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Bear: The Life and Times of Augustus Owsley Stanley III

3.80  ·  Rating details ·  516 ratings  ·  46 reviews

The creator of the dancing bear logo and designer of the Wall of Sound for the Grateful Dead, Augustus Owsley Stanley III, better known by his nickname, Bear, was one of the most iconic figures in the cultural revolution that changed both America and the world during the 1960s.

Owsley's high octane rocket fuel enabled Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters to put on the Acid Te

Kindle Edition, 285 pages
Published November 15th 2016 by Thomas Dunne Books
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Sarah Paolantonio
I was excited to read this book because I love biographies and I love books about psychedelia, drugs, outliers, and the counterculture of the 1960s. When I was in college, I read Robert Greenfield's biography of Timothy Leary, which is much larger than this book and a lot more dense.

It's an easy read, which is disappointing. At times I felt like I was reading a book targeted to young adults. The prose is simple, the chapters short, and the stories are brief throughout.

The MAJORITY of this book
James McCallister
Oct 01, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In 1985, when I became initiated into my new life as a latter generation Deadhead—it’s called “getting on the bus,” referencing a lyric from the Dead’s psychedelic classic “That’s It for The Other One”—I had certainly heard of Augustus Owsley Stanley III. As an aficionado of the 1960s social revolution I had missed by virtue of being born in the midst of it, my knowledge of important figures of the day included the most famous purveyor of LSD, the “high octane rocket fuel” that helped usher in w ...more
Jeanne Field
Feb 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hi Bob - 24 hours after I started your book, interrupted only by dinner with friends, a bebop play at the Beyond Baroque poetry center and sleep, I closed it, fully mindful of another great trip thru our precipitous life. This chronicle is an important piece in the library of all hippies, heads, rockers, and anyone who hates the fact we’re referred to as boomers.

Truly entertaining with dates that harken back to my own life when I could say, I remember that; or they were in Egypt on the first day
Nick Carnac
Jan 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
,,,,,,hidden gem the chemist who funded the Wall of Sound with the Grateful Dead ,,,,,,,
Yard Gnome
Aug 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I stayed up until 2 AM to finish this book, Bear has always been a hero of mine, this book was given to me by a Kurt Vonnegut fan who visited the library and spent a solid hour discussing bluegrass music with me. He also gave me a book about Bean Blossom in southern Indiana, Bill Monroe's Bluegrass hangout where I once had the privilege of playing music.

What is there to say about Bear that hasn't been said? He grew up in Kentucky and discovered a love of bluegrass, was an LSD pioneer, recorded
Brian Walter
I jumped at the chance to learn more about one the lesser known members of the family. At the end I did learn more than I knew, yet the story was patchy, lacking of detail at times and rushed over at others. I was left with a feeling at times that the author didn't have much, or any accurate information, and was just presented "what he had heard" to move the story along. I was left puzzled by the lack of insight from Bear himself, even more so when the author includes meeting him, interviewing h ...more
Jan 28, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Wasn't digging the blocky quotative narrative and really couldn't get behind the he's so cool / boys will be boys biography of a kid from an elite and "lousy" family that's kicked out of school, kicked (?) out of the military, and then rapes a child:

"During this period, Owsley attended Los Angeles City College. He was also arrested after being caught with a fourteen-year-old girl in a motel room, but was released after being given a lecture by the judge." Pg 30

The more time I spend reading about
Michael Kich
Kind of an interesting read, although Owsley was unbelievably full of himself, which is unfortunately familiar to me from having known someone like that. All of the gigantic egos abounding in this book didn't appeal to me terribly much, since they're usually just full of shit anyway. Who turns out to be a dependable figure in this narrative? Ah that's right - none of them.

Still, it's good to know about Bear's life. He did more acid than I can possibly imagine doing in a hundred lifetimes, and s
Jun 01, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Part of who I am today is directly attributable to Owsley’s talent in the lab. Interesting to read about the man and his journey. As many times as our paths undoubtedly crossed (at the Fillmore, the Avalon, and the Carousel Ballrooms), I never met the man himself. But I will always be grateful for his clean, pure product back in the day. Used regularly as a sacrament, it truly opened my mind.

Blessings, Bear, wherever you are.
Feb 01, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pretty disappointing, if I'm being honest. Greenfield may have had some good personal insight from Bear himself, but this never feels like it goes beneath the surface. Having read a lot of books about the Grateful Dead and their orbit, I don't feel I really read anything new or revealing - which feels like a shame. ...more
Feb 13, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating and recommended read for anyone with a passion for the Grateful Dead, the 60s counter culture, or psychedelics. I feel Greenfield captures the magnitude of Bear's larger than life character in both a relatable and digestible way. His life is effectively scoped in the events of the time and history of the band and one walks away with a clearer understanding of his impact on them. Readers enjoy the subject's input throughout the book with hundreds of quotes, unlike other biographies do ...more
Edward Byrne
Definitely enjoyed this one. As a fan of all bios pertaining to Grateful Dead lore, this one was a no brainer for me. The book was concise and the research diligent. Aside from the large chunk of content that was shared via email from Bear, himself directly to Greenfield, the remainder was filled in from the likes of Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, and various other sources documenting the life and times of the Grateful Dead.

