Electric LSD25 Texas Acid Tests

Texas was no stranger to LSD at the time of the Houston Acid Test in March 1967. In fact, it could be argued that along with California, Texas was the pioneering US state for a non-academic psychedelic culture. Experiments with peyote and morning glory seeds began among college students in the early 1960s, and in 1965 use of marijuana and early batches of non-pharmaceutical LSD was common in hip circles. Even obscure drugs like DMT could be obtained. All the elements of an underground culture were in place, the main difference to the west coast was that the early psychedelic phase in Texas was concentrated to one specific spot – the University Of Texas (UT) in Austin. As an example, UT campus magazine the Texas Ranger ran a long piece on the effects and availability of peyote in October 1964. Out of this bohemian college scene came artists and performers like Janis Joplin and Gilbert Shelton, and a foundation was laid for famous music venues like the Vulcan Gas Co and the Armadillo World Headquarters in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
The UT and Austin also gave birth to what is generally considered the first psychedelic rock group, the 13th Floor Elevators who formed in December 1965 and had an LSD-oriented agenda from day one. With the help of the Elevators and reasonably open-minded scenemakers like writer Jim Langdon and radio station owner Bill Josey in Austin, writer/promoter Scott Holtzman and TV show host Larry Kane in Houston, the Texans were ahead even of the S F Bay Area with regards to “psychedelic” music. Holtzman wrote a newspaper column in July 1966 on how psychedelia was all the rage among teenagers in Houston, while it would be several months before the rest of the US caught on in larger numbers. Somewhat surprisingly, LSD and related substances also remained legal in Texas long after California had passed their anti-LSD bill, and legislation was still only under discussion in the state capitol as late as April 1967.
When the Merry Pranksters arrived at Houston’s Rice University in early 1967 they came to a fully developed psychedelic culture, albeit one with a stronger focus on music than San Francisco (or Austin). Bands like the Elevators and the Red Krayola were as avantgarde as anything found in California, and teen clubs like the Living Eye were immersed in the new language and imagery. However, it appears that with the exception of Red Krayola and their loyal following of college art students, the art/pop music/politics crossovers typical of the Bay Area were rare in Houston, which in that sense more resembled Los Angeles. Staging the Test at prestigious Rice was a wise decision, as it was probably the venue in Houston most receptive to the Pranksters’ unusual ideas.
The choice of Rice University’s Brown College as the setting for the Acid Test was no coincidence. The Test was initiated by Houston author and Rice literature lecturer Larry McMurtry, a friend of Kesey and Babbs from the creative writing classes at Stanford University in the late 1950s. McMurtry was part of the early LSD set in Palo Alto, but had left the Bay Area before the 1964 “Further” tour. Instead, the Pranksters had come by and visited him during the bus trip, and the aforementioned “Stark Naked” psychosis episode actually culminated in the street outside McMurtry’s suburban Houston home. McMurtry, who had achieved success when one of his novels was turned into the Paul Newman movie “Hud”, stayed in contact with Kesey’s group, and the 1967 Houston Test was a reunion of sorts. The Pranksters staid at his home again, and hung around in Houston for a few days before the actual Test. According to a Rice graduate student who visited McMurtry’s house, the Pranksters were “…kind of spooky, and next to impossible to talk to… they just play games and compile scrapbooks, and continually repaint the bus.” Larry McMurtry would remain a central figure in the psychedelic culture in Houston, and was interviewed by the Houston Post in May 1967 on the pros and cons of LSD. A few years later his Texas small-town novel “The Last Picture Show” was turned into a highly acclaimed Hollywood movie.
The Brown College Acid Test, held on 16 March 1967, is described in some detail in a Houston Chronicle piece from the following week. The Pranksters visit is referred to as a “historic moment, kind of”, and Kesey’s group “amiable eccentrics”. While Kesey’s novelist career is briefly mentioned, Prankster projects like the “Further” journey and the west coast Tests are not, and this is not surprising as widespread knowledge of these did not occur until Tom Wolfe’s book in 1968.
