Grateful Dead

Remembering Owsley "Bear" Stanley

Owsley "Bear" Stanley died in a car crash in Australia on March 13. Few who knew him would have been surprised if he had chosen to live forever. He managed better than most other people to bend reality to suit his wishes and beliefs.

And he had some weird beliefs. One night in 1983, he came to Phil Lesh's house with a sheaf of maps and delivered a lecture of a couple of hours' duration, explaining how a thermal cataclysm would begin with a storm over Baffin Bay in Canada and suck all the heat out of the atmosphere, rendering most of the planet uninhabitable by humans. He showed us a climate map showing mean temperatures at the peak of the last Ice Age, and pointed to a spot in Australia where there was both habitable climate and land underfoot – and where he already owned property. He had a sheaf of visa applications to distribute to his audience so we could begin the emigration process immediately. Lesh demurred, stating that if this climate-change catastrophe were to take place, he'd climb up onto the ridge behind his then-home and watch it go down. "When your number's oop, it's oop," said someone else, quoting George Harrison.

It seemed pretty crackpottish at the time, and of course the predicted event did not go down on the date he forecast – but I recognize now that Bear was the first person I knew to bring up a subject that is today a huge and urgent matter: climate change.

He was into everything.

The last time I saw him was in June of 2007, on what I believe was his last visit to the States. I thought then that he wasn't long for this world. He had had a cardiac bypass (a result, he told me without irony, of the vegetables he had been fed as a child) and been treated for throat cancer, and as a result he was unable to swallow solid food and had a great deal of trouble talking. From his posture, I gathered his neck was fused or the muscles had been damaged; he seemed unable to move his head much. My wife saw him with a blender making a puree of nearly-raw meat and deviled eggs.

Our mutual friend, luthier and Alembic co-founder Rick Turner, got to the party after I left. His take: "Yes, Bear was a pretty crumpled sight at first, but he got going pretty well. He could fool us all."

I have nearly six hours of tape from our January 1991 interview, which was published in the book Conversations with the Dead. I'm sharing it here because I thought you all might be interested in what he sounded like. As Bob Weir told me a few days after Bear died: “He got plenty done this time around.”

Audio excerpts from an interview with Bear January 13, 1991

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8


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Anna rRxia's picture
Joined: Dec 25 2009

Whether he was crawling around with wire or chemicals trying to put things together, or selling silver hand-made Dead motif belt buckles during the early 80s at Dead shows, Augustus Owsley Stanley III was a critical ingredient in the Dead's success.

Sorry that a car accident was the cause for this premature death..

RIP Bear

marye's picture
Joined: May 26 2007
yeah, sorry for the short notice

I just got the word yesterday myself!

Joined: Jun 13 2007

I loved His foundation in His honor
and memory, I behold it's purpose.

Short notice on the East side trip to
Woodstock but I know the way.

All the best to both sides clinking them
glasses to Bear. May his tapes, rock on!
My, my, my Bear's Tapes talk about
new releases, phew- best to all in this.

Looks like as long as this project rocks on,
he won't be far from sight. As it should be.


Love to you all rocking this out!

Thanks for that marye

marye's picture
Joined: May 26 2007
Events Monday March 12

Two events commemorating Owsley "Bear" Stanley, one at the Sweetwater in Mill Valley, one at the Colony Cafe in Woodstock, NY. Get the details here.

The Nakano Pancake (not verified)

sorry for the mix up.
please view here everyone -

Owsley Stanley "RARE INTERVIEW" 6/22/90 at Kesey's Farm from vimeo on Vimeo.

YOPPPPPPP's picture
Joined: Feb 18 2012
Good link to Owsley at Kesey Farm

The link as provided in comment string simply was lacking the www (probably because it's ow the address appears in title line of the interview site...)

Enter into your browser and it groks.

Joined: Oct 16 2011

Get along Kid Charlemagne

lamagonzo (not verified)
Uhh, well, it's October

was anxious to see the link of Owsley at the Kesey Creamery/Farm, but the link didn't work, alas.

furthur on down the road...

Joined: Oct 11 2011
RCMH graphic

I was saddened to hear of Bear's passing, albeit a bit surprised to hear that it was due to a car accident, given his long-standing dietary habits. Anyhow, I was in NYC for the three Furthur shows at Radio City Music Hall back in March. The music was awesome, and that digital screen behind the band was the best I've ever seen. There was a very nice Owlsley tribute on Saturday night, including (during Mountains of the Moon) a deep red skullfuck image with four molecular structures of LSD coupled to it, along with the "fare thee well" line from Brokedown Palace. Does anyone know if that image is available anywhere? Thanks.

ortise's picture
Joined: Oct 7 2007

Too many shows to list...last one was@Red Rocks @26 Sept.2010. The band massages my worldview. But, "they'd" be the first to agree: there's just too much great music to miss if you use "their" genius to limit rather than expand. Lastly, study Robert Hunter.


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