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Owsley Stanley

Born: 1935-01-19 - Died: 2011-03-13
Cause of Death:
Car accident

Death Summary: Stanley died due to a car accident occurring near his Queensland, Australia home

Who was Owsley Stanley : Stanley is someone who's famous for being involved with the world of music, without ever creating any music. He was a sound engineer for The Grateful Dead, and is famous for creating the "Wall of Sound" amp system. He's also well known for being a pioneer in the LSD movement during the 1960's.

Owsley was born into a political family. His father was a government attorney, and his grandfather was a US Senator who also served as the Governor of Kentucky. Early in life, Stanley was considered troubled. He was sent to a military academy, of which he was kicked out for bringing alcoholic beverages to share with friends on campus. As a young adult he was self-committed to a psychiatric hospital. Upon release, he enlisted in the U.S Air Force, where he served for eighteen months before being discharged in 1958. Upon being discharged, Stanley became interested in ballet and he trained as a professional dancer. In 1963, Stanley enrolled at University of California-Berkeley. This is where he got involved in the psychoactive drug scene. After a semester of school he dropped out, and got a technical job at a local television station. During this time he opened his first LSD lab.

His lab was raided by police in 1965, while looking for methamphetamine but failed when all that was found was LSD. Which was legal at the time. He ended up shipping over 300,000 capsules on his first attempt. Afterwards, his product became known as "Owsley Acid" and was the standard for LSD quality.

Stanley became involved with The Grateful Dead in 1966, when he met the band during acid drug tests. He became their soundman, and also helped to finance the band. He engineered some breakthroughs in music recording. The most notable being the "Wall of Sound", which was the amp system The Grateful Dead used during live shows. He preferred simply microphone usage, and the quality of his live shows are considered some of the greatest. Along with The Grateful Dead, he did recordings for Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, Santana, Miles Davis, Jimi Hendrix, Johnny Cash, and more.

In 1966, California outlawed LSD. Stanley developed a batch of LSD which would become legendary. It was called "White Lightning", which left the product 99.9% free of impurities. The next year, police raided the home where the LSD was produced. He was arrested and found guilty; ended up serving a three year sentence.

After his time in prison, he was released and continued to do sound work for The Grateful Dead. Stanley eventually moved to Australia, where he would stay with his family until his death.

He was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2004, which he eventually beat, to which he attributed to his strictly carnivorous diet. He was killed in a car accident near his Queensland home. He is survived by his wife, Sheila, four children, eight grand children, and two great-grandchildren.
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4 Signatures in Owsley Stanley's guestbook

  1. Joan Manning Says:

    As Bear’s sister-in-law I had seen him many times over the years and thought I knew so much about him; however,only in death after reading all the tributes and newspaper articles which were in newspapers worldwide, did I truly understand the extent of his genius and contributions to the 60’s counterculture and the success of the Grateful Dead. I respect him and his accomplishments more than ever.

    Miss you Bear!!


  2. Ra-Keem Woods Says:

    Ra-Keem Woods

  3. David Williamson Says:

    He seemed so committed to love (for want of a better word). Thanks for everything Bear.

  4. HM Says:

    Having always been into “the sixties” and the counter culture movement, I was distraught at the news of Bear’s untimely passing. It greatly saddened many of my older friends who were around back in the summer of love and led to much great reminiscing. The drugs he helped get out there set many I know free and I know I wouldn’t have been if he hadn’t done what he did. The truly great contributions he made to society shall be remembered for years by those who care.
    This also greatly disappoints me as I had a vision a few months back where I was told to visit him. Now it will never happen.

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