Owsley is dead. The man who first brought LSD to the masses died in an auto accident near his adopted home in Queensland, Australia. He was 76.
Augustus Owsley Stanley III was better known as Bear to his many friends, who included the members of the band the Grateful Dead, for whom he served as financial backer, sound engineer and provider of inspiration--chemical and otherwise.
A man of many parts and eccentric beliefs, Owsley reportedly discovered the recipe for LSD in the Journal of Organic Chemistry at a library at UC Berkeley, where he enrolled as a freshman in 1963, after stints in the Air Force and studying ballet. He soon dropped out and began cooking up acid out of home laboratories. By conservative estimates the "Bear Research Group" cranked out more than 1.25 million doses between 1965 and 1967. In recent years, Bear reportedly adhered to a strict all-meat and dairy diet; he blamed a heart attack he suffered on childhood servings of broccoli.
Less well known are the man's contributions to sound design; Mr. Stanley is credited with developing the Dead's famous "Wall of Sound," the massive speaker array the band began using onstage in 1974. And according to this obituary in the Chronicle, he was also "instrumental in founding high-end instrument manufacturer Alembic Inc. and Berkeley's concert equipment maker Meyer Sound Laboratories, which retrofitted sound equipment for AT&T Park and, more recently, Zellerbach Hall."
Owsley will be memorialized in albums like the Dead's Bear's Choice and the countless Owsley-mastered bootlegs that circulate among Deadheads. But my personal favorite tribute may be Steely Dan's (admittedly ironic) Kid Charlemagne, which is said to be loosely based on and inspired by the Owsley legend.