The Hells Angels and acid began their chaotic relationship in 1966 down at Ken Kesey’s farm in La Honda along the San Francisco peninsula. Kesey was fresh off a commercial success with his novel, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and celebrated by hosting Acid Test gatherings with plenty of LSD. Sonny Barger and George Wethren and some of their other biker-club bros visited one of the happenings along with a mixture of Bohemians, Stanford grads, musicians and others. The bad boys of Oakland had acquired a liking for the little known chemical. They floated in and out of the lush redwood groves, taking long journeys to Psychedelia, exploring females who graced themselves like Eve upon a garden of ferns. Barger orbited beyond his known experience, the universe exploding into neon blues and yellows and reds, orgasms on a runaway train of laughter and pain and holiness. To this East Bay banger, marijuana was lost smoke when compared to the miracles of LSD.
Hells Angels and Acid:
At La Honda, the Hells Angels met Owsley Stanley, also known as Bear, who was the sound manager for the Grateful Dead. But what Barger and the boys were most taken with was Owsley’s wizardry with hallucinogens. And not just the quality of the product but the quantity. Owsley was the first private individual to manufacture mass quantities of LSD, producing more than ten million doses between 1965-1967. George Wethren saw an opportunity and convinced Owsley that the Hells Angels should be the main pipeline into the Haight of LSD. The Angels handled both wholesaling and retailing, enjoying a near monopoly of acid distribution in San Francisco. The club’s reputation for quick and thorough retribution discouraged snitches. Territorial challenges, however, were common place. Gone were the days when dealers made their rounds with thousands of dollars in their jeans.
More to come in John McCarty’s next novel, Don’t Stop the Music.