A genius, but oh-so-difficult! Owsley comes across as an extremely exasperating c
I have no idea why, I was thinking recently about Owsley LSD. I had a dose in my youth, once, or so I was told. It was liquid and looked liked water when it was dripped onto my tongue. It was the strangest scariest trip I ever took. So now that I'm an old lady I figured I'd find out more about this guy. I knew about the connection with the Grateful Dead, but had no idea of the relationship's scope and details until this biography. It's well written by someone who obviously spent a lot of time wi ...more
Beau Scott
Apr 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was a pretty exquisite read. The Bear was definitely quite the unique character in life and it's really sad looking back at all the accomplishments that he made in the field of music and audio recording. I just don't feel as though he truly gets the credit that he deserves.

The author did a great job of chronicaling many of the highlights of this extraordinary life in a simple, straightforward way. The material came across both in depth, but easy to follow. If you are interested in the Dead
W. Koistinen
Jan 25, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
Didn't really know anything about the man before reading this book - just bits of here and there - but after reading it he immediately became one of my favourite counterculture figures. No such Messiah complex as with T. Leary. Also was impressed with his technical abilities such as working with amps and other stuff. Like LSD, of which Albert Hoffman himself said that the structure was better than any other street variety he had seen. Obviously there is some truth in old hippies saying that the ...more
Joe Fahey
Interesting read about LSD pioneer and Grateful Dead sound guru Owsley "Bear" Stanley. I was familiar with much of the history of the Acid Tests and the Dead's long strange trip from other books and other sources but I enjoyed the focal point being on this mysterious character. It really filled in a lot of the blanks about his personality and the role with the band as a brilliant sound engineer and designer of the infamous " Wall of Sound" PA system not to mention some iconic graphic design elem ...more
Dec 26, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
If you want to get a glimpse into the psychedelic 1960's just read any of the books written by members of the Grateful Dead. You will learn more than this book offers. Don't bother with this terribly under-researched book. This lightweight book is a brief summary of Bear's life. There is so much more there, to the man and the era that he helped to create. I would say that it is not worth your time but is a very quick read since there little to it. It seems like the author got a bunch of old arti ...more
Jul 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Owsley Owsley Owsley! Where for art though, now that we really need you? I knew about Owlsley (mainly through his product) , but that not that much. He was a pure genius: chemist, artist, culture creator, techie. It could go on. Sometimes he was an asshole, but mostly he was honest. The world is too rotten for him today. Where are the public figures who stood for something? Now all we have are rooks, rapists, and killers.
Feb 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Wild but interesting life

Owsley was both a wild reckless demon and evil genius, but at the same time was a crucial figure to the events of the 60's (and both the good and bad that followed); a man who could pretty much master any endeavor that took his fancy. This book provides a good overview of his life and a glimpse into the inner workings of his mind.
Manolo Atala
Mar 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Definitely worth reading. Both the subject and the main character “Bear” are really interesting. One thought that the author would internalize in psychedelic drugs a little bit more. If you want to read about the “Summer of Love” and a lot more of this amazing episode of cultural and musical movement, you should read this book.
John Pataky
Sep 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Deadheads tend to know a good deal about Bear, but this biography does an excellent job engaging the reader while developing the atmospheres Bear helped create and partake in. You get to know what fed his manic mind and generate a better understanding of the internal struggles that drove Owsley in so many different directions...sound, design, chemicals, etc. Fun.
Mar 13, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An entertaining and diverting account of Owsley's life. Of primary interest to fans of the Dead and maybe those of sixties psychedelia, you'll know if this appeals to you by the title and cover alone. ...more
Larry Jebsen
Jun 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very nice biography of a very esoteric an. Although I was wanting more detail, you cannot read this book and not understand him. A well written book about a counter culture icon and a very honest man.
Kathy Heare Watts
A biography of Grateful Dead's Bear.

I won a copy of this book during a Goodreads giveaway. I am under no obligation to leave a review or rating and do so voluntarily. So that others may also enjoy this book, I am paying it forward by donating it to my local library.
Edward Sullivan
A lively biography of the LSD King, sound wizard, and all around colorful and uniquely weird character.
Feb 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great biography about the life and times of Owsley. A must for all fans of the San Francisco hippie times of the 1960's ...more
Aug 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting read on an obviously interesting man.
Dec 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a fantastic insight into the life and mind of a true genius. Absolutely beautiful and a worthwhile read.
Dec 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lots of great anecdotes you may not know even if you're already a big fan of Bear. ...more
Jul 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Outside Robert Hunter and the band members, one of the more important people in the development and success of the Grateful Dead. A brief but enjoyable read.
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A former Associate Editor of the London bureau of Rolling Stone magazine, Robert Greenfield is the critically acclaimed author of several classic rock books, among them S.T.P.: A Journey Through America with the Rolling Stones, as well as the definitive biographies of Timothy Leary and Ahmet Ertegun. With Bill Graham, he is the co-author of Bill Graham Presents: My Life Inside Rock and Out, which ...more

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