F=If you were a cop in San Francisco in the 1960s and needed a splashy drug arrest to spruce up your record, all you had to do was pay a visit to the Grateful Dead’s house and you were bound to find something. It was the Grateful Dead after all and San Francisco was their kingdom. It on this month in music history, more specifically October 2. 1967, California State Narcotics Agent Jerry Van Ramm lead a raid on a house owned by the band as their headquarters.
Lost in all the marijuana haze that colors the history of the Dead is the band just didn’t sit around basking in joys of weed and women. They played and played. One need not look any further than the legendary Ken Kesey and the infamous “Acid Tests.”
The name “Acid Test” was coined by Kesey, after the term “acid test” used by gold miners in the 1850s. He began throwing parties at his farm at La Honda, California. The Merry Pranksters were central to organizing the Acid Tests, including Pranksters such as Lee Quarnstrom and Neal Cassady. Other people, such as LSD chemists Owsley Stanley and Tim Scully, were involved as well.
Kesey took the parties to public places, and advertised with posters that read, “CAN YOU PASS THE ACID TEST?”, and the name was later popularized in Tom Wolfe’s 1968 book, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. Musical performances by the Grateful Dead were commonplace, along with black lights, strobe lights, and fluorescent paint. The Acid Tests are notable for their influence on the LSD-based counterculture of the San Francisco area and subsequent transition from the beat generation to the hippie movement.
The tests were a “…three-day event” and bands would perform for hours on end. That discipline would allow the band to create the mythic hippie nostalgia festivals that would help them to become cultural icons. They were professional musicians first and foremost.
Still, it was San Francisco in the scene was what it was. However, the freedom to fight to make marijuana legal would spark new civil rights and freedom concerns with the way law enforcement bent the laws in pursuit of enforcement. As a Rolling Stone article from the time would note about the Dead’s arrest –
The cops carried no warrant and broke in the front door even after being denied entry. Danny and Rock weren’t in the house, but were yanked from the porch when they came strolling by after the reporters had arrived. As well as members of the band, the police confiscated the files, money and phonebooks of the band and of the Haight Ashbury Legal Organization, whose offices are in the Dead’s house.