The Return of the Bozos


Ken Kesey

Today in Phishtory- Thursday, 08/14/1997
Darien Lake Performing Arts Center, Darien Center, NY

In 1964 Ken Kesey and his band of Merry Pranksters first took to the road aboard a bus named ‘Furthur’. LSD was still legal and relatively unknown. Kesey and company took it upon themselves to travel the country, turning people on, changing many minds, and generally breaking Americans out of a decade of conformity and ennui.

After traveling to a Beatles concert, they became aware of the power of live music and the grip that performers could maintain over their audience.

In the middle 1960’s The Merry Pranksters hosted a series of gatherings called ‘The Acid Tests’. The Warlocks (later to be known as the Grateful Dead) were the house band for many of these events.

Ken and the Pranksters are generally regarded as starting the hippie movement, and along with Kerouac’s ‘On The Road’, popularizing the idea of breaking out of ones comfort zone and traveling the country.

So it was a sort of meeting of different worlds when Ken Kesey came out on stage calling for his Merry Pranksters. (“Where are the bozos? It’s been two years since anyone has seen the Bozos”. The two years, of course, referring to the end of the Grateful Dead).

Many people take this as the ‘stamp of approval’ by Kesey, the Pranksters, the hippies, the dead-heads, et al– that Phish were the true successors of the jam band scene. I don’t think it’s wrong to say that, but I think it is also entirely possible that the Pranksters just saw a party waiting to be crashed, and a few thousand fresh minds open to expansion.

Hear the whole show here:

further reading:
Tom Wolfe ‘The Electric Kool-aid Acid Tests’:


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