Jerry Garcia’s Lost Owsley Stanley Pipe Found – Rolling Stone

For decades, a A major piece of counterculture history was stuck behind a bed in Merl Saunders’ San Francisco home.

The crude pipe looks like something a teenager might have tinkered with at summer camp, but according to art historian Steve Cabella, it is essentially a religious object. A so-called “spirit pipe,” this particular tool was made by LSD pioneer Augustus Owsley Stanley for Grateful Dead frontman Jerry Garcia, and it’s been MIA for decades.

“I’ve bought party pipes from rockers before,” says Cabella, owner of California antique store The Modern i. Rolling stone. “It’s just funny little things; they don’t have a story for them. No lost story. No connection lost. This is a different object. It’s kind of a holy grail in many ways, because obviously when [Jerry] was smoking that pipe that he was playing music at the time and that’s where he was getting the spirit from – the creativity. rolling stone contacted the band for comment but did not hear back.

The history of the Grateful Dead and Owsley is as intertwined as, well, drugs and rock & roll. Stanley – whose name is officially in the dictionary describing a strain of pure LSD – was the band’s original soundman and backer. He developed their distinctive Wall of Sound, helped design their logo and, of course, kept them on par with LSD. The group even immortalized Stanley in a song: “Alice D. Millionaire” from 1967, a variant of a title about the arrest of the so-called “acid king”. Although he was close to the whole group, Stanley was particularly attracted to Garcia. In a 2007 interview with rolling stone, Stanley called the leader of the Dead “the sun at the center of the solar system. Take out the sun, and the planets go their own way. Garcia was the center. Once he stopped exploring, the whole scene stopped exploring.

This arrest would not be the last of Stanley’s legal troubles; in the early ’70s, he eventually ended up in prison, where he honed the skills he would later use to make Garcia’s spirit pipe, as well as other pieces of what he called ” wearable sculptures,” according to Cabella. Rhoney Stanley, Owsley’s ex and LSD partner-in-crime, recounts rolling stone that he gave her one of his first pieces when she visited him in prison: a metal heart with wings, a reference to the Hells Angels. “I wore it the other night,” she said. “He always had to have the best materials. He was an artist. I was so impressed that he found this outlet to get through the prison.

Steve Cabelle

Although Rhoney says she never received a “liquor pipe” from Stanley, she says he made her one in the shape of a whale, along with other jewelry. She also learned how to make wearable sculptures, using the molding skills she learned going into dental school. In his book, Owsley and Me: My LSD Family, Rhoney describes Stanley giving her this metal heart: “’I work in the shop, I learn metallurgy, I make jewelry. This is for you,” she recalled saying. “It doesn’t exactly lie flat. My first piece. I will improve myself. (He would later try to get her to pay $10,000 for a white, ruby-eyed Pegasus.)

In Cabella’s opinion, Stanley never really improved. “If you look at Owsley’s early rock posters, they’re really cute,” he says. “They are like an eighth grader made them. They are very basic, as are her jewelry making techniques. … [Jerry’s pipe] looks like someone with a few years of art school produced it and did their best. Looks like a hippie did it.

“In my mind, Stanley was never a good artist,” he adds. “Copied is the wrong word, borrowed is the wrong word, stolen is the wrong word, but he would use other people’s designs or ask people to do the designs he had in mind .”

Cabella has carved out a place for himself in the art world as far as Stanley is concerned; he says he first encountered it in a jewelry-making class at the College of Marin in the late 80s, then acquired a brass Stanley belt buckle in the shape of an album cover from 1976 from the Dead. steal your face of a poster collector. Cabella gained a solid reputation as a purveyor of all things Dead around 20 years ago, however, when he came across a red 1949 Studebaker truck while checking in on a jeweler’s property in Berkeley. . He got the truck for a song, only later finding out that it belonged to Stanley during the time he was making sound for the dead. Dubbed the Dread Dormammu – after a Dr. Strange villain – the truck was sold to a private collector three years ago for around $24,000, which is basically what Cabella spent restoring it.

Sound engineer and former LSD cook Owsley Stanley (known as The Bear) is seen on stage with the Grateful Dead at Polo Fields in Golden Gate Park, November 1991 in San Francisco, California.

Ed Perlstein/Redferns/Getty Images

His experience with dead objects — especially those related to Stanley — made Cabella a natural first stop for Merl Saunders Jr. about a decade after he discovered Garcia’s pipe behind a built-in bed while renovating his son’s house. father after his death in 2008. Saunders Jr. sold it to Cabella for a few thousand dollars, “basically all my budget I had to buy rare rock posters at the time, but it seemed like a no-brainer “, says Cabella. Saunders Jr. replied to rolling stoneThe initial email confirms that he sold the pipe to Cabella, but did not respond to follow-ups.

Cabella says Saunders Jr. told him Garcia kept the pipe at his father’s house after the rock star was arrested in Golden Gate Park with a briefcase of drugs in 1985. He briefly quit drugs after the arrest, but , according to a letter from Saunders’ son, Garcia smoked a pipe when he was recording 1991’s Rainforest Blues with Saunders – and on many other occasions.

“The pipe is a special thing. Merl Saunders’ son told me that [no one else smoked out of it]Cabella says. “It was Jerry’s pipe. Only Jerry’s pipe. It was obviously used, but it never became a party pipe. That’s the only reason it still exists, because it was lost and no one could find it. Everyone forgot it. »

When Cabella first got the pipe, he wasn’t entirely aware of its history. Of course, Saunders Jr.’s letter mentioned that it was “a personal gift from Owsley to Jerry”, but it took a bit of research to find out that it was actually made by Stanley – and why and when. Due to his history with Stanley’s work, Cabella was able to ascertain that the pipe had been fashioned by the man himself – with an odd little skull made from God knows what accompanied it. The pipe itself offered even more clues. First, there was an ivory medallion at the bottom of the pipe, which features a roughly carved image of a large cat sitting proudly in the center of a setting sun. The image is identical to the cover of the Jerry Garcia Band’s 1978 album, Cats under the stars. From there, Cabella was able to guess when, approximately, the pipe was made.

Steve Cabelle

And then there was a carved image of a crouching tiger on a hill. Again, though crude, it’s a lookalike of the inlaid design on Garcia’s famous guitar, Tiger, made by luthier Doug Irwin in the late ’70s. (Irwin did not respond to rolling stonerequest for comment.) Cabella believes the Tiger was Garcia’s spirit animal, as given to him by Stanley, recalling the origin story of the Tiger guitar. When shown another of Irwin’s instruments, dubbed “The Rosewood”, Garcia was caught with an imbedded image of a large cat on the electronic plate, which led to the prominent appearance of the animal on his now iconic instrument.

“Owsley would anoint people with a spirit animal. Owsley’s first partner [Melissa Cargill] is called Owl, that was his spirit name,” Cabella says, surmising that Garcia was given his own spirit name and, in turn, a spirit pipe bearing his likeness. According to Cabella, Stanley’s widow, Sheilah, also has a blowjob, but won’t share pictures of it. “You don’t show them to people. You don’t show spiritual pipes,” he says. “They are not new. It’s like finding a religious object; it becomes a historical object. There is a responsibility to that.

Now, it seems, the blame lies with Cabella, who is loath to sell the piece – which apparently still smells of burnt drugs – or give it to a former museum. “I am very attached to the preservation of exhibitions and to education. So the next place it resides can’t just be a pot museum. It’s more than that,” he said. “I don’t want it to end up somewhere where someone smokes it. It was Jerry’s job.

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