fly
You flew to me

You
flew
to me, to me.

In the secret space of dreams
Where I dreaming lay amazed
When the secrets all are told
And the petals all unfold
When there was no dream of mine
You dreamed of me

lyrics by Robert Hunter
Augustus Bear Owsley Stanley

Sweetwater Woodstock

Sweetwater Woodstock

August 15, 1969

Intro by John Morris

Richie Havens had jumped started Woodstock and the second performance  there, following  Sri Swami Satchidanandas convocation, was the band Sweetwater who’d been stuck in traffic.

The band’s poor luck continued when in 1970 none of their performance was included neither on the 3-record movie soundtrack nor the 3-hour movie.

Their set began around 6:30 PM and were on stage about an hour. An interesting piece of trivia about the band was it had no guitarist.

They had released their first album in 1968.

Sweetwater's debut album

The band members were:

Nanci Nevins: guitar, vocals
Albert Moore: flute, vocals
August Burns: cello
Alex Del Zoppo: keyboards
Fred Herrera: bass
Elpidio Cobain: conga drums
Alan Malarowitz: drums

And their set consisted of:

  • Motherless Child
  • Look Out
  • For Pete’s Sake
  • Day Song
  • What’s Wrong
  • My Crystal Spider
  • Two Worlds
  • Why Oh Why
  • Let the Sunshine In
  • Oh Happy Day
Sweetwater Woodstock

Motherless Child

Another bit of Woodstock Sweetwater trivia would be that the last song Richie Havens had sung was Motherless Child. What did Sweetwater open with? Motherless Child. The traditional song was one that many bands covered. Their version was less emotional, but longer and since it was a larger band playing, this version was more intricate, more percussive as was the band’s style.

Sweetwater Woodstock

Look Out

Nanci Nevins wrote Look Out. It is interesting to hear a rock band without a rock guitar, or any guitar for that matter. Flute, keyboards, lots of percussion.

Look out, somebody’s comin’
He’s got the key to your door
He ain’t who you thought of
He’s not what you’re lookin’ for

Sweetwater Woodstock

Alex Del Zoppo

Before the next song, keyboardist Alex Del Zoppo explains the reason for their being late part of which was that the “man” had to stop them and bust them.

Sweetwater Woodstock

For Pete’s Sake

Nanci Nevins describes For Pete’s Sake  as a bosso nova blues. It is an instrumental and was their third single released on June 18, 1969.

Sweetwater Woodstock

 Day Song

The band described Day Song: “We’re doing a thing now, it’s sorta’ a folkie thing, it was written by Nanci and it’s about a captain and so forth sailing his ship and it includes Nanci and her acoustic guitar and the cello…”

Captain sailed the ship today
Old Love, she just sighed
Met his mother on the way
They stopped and cried
Cat on the sill
See the sad rain fall
Do as you will
I love you more than all
Old Love sailed the ship today
Captain he just sighed
Met her father on the way
They stopped and cried
Cat on the sill
See the sad rain fall
Do as you will
I love you more than all
Sing the song of sailin’ away
Sing it from your heart
Sing the song of sailin’ away
Even though we part

Sweetwater Woodstock

What’s Wrong

One of the nicest things about Rhino Record’s Woodstock release is the inclusion of stage announcements and stage patter. The collection gives a much fuller “there” experience to the listener.

Before beginning What’s Wrong, Nanci Nevins mentions that Alex had written the song and that he wrote a lot of their material. She also goes to mention Albert’s t-shirt has the band’s name on it. I suppose she felt she needed to remind the audience of the band’s name. Keep in mind that Sweetwater is technically the festival’s opening act and opening acts are typically not the best known of the performers at a show or festival.

Also heard is the sound of a helicopter in the background. it is no Woodstock Haze that that sound was often part of the whole experience.

Specifically topical protest songs were not the norm at Woodstock. That the event was a protest rally is often thought but hardly supported. Having said that, What’s Wrong heads in that direction:

What’s wrong in our schools?
Politicians are blowing their cools
Over they who refuse to abide by the rules
Though they should be separate dealings

What’s wrong at the zoo?
The animals sense all our fears coming through
Our facade yet there’s not a thing that they can do
It’s hurting their poor, helpless feelings
What’s wrong?

