Grateful Dead engineer, 60’s icon Owsley “Bear” Stanley, dies at 76

Owsley "Bear" Stanley, a popular figure in the 1960’s counter-culture movement and Grateful Dead family and fans died today at the age of 76 in his Australian hometown.

From NY Daily News:

"[Owsley Stanley] was killed when the car he was driving swerved off a highway Saturday and down an embankment into a tree. His wife, who was with him in the car, suffered minor injuries."


Owsley gained popularity in the 1960’s as an advocate for the use of LSD, at one time reportedly producing a pound of the pure form of the drug. Owsley was a pioneer in the Acid Test movement that began in 1966. Throughout this involvement, he became acquanited with a little known band at the time, the Grateful Dead. 

An accomplished sound engineer, Stanley was the one who was primarily responsible for the design and construction of the Dead’s innovative "Wall of Sound" and was also responsible (in part) for the "Steal Your Face" skull/lightning bolt design. The design made its first appearance on 1973’s History of the Grateful Dead, Volume 1: Bear’s Choice, Stanley’s tribute to longtime friend, Ron "Pigpen" McKernan. Also included in that album was the first appearance of the dancing bears that were created in tribute to "Bear" Stanley’s ballet style of dance that he practiced at shows.

Though most of his work centered in Grateful Dead archives, Stanley also documented the live shows of many of the era including Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin.  

Over the years, Owsley became less known as a popular figure in LSD history and more known for his work as an artist and archivist; though his role as an advocate for the hallucinogen remains a major part of his impressive biography. 

Owlsey "Bear" Stanley was 76. He is survived by wife Sheila, four children, eight grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.