Owsley Stanley 

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Key figure in the development  of the San Francisco 1960's counterculture. (19 January 1935 – 12 March 2011), born Augustus Owsley Stanley III, also known as Bear.

Owsley Stanley

With a recent focus on the fiction end of the spectrum, it's been a while since I looked at my Interesting Times history of the latter part of the twentieth century, but I will be back there, and, eventually, my attention will turn to the antecedents of those halcyon days that are fondly remembered as The Summer of Love.

By the time the hype machine had moved into high gear in mid-1967, the original factors that had created the San Francisco West Coast scene were in the process of being swamped, both by an influx of would-be hippies and a media orthodoxy that has produced a conventional wisdom about what was going on in those parts that would seem to differ markedly from the actual historical reality.

Looking back, the inevitable tendency is to classify things into convenient categories, so you'd expect most of those involved to have fitted into a generally environmentalist, probably significantly vegetarian and committedly left wing political world view. The reality, when you start looking at these things, invariably fails to fit into those convenient categories.

That San Francisco scene was the result of a number of intersecting strands that ran right back past World War Two, and there was a rather diverse mix of influencers that ran into the confluence.

Among other things, you had the legacy of the beat era, the poetry and jazz scene that coalesced around Ferlinghetti's City Lights book store, the Bay area folkie bluegrass scene that moulded the players who ended up in the Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead, the San Francisco Mime Troupe, which threw up concert entrepreneur Bill Graham, the Texas diaspora that brought Chet Helms and Janis Joplin into town and the Stanford University writing school environment that gave us Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters.


B© Ian Hughes 2012