The song is nearly 15 minutes long and gave the band a chance to display its chops.

Sweetwater Woodstock

My Chrystal Spider

The Psychedelic Sight site ranks My Crystal Spider at #47 on the top psychedelic songs.

The crystal spider crawled into Alex Del Zoppo’s brain in a waking dream. A “fantasy experience” that yielded a surrealistic web of sound for his band, Sweetwater.

While “My Crystal Spider” ranks as the most psychedelic of Sweetwater’s songs, the songwriter says his creepy-crawly creation wasn’t necessarily the product of an altered state:

“Psychedelic substances may have helped to bring this into focus, but it is not about that,” keyboardist Del Zoppo says today.

“It’s about having a runaway pet spider in an unusually whimsical environment.”

Have you seen my crystal spider
He has eyes of mercury
He has left his web of paisley
Be aware, if you care
Would you please
Send him back to me

Have you seen my crystal spider
He has eyes of mercury
He has left his web of paisley
Be aware, if you care
Would you please

Sweetwater Woodstock

Two Worlds

The band goes right into the next song, Two Worlds. It was one of the five songs in the set that had appeared on their first album.

I’ve got two worlds
But I don’t belong
I’ve got two ways
Neither’s very strong

But I’m singing songs
And working too hard
I can’t stop living
I never get tired

I’ve got two loves
To keep me satisfied
No loving pain
Ever made me cry

I’m not afraid
I just want more
The things I’ve got
Is all I live for.

At the end of the song, Nanci, as many of the Woodstock performers mentions, “There sure are a lot of people here.” She then introduces the band members.

Also said at this point by another of the band members (Moore?) is: “All you cats on the sound tower got to get down…you got to come down. You gotta!

That constant reminder/request/demand that kids get off the sound towers was dominant theme of the weekend.

Sweetwater Woodstock

Why Oh Why

Here’s a little music to come down the tower by.”

This is music to get down on your knees by…so I hope you can dig it.”

I wonder what a Sweetwater song would have sounded like had they had an electric guitarist? This song is an exciting one, but I keep hearing the missing guitar licks.

Why oh why do I keep on trying. Why oh why when I know there’s
No denying. You know that I love you baby, and you know that
Love is true. If I can’t count on you baby baby then you know
What I might do.
Why oh why do I keep on telling myself that your too hip your
Gonna put me on a shelf.
Sweetwater Woodstock

Let the Sunshine In/Oh Happy Day

The band seques right into two covers: Let the Sunshine In from the then very popular play Hair and Oh Happy Day, the  very successful 1968 single by the Edwin Hawkins Singers.

Hey the west coast really gets things started!” John Morris

Interestingly, the Bert Sommer is the next performer and he was not only in the play Hair, but his hair and head appeared on the show’s first Playbill.

Sweetwater Woodstock

Trump Impeachment Redux

Trump Impeachment Redux

President Trump had survived his 2020 Senate impeachment trial  and his retaliatory behavior following that acquittal put on full display his righteous view of what it meant disloyalty to him meant.

Then came the November election. It took several days to complete the count, but in the end Joe Biden won despite the President’s immediate and repeated false accusations of election fraud.

Save America March

He declared a “Save America March” for January 6, 2021, the day that Congress formally and Constitutionally counts the electoral votes and officially declares the next President.

On that day, President Trump, Donald Trump, Jr, and Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani spoke to the crowd. Trump continued to prevaricate and repeat debunked claims of widespread election fraud. He incited the crowd with statements like, “We will never give up, we will never concede.

Only seven minutes into the 75 minute speech, the crowd chanted: Fight for Trump! Fight for Trump! Fight for Trump!

His inflammatory words pushed an already embittered and combative crowd to their successful, if temporary, violent takeover of the Capitol building forcing the members of Congress into hiding within. Dozens were injured and  five died, including a Capitol police officer.

Some Trump supporters said that Trump adversaries Antifa had surreptitiously incited the  insurrection. That it had lead the charge into the Capitol. FBI reports found no such evidence.

