Owsley Stanley (1935-2011), Legendary 1960’s LSD Chemist


Owsley Stanley (born Augustus Owsley Stanley III), 1960’s LSD chemist and the original Grateful Dead sound engineer (he helped kick start the live recording of their shows), died at age 76 on Sunday in a car accident in Queensland, Australia. The super pure acid that Owsley produced was a staple of the Bay Area scene in the mid to late 60’s, showing up at Grateful Dead shows and Ken Kesey’s Acid Tests.

Owsley’s nickname is “The Bear”, which comes from the bear illustration created by Bob Thomas, an image that later became the familiar dancing marching bear” icon of The Grateful Dead. Speaking of Grateful Dead art, Owsley, along with Bob Thomas, designed the famous “Steal Your Face” logo.

In 2007 San Francisco Chronicle music critic Joel Selvin arranged to met up with Owsley for a rare interview: “For the unrepentant patriarch of LSD, long, strange trip winds back to Bay Area”

By conservative estimates, Bear Research Group made more than 1.25 million doses of LSD between 1965 and 1967, essentially seeding the entire modern psychedelic movement.

Less well known are Bear’s contributions to rock concert sound. As the original sound mixer for the Grateful Dead, he was responsible for fundamental advances in audio technology, things as basic now as monitor speakers that allow vocalists to hear themselves onstage.