Neal Cassady

'The bus came by and I got on, that's when it all began
There was Cowboy Neal at the wheel of the bus to Nevereverland'
-'The Other One' by The Grateful Dead

Born in Salt Lake City, Utah, Cassady was at the center of the 'Beat' movement and without whom, the whole Beat Generation would never have happened.. Although he never published a book during his life, he appeared in many books from On The Road by Jack Kerouac to The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe.

In December 1946. he went to New York where he met Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. Ginsberg immediately fell in love with him and Cassady began a sexual relationship with him, punctuated by numerous heterosexual other relationships.

Cassady and Kerouac began a series of adventures that would later become Kerouac's On The Road. They raced across the U.S.A. and Mexico, with Cassady at the wheel. Kerouac had the idea to write the book the way Cassady talked, in a rush of mad ecstasy, without self-consciousness or mental hesitation. It worked: 'On The Road' became a literary sensation.

Cassady married several women but finally settled down with Carolyn Cassady in a suburb near San Jose, where he worked as a brakeman on the Southern Pacific railroad. He remained close friends with Ginsberg, Kerouac and many others from the Beat crowd, but never profited from their success. After reading One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, his ideas began to gel with those of Ken Kesey.

In the 1960's, Kerouac withdrew from the scene and Cassady began a new series of road adventures, with the young novelist Ken Kesey. The most famous of these was the psychadelic 'Furthur' bus trip chronicled in Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. Cassady drove and very soon earned the Prankster name of 'Speed Limit'. He was also one of the major organisers of the 'Acid Tests'

After a night of partying in Mexico in 1968, a few days before his 42nd birthday, Cassady wandered onto a deserted railroad, intending to walk the fifteen miles to the next town. He fell asleep on the way, wearing only his usual uniform of t-shirt and jeans. It was a cold, wet night, and next morning Cassady was found comatose beside the tracks. He died later that day in hospital. There were rumours of suicide, for as a personification of youth at the center of the hip scene, Cassady dreaded becoming an old man.

Cassady's unfinished autobiography was later published as The First Third. Some of his letters to Kerouac, Ginsberg and his friends were also published.

The other work attributed to Cassady is Grace Beats Karma : Letters from Prison, 1958-60. Written by Cassady to his wife Carolyn whilest he was in prison in California for selling marijuana.