According to the Chronicle article, the Test began outside the College where the bus was presented for the few hundred visitors, after which toy dart guns were distributed among the crowd. A dart gun “war” between the audience and the bus inhabitants followed, a less confrontational comment on Vietnam attitudes than the Berkeley Prank in 1965. The bus went for a brief tour round the campus area with “an electronic roar from the loudspeakers” and dozens of Rice students on top and inside, Kesey managing to getting lost in the campus area before all participants reassembled for the actual Acid Test.
Inside the college dining room all chairs and tables had been pushed aside to make room for the Test crowd. Someone threw a pill in Kesey’s direction, which he picked up and swallowed without closer examination. “I dig pills”, he said. Wavy Gravy (referred to as “a Prankster named Hugh”) initiated a reading of the I-Ching, the one ancient text that Kesey’s group cared for, and was showered with darts in response. Real-life Vietnam veteran Ken Babbs jumped up to protect Wavy Gravy and stood chanting enigmatic slogans (“Grover Cleveland died for YOU”) while the audience fired away. After this, all lights were turned off and the Pranksters set their experiment in motion, like the Acid Graduation focusing more on meditative states and group experiences than the electronic blitzkrieg of the early Acid Tests.
In the pitch-black hall the audience was invited to “hear, see, touch, taste or smell whatever they liked”, and also try breathing in unison. This they did, mixed with “shrieks, catcalls and laughter”. According to the Chronicle the experiments were met with excitement from the Rice students, as was the suggestion from a “ravishing platinum-blonde” Prankster to all get in a pile on the floor after the lights flashed back on. “The Hermit”, an eccentric tattooed Hillbelly Hobo from the Hot Springs in Arkansas, shot darts and threw paper airplanes into the huge pile of humans, aiming constantly at Kesey.
Ken Babbs recently described the subsequent events in an e-mail to me: “… Then we decided to leave and went out on the bus and hundreds of people followed and got on the bus, inside, on the top, hanging from the rear, sitting on the hood, and Kesey kept saying, ‘we are leaving, we are not coming back, it would behoove you all to get off’ and everyone thought it was a total hoot and no one got off, and so we took off and were heading out of town, out on the freeway, when a car pulled alongside with people inside waving and hollering, car honking. It was Larry McMurtry yelling, ‘go back go back, this is not good, you cannot take these people away, be kind, turn back, turn back’. Well, if it had been anyone but Larry we’d have ignored them, but since it was he we turned back and took them all back there. We kicked the Hermit off the bus and we haven’t seen him since, maybe he’s still there shooting his plastic darts at jack rabbits in the Texas plains…”…..no, he is shooting Word-Darts at Ignorant Arkansas
The Hermit and the Bus
Almost nothing has been known about this Acid Test, which isn’t mentioned in either Prankster chronicles nor Houston 1960s retrospectives. Several of the Red Krayola’s entourage are likely to have participated, perhaps even the Krayola themselves, and indeed some of the Houston band’s eccentric shenanigans have a distinct Prankster feel. The 13th Floor Elevators would certainly have been interested in what Kesey’s group were doing but were on tour around Texas at the time. Their first producer Gordon Bynum was present at the Test, however. Among the Pranksters most key members were there, although Neal Cassady had left after the Acid Test Graduation.
The Merry Pranksters soon returned to the Bay Area and as far as is known, the Houston Acid Test was their very last activity together. In May 1967 Kesey received a six-month work farm sentence in San Mateo, and through some legal manouevering was allowed to serve time for his other arrests concurrently. In the Fall, several of the Pranksters joined him in retreating to farms and ranches around the Oregon countryside.

About homelessholocaust

Tijuana Hobo , Hebrew Hobo Railroad Rabbi, The Truth Teller Tell True Truth Truthfully. If the Truth is Repugnant to you, You are a Reagan Cultist. Ronald Reagan was Taught by L. Ron Hubbard, Reagan & Hubbard FOUNDED THE SCIENCE FICTION MIND FUCKING GAME- SCIENTOLOGY- then REAGAN USED NERO LINGUIST PROGRAMMING as PRESIDENT to MURDER THE MINDS of AMERICANS!
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