The obituary for Owsley "Bear" Stanley ran in the news pages of the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday, but it spiritually inhabits the music section. Though he never received the cult of his contemporary, Timothy Leary, the eccentric Stanley did his part to incite the '60s.
He may have lacked a pithy mantra like "turn on, tune in, drop out," but Stanley knew how to produce results in the lab, alchemizing myriad trips of LSD after matriculating at UC Berkeley in 1963.
They don't write résumés like Stanley's anymore. He had a weird and wild career arc matched only by those of Gore Vidal and Aaron Burr. The scion of a prominent Kentucky family, Stanley racked up stints in the U.S. Air Force and the professional ballet, as well as Berkeley. But the academic world rarely holds rewards for those with such occult sensibilities, so Stanley started cooking.
Soon linking up with Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, Bear became the go-to guy for the acid tests, ultimately receiving an indelible portrayal in Tom Wolfe's portrait of the scene, "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test," and a sterling reputation for the "Owsley Acid" flooding the West Coast. But his most memorable contribution was to the music world, as sound engineer/guru for the Grateful Dead. He became their chief sound engineer and pioneered the practice of taping their shows -- thus, preserving practically the entirety of their catalogue for posterity. He also persuaded the band to adopt his all-meat diet for a brief time.