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Owsley Stanley, an icon of Bay Area counterculture in the 1960s and a longtime associate of the Grateful Dead, died Sunday in a car accident in his adopted home of Queensland, Australia, according to family spokesperson Sam Cutler. He was 76.
Mr. Stanley had been driving to his home near the city of Cairns during a storm and lost control of the car, Cutler said. He died instantly. His wife, Sheila, suffered a broken collarbone.
Known as "Bear," Mr. Stanley came to prominence as the first to manufacture LSD in quantity. Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze" was believed to have been inspired by a particularly potent batch of Mr. Stanley's product. The Dead wrote the song "Alice D. Millionaire" in his honor after a headline in a 1967 newspaper article referred to him as an "LSD Millionaire."
Mr. Stanley was the band's first financial backer and briefly served as manager before taking on the sound engineer role. He created the first public address system specifically dedicated to music in 1966 and was responsible for the Dead's signature Wall of Sound.
He was also instrumental in founding high-end instrument manufacturer Alembic Inc. and Berkeley's concert equipment maker Meyer Sound Laboratories, which retrofitted sound equipment for AT&T Park and, more recently, Zellerbach Hall.
Many of Mr. Stanley's live recordings of the Dead were released as albums. Along with Bob Thomas, he also designed the band's famous lighting bolt skull logo, known officially as Steal Your Face.
Born Augustus Owsley Stanley III (he legally shortened his name in 1967) in Kentucky on Jan. 19, 1935, his namesake grandfather was the governor of that state from 1915 to 1919 and represented Kentucky in both the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate.
Before enrolling at UC Berkeley in 1963, Mr. Stanley served in the U.S. Air Force and studied ballet in Los Angeles. He dropped out of school after one semester once he discovered the recipe for making LSD in the Journal of Organic Chemistry at a UC Berkeley library.
While working a technical job at KGO TV, Mr. Stanley started manufacturing large quantities of LSD. Bear Research Group reputedly made more than 1.25 million doses between 1965 and 1967, essentially seeding the entire modern psychedelic movement.
Mr. Stanley became a naturalized Australian citizen in 1996, living off the grid with wife Sheila in the bush of Queensland. His decision to move to the tropical northern side of the country in the early '80s was based, in part, on his belief that global warming would lead to a new ice age and the region would be the most likely to survive.
Just as an aside Steely Dan's song "Kid Charlemagne" was based on him and the band "Blue Cheer" was named after a variety of LSD he created.
(except from the Grateful Dead's That's It for the Other One)
Spanish lady come to me, she lays on me this rose.
It rainbow spirals round and round,
It trembles and explodes
It left a smoking crater of my mind,
I like to blow away.
But the heat came round and busted me
For smilin on a cloudy day
Escapin' through the lily fields
I came across an empty space
It trembled and exploded
Left a bus stop in its place
The bus came by and I got on
That's when it all began
There was cowboy Neal
At the wheel
Of a bus to never-ever land
Happy Trails Bear…Thank You…for a real good time!
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