Father of the Festival

(condensed version)
Outing the father of psychedelic rock and the festival experience

In 1962 Ken Kesey published his novel One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, which many believe launched the counter culture revolution. He'd been inspired while auditing writing classes at Stanford University a couple years prior, where he was recruited to take part in a CIA financed project studying the effects of psychoactive drugs (LSD, psilocybin, mescaline, etc.) on people. He financed a cross country bus trip with his Merry Pranksters, bound for the New York release of his next novel Sometimes a Great Notion and the 1964 World's Fair.

In San Francisco dancing was not allowed at clubs like The Matrix, where the early Jefferson Airplane rehearsed to a small, seated audience. Fellow musicians The Charlatans dressed in early American clothes and drove across the border to Nevada where several hippies had pooled their resources and built the wild west style Red Dog Saloon. There, in Virginia City one of the first light shows was created to enhance the atmosphere and the dance hall environment was an instant success. Several of its originators formed a company (The Family Dog) before returning to San Francisco determined to recreate the experience for a wider audience.

October 16, 1965 they hosted "A Tribute to Dr. Strange" at the Longshoreman's Hall by the wharf in San Francisco. Ken Kesey had returned from New York, partnered with Stewart Brand (future publisher/editor of The Whole Earth Catalog) and chemist Owsley Stanley (future Grafeful Dead sound engineer) to conduct several "Acid Test" happenings around the Bay area. They joined forces with Los Angeles journalist, Ralph Gleason, future impresario Bill Graham, who managed the San Francisco Mime Troupe, and Chet Helms who managed Big Brother and the Holding Company (and introduced them to Janis Joplin). Hiring the Grateful Dead as musical accompaniment Kesey approached Bill Graham to help manage an event at San Francisco's Longshoreman's Union Hall which became known as the Trips Festival in 1966. Two weeks before the event Kesey was busted for smoking pot on a rooftop with 19 year old Prankster Carolyn "Mountain Girl" Adams who later bore his child and, shortly after, met Jerry Garcia of The Grateful Dead.

Kesey - True Father of the Festival

Publicity shot from dust jacket on Kesey's Jail Journal

Here are reprints of two flyers for early ( legal ) Trips Festivals -
from a coffee table book - Grateful Dead / The Illustrated Trip


Kesey "disguised" as Spaceman, 1966 Trips Festival at Longshoremans' Hall, San Francisco