Sunday, June 14, 1964: The Merry Pranksters

Ken Kesey, the author of 1962's "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" (previous post here), followed it up with the novel "Sometimes a Great Notion." At the time he was living in La Honda, California.

     (Kesey) hosted parties that he referred to as acid tests, due to the participants' generous use of LSD surrounded by blaring music and Day-Glo colors. Surviving the party meant passing the test.
     When publication of "Sometimes a Great Notion" required a trip to New York, Kesey purchased a 1939 International Harvester school bus, gave it a psychedelic painting and stocked it with marijuana and LSD. Accompanied by a group of friends called the Merry Band of Pranksters (aka Merry Pranksters), Kesey took a circuitous route to New York and back. Kesey and his Pranksters punctuated their trip with performances on top of the bus. Kesey's combination of drug use, psychedelic colors, and a communal lifestyle, made all the more notable by his personal fame and flamboyance, helped to establish hallmarks of the hippie culture throughout the decade and into the 1970s.
     -- From "Beat Culture: Lifestyles, Icons, and Impact" (William Lawlor, 2005): @

     Kesey was really trying to go all the way without being exactly sure what that was. He was trying, through the use of LSD and other means, to get everyone in his group completely out of all of the drags and drawbacks of their own past. Free yourself of that and you could head off in some incredible direction. ... The side of Kesey which wasn't duplicated by any other psychedelic group was his attempt to harness all the totally California things -- gadgets, TV, movies, the car, the bus -- harness all of these things and take them beyond their immediate, rather limited use, out to some wild edge.
     -- From "Tom Wolfe on the Search for The Real Me" (New York magazine, August 19, 1968, page 42): @

      -- 1966 photo by Ted Streshinsky. Caption: "A man prepares the Merry Pranksters' bus Further for its drive to the Acid Test Graduation in San Francisco. This psychedelic motoring machine is famous for being driven by Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters from California to New York."

* Summary (from University of Virginia Library): @
* "On the Bus: The Complete Guide to the Legendary Trip of Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters and the Birth of the Counterculture" (Paul Perry and Ken Babbs, 1990): @
* "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test" (Tom Wolfe, 1968): @
* Book review, New York Times: @
* "Magic Trip" (2011 documentary by Alex Gibney): @
* "Ken Kesey's Magic Trip: Merry Pranksters Redux" (film review, The Guardian): @
* "Mountain Girl and the 'Magic Trip': A Conversation with Carolyn Garcia" (from Jambands.com): @
* Ken Kesey & the Merry Pranksters (website by Patrick Lundborg): @
* Lundborg's Lysergia website: @
* Website of Kesey's son Zane: @
* "Sometimes a Great Notion" (Kesey, 1964): @

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