Ken Kesey - Furthur

by Claire Michelle Smith

In 1960, Kesey took part in a drugs experiment at Menlo Park Veterans Hospital. He was given numerous drugs like psilocybin, LSD, IT-290 and Ditran. None of these were illegal at the time as they were being researched for medical purposes. Kesey realised the effects these drugs had on his mind could begin a new generation of people who could attain a whole new state of consiousness.

He became part of the 'Beat' crowd at Perry Lane, with novelists Robin White and Gwen Davis but soon Kesey's ideas out grew them. In 1962, he met Neal Cassady and the 'Merry Pranksters' were born. Kesey bought an old school bus made famous by author Tom Wolfe in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. The Bus had a 'Merry Prankster' psychedelic make-over and it was packed with sound and movie gear. Its destination sign read: "Further." Numerous Pranksters piled into this bus and they set off across America to pass on their new LSD influenced culture and to encourage people to "open their minds" through its use. The 'Hippie' generation was born.

"FEEL IT! THE VIBRATION LEVEL! Kesey looks up. The spot hits him in the face. The Pranksters release hands. The music starts up. The Anonymous Artists of America play a rock 'n' roll version of Pomp and Circumstances with drum flourishes..." - Tom Wolfe, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.

Numerous parties were held called 'Acid Tests'. The 'Acid Tests' inspired the growing hippie movement and drug culture in the student environment of San Francisco (Haight-Ashbury). They were organized by the likes of Ken Kesey, Neal Cassady, and the "Merry Pranksters" with music from 'The Grateful Dead'. The Acid Tests were an orgy of psychedelic liquid light shows, strobes, 3D sound systems, sex, drugs, rock and roll - any thing went. Ken Kesey orchestrated the festivities, contributing a rambling dialogue over the PA system. 'The Grateful Dead', were often the house band and the special LSD spiked orange kool-aid was always available. Some participants freaked out but others claimed to gain great and lasting spiritual insights from the psychedelic experience.

The first 'Acid Test' was held on December 4, 1965 at San Jose. The last organised by Kesey and the 'Merry Pranksters', known as the 'Acid Test Graduation' was held in a warehouse San Francisco on October 31, 1966. Soon after, the group dispersed but the ideas endured.