In the weeks following, dozens of insurrectionists were identified, arrested, and charged.

Calls for Trump’s removal from office immediately followed, albeit mainly from the Democrats, but from some Republicans as well.

The irony of his July 27, 2020 tweet was not lost on those who saw the riot as the insurrection it was. Most Republicans stuck their head in the ground or up their….

Trump Impeachment Redux

Article Introduced

Monday 11 January: the New York Times reported that House Democrats on  introduced an article of impeachment against President Trump for inciting the mob that attacked the Capitol, vowing to press the charge as Republicans blocked a separate move to formally call on Vice President Mike Pence to strip him of power under the 25th Amendment.

The dual actions came as Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her caucus sought to ratchet up pressure on Mr. Pence to intervene and push Trump to resign. If they did not, the Democrats promised immediate consequences for Trump’s role in an attack that put the lives of the vice president, members of Congress and thousands of staff working on Capitol Hill at risk as officials met to formalize President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory.

“The president’s threat to America is urgent, and so too will be our action,” Pelosi said.

Trump Impeachment Redux

Pence Called Upon

Tuesday 12 January: the House voted to formally call on Vice President Mike Pence to use the 25th Amendment to strip President Trump of his powers after he incited a mob that attacked the Capitol, as lawmakers warned they would impeach the president the next day if Pence did not comply.

Pence sent a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi refusing to act.

Lawmakers, escorted by armed guards into a heavily fortified Capitol, adopted the nonbinding measure just before midnight largely along party lines. The final vote was 223 to 205 to implore Mr. Pence to declare Mr. Trump “incapable of executing the duties of his office and to immediately exercise powers as acting president.” [NYT article]

Trump Impeachment Redux

Impeachment

from the New York Times

 

Wednesday 13 January: Democrats in the House of Representatives debated and voted on a single article of impeachment against President Trump, charging him with “incitement of insurrection” over last week’s violence at the U.S. Capitol.

Though he said he would not re-convene the Senate until January 19, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, was said to support the effort as a means of purging his party of Mr. Trump.

Trump Impeachment Redux

Giuliani Out

Monday 17 January: the New York Times reported a person close to President Trump said that Rudolph W. Giuliani, his personal lawyer, would not be taking part in the president’s defense in the Senate trial.

Trump met with Giuliani the night of January 16 at the White House and the next day the president began telling people that Giuliani was not going to be part of the team. It was unclear who would be a defense lawyer for Trump, given that many attorneys had privately said they would not represent him.

Giuliani himself at first said he was taking part in the trial and then a day later said he would had no involvement.

He told ABC News on Sunday 17 January that he would not be part of the defense, noting that he was a potential witness since he gave a speech at the January 6 rally.

Trump Impeachment Redux

McConnell Admits Trump Provocation

January 19, 2021: Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, said  that the mob that stormed the Capitol on January 6 had been “provoked by the president and other powerful people,” stating publicly for the first time that he holds President Trump at least partly responsible for the assault.

The mob was fed lies,” Mr. McConnell said, referring to attempts by Mr. Trump to overturn the election based on bogus claims of voter fraud.

They were provoked by the president and other powerful people. And they tried to use fear and violence to stop a specific proceeding of the first branch of the federal government which they did not like.” [NYT article]

McConnell Seeks delay

January 21, 2021: Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the minority leader, asked Democrats  to delay the impeachment trial until mid-February. His request complicated Democrats  hopes of reaching a swift agreement to prevent the proceeding from interfering with the crucial first weeks of President Biden’s tenure. [NYT article]

Trump Impeachment Redux

Date Announced

January 22, 2021: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that House Democrats plan to send the article of impeachment to the Senate on Monday 25 January, triggering the start of the Senate’s trial of former President Donald Trump on Friday 29 January.

Unless senators strike an agreement to delay the trial, it would begin on Tuesday at 1 p.m. ET. [CNN article]

Trump Impeachment Redux

Senator Patrick J. Leahy

Aides and other officials said that Senator Patrick J. Leahy, the Senate president pro tempore, was expected to preside over former President Donald J. Trump’s impeachment trial, assuming a role filled last year by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.

The Constitution states that the chief justice of the United States presides over any impeachment trial of the president or vice president. But it does not explicitly give guidance on who should oversee the proceeding for others, including former presidents, and it appeared that Chief Justice Roberts was uninterested in reprising a time consuming role that would insert him and the Supreme Court directly into the fractious political fight over Mr. Trump. [NYT article]

Trump Impeachment Redux

Article delivered/Senators Sworn In

January 25: at about 7 p.m. ET, U.S. House Clerk Cheryl Johnson, Rep. Jamie Raskin, and Rep. David Cicilline walked through the Capitol’s Statuary Hall and delivered the article of impeachment for incitement of insurrection against former President Trump to the Senate floor. The prompted preparations for an historic trial.

January 26: U.S. senators, who act as jurors in an impeachment trial,  were sworn in.

The trial itself scheduled begin on February 9, giving the nine House impeachment managers and Trump’s defense team two weeks to file briefs and finalize their legal preparations. [NPR article]

Trump Impeachment Redux

February 2…pretrial briefs filed

Democrats

In a meticulously detailed 80-page pretrial brief filed with the Senate, the nine House Democrats preparing to prosecute the case next week argued that Mr. Trump was “singularly responsible” for a violent attack on the democratic process, and would do anything to “reassert his grip on power” if he were allowed to seek election again.

The impeachment managers argued that the riot at the Capitol on January 6 was the direct result of a campaign by former President Donald J. Trump to undermine American democracy and overthrow the election at any cost.

They warned that acquitting him and failing to disqualify him from future office could do grave damage to the nation. [NYT article]

Republicans

Trump’s lawyers filed an official response to the article of impeachment.

In their 14-page filing, the former president’s attorneys largely ignored the factual assertions contained in the House document, denying the allegation without presenting evidence, and asserting that it is up to the House to prove its case.

They argued that Trump did not incite the crowd on Jan. 6 “to engage in destructive behavior.” They focus much of their reply on the argument that the Constitution’s impeachment provision does not apply to a president who is no longer in office. [NPR story]

Trump Impeachment Redux

Trial Begins

Tuesday 9 February

The Senate voted  to proceed with the impeachment trial of former President Donald J. Trump, rejecting his defense team’s claim that it would be unconstitutional to prosecute a president after leaving office.

The 56-to-44 vote, with six Republicans joining all 50 Democrats, paved the way for the House Democrats trying the case to formally open their arguments on Feb 10 as they seek to prove that Mr. Trump incited an insurrection by encouraging supporters who stormed the Capitol last month and disrupted the counting of Electoral College votes.

The 44 Republicans who agreed with Trump’s claim that a former president cannot be subject to an impeachment trial seemed to all but guarantee that he would have the 34 votes he needs on the final verdict to avoid conviction. [NYT article]

Trump Impeachment Redux

Wednesday 10 February

The House managers presented for nearly eight hours on , walking the jury — senators who were in the Capitol during the attack on January 6 — through footage of the riot and of former President Trump’s speeches in the weeks leading up to it. Most of that had been publicly available and previously televised, but parts of their presentation — like security camera footage of staff members sheltering in offices and radio chatter from Capitol Police officers — had not been released before.

Trump’s lawyers sought to avoid arguing the case on its merits, saying the trial itself was in violation of the Constitution. [NYT article, NPR article]

Trump Impeachment Redux

Thursday 11 February

The NY Times reported that House impeachment managers had wrapped up their incitement case against former President Donald J. Trump by warning that he remained a clear and present danger to American democracy and could foment still more violence if not barred from running for office again.

With the sounds of a rampaging mob still ringing in the Senate chamber, the managers sought to channel the shock and indignation rekindled by videos they showed of last month’s attack on the Capitol into a bipartisan repudiation of the former president who inflamed his supporters with false claims of a stolen election.

My dear colleagues, is there any political leader in this room who believes that if he’s ever allowed by the Senate to get back into the Oval Office, Donald Trump would stop inciting violence to get his way?” Representative Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland and the lead impeachment manager, asked the senators. “Would you bet the lives of more police officers on that? Would you bet the safety of your family on that? Would you bet the future of your democracy on that?

Trump Impeachment Redux

Friday 12 February

The NY Times reported that lawyers for Donald J. Trump delivered an incendiary but brief defense of the former president , calling the House’s charge that he incited an insurrection at the Capitol a “preposterous and monstrous lie” as they falsely equated his conduct to Democrats’ own combative rhetoric.

Confident they have enough votes from Republicans to acquit Mr. Trump, the lawyers used only about three of their 16 allotted hours, allowing senators to proceed Friday afternoon to a period of questioning the prosecution and defense.

Earlier, the defense team had channeled the former president’s own combative style and embrace of falsehoods to claim, contrary to facts, that Mr. Trump never glorified violence during his presidency and that he consistently called for peace as the rampage at the Capitol unfolded. Showing video clips of Democrats urging their supporters to “fight” and Mr. Trump venerating “law and order,” they sought to rewrite not just the narrative of his campaign to overturn the election but that of his entire presidency.

This trial is about far more than President Trump,” said Bruce L. Castor Jr., one of the lawyers, as he closed the defense. “It is about silencing the speech the majority does not agree with. It is about canceling 75 million Trump voters and criminalizing political viewpoints.”

Trump Impeachment Redux

Saturday 13 February

Mitch McConnell

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, privately told his colleagues he was ready to acquit Mr. Trump, confirming that an eventual conviction was exceedingly unlikely.

Acquittal

The voted on Saturday to acquit Donald J. Trump.

Voting 57-43, the Senate fell 10 votes short of the two-thirds necessary for conviction. Seven Republicans voted to find the former president guilty of “incitement of insurrection,” with all 50 Democrats, the most bipartisan support for conviction in any of the four presidential impeachments in U.S. history. [NYT article]

Senator Schumer responds

After the acquittal,  Senate majority leader Charles Schumer spoke. His beginning remarks were:

The case of Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial was open and shut. President Trump told a lie — a big lie — that the election was stolen, and that he was the rightful winner. He laid the groundwork for this big lie in the months before the election, he told the big lie on election night, and he repeated the big lie more than 100 times in the weeks afterwards. He summoned his supporters to Washington, assembled them on the Ellipse, whipped them into a frenzy, and directed them at the Capitol.
And then he watched, as the violence unfolded, and the Capitol was breached, and his own Vice President fled for his life—and President Trump did nothing.
None of the facts were up for debate. We saw it. We heard it. We lived it. This was the first presidential impeachment trial in history in which all Senators were not only judges and jurors, but witnesses to the constitutional crime that was committed.
The former president inspired, directed, and propelled a mob to violently prevent the peaceful transfer of power, subvert the will of the people, and illegally keep that president in power.
[see text for Schumer’s complete remarks]
Senator Mitch McConnell responds

After Senator Schumer spoke, Senate minority leader McConnell spoke. He had voted to acquit because, he explained, Congress could not impeach and find guilty someone no longer President, but still condemned Trump.

January 6th was a disgrace.
American citizens attacked their own government. They used terrorism to try to stop a specific piece of democratic business they did not like.
Fellow Americans beat and bloodied our own police. They stormed the Senate floor. They tried to hunt down the Speaker of the House. They built a gallows and chanted about murdering the Vice President.
They did this because they had been fed wild falsehoods by the most powerful man on Earth — because he was angry he’d lost an election.
He added later:
There’s no question — none — that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day. No question about it.
[see text for McConnell’s complete remarks]
Trump responds

Later, former President Donald Trump thanked most of the Senate Republicans for his impeachment acquittal  adding that the political movement he began with his 2016 election has “only just begun.”

We have so much work ahead of us, and soon we will emerge with a vision for a bright, radiant, and limitless American future,”

While thanking GOP allies, Trump – who was considering another presidential run – attacked Democrats by saying “it is a sad commentary on our times that one political party in America is given a free pass to denigrate the rule of law.” [NPR article]

Trump Impeachment Redux