When was your first desire to become involved with the psychedelic area & who were your first idols?
Which is the most interesting period in your life and why?
Most, as opposed to least, is a hip expression you hear, like, the food at that restaurant is the most, and they aren't talking about quantity, they are talking about quality, for you can guess who was the cook, that's right, the intrepid traveler hisself who skated on the greasy skillets and walloped the pots and why was that so interesting? Because it was the intersection of appetite and cleanliness and led to what came next.
From whom have you have learned the most secrets about the life?
From whom, indeed, and once again the word most doesn't necessarily mean the greatest number but could mean the wildest most outrageous secrets there are, and to get to the bottom of that one I would have to mine the depths and plumb the quests and come up with the Marine Corps Captain in Okinawa who coached the basketball team and taught me there is an invisible string connecting me to the man guarding me and with that string I can move that man anywhere I want, although I scissored him out of the play when I went to the toilet.
What experiences in your life make you a GOOD people, how do you want to be remembered?
Oh so many experiences, so little time to recount them all, such tired fingers from typing, but there is a good memory, of typing on a manual typewriter, to race to the end of a line, the ringing of the bell, the reaching up and slamming the carriage back to begin the next line without a pause, the letters whacking the paper faster than the mind can formulate the thought, ah those were the days my friend and they aren't over yet, just with a different typing contraption, but did all that make me a GOOD people? Certainly helped give me the chops to blast out the words, but what it really amounts to is when you get up from the typing and deal with the material world, how do you treat other people? With kindness, that's how, and it would be good to be remembered as being kind to others, forgive me my transgressions, those times I was flawed.
Which memory from Merry Pranksters makes you smile?
The time we were going to burn our Prankster shirts to commemorate the end of the making of the bus movie and realized we were starting a fire in the bus over the gas tank and we all bailed out of the bus and stood waiting for the explosion but nothing happened and when we peeked inside the bus we saw the fire had fizzled out.
Are there any memories with Ken Kesey, which you’d like to share with us?
Kesey used to talk about the goatheads of home; you know, those little sharp things grow on weeds down in Arizona? They are mean mo-fos and can really tear up your bare feet. When we were on the bus Further in '64 and would go through one of the Prankster's home town and the Prankster would go weird on us Kesey would say, "He's going through the goatheads of home." In Hawaii they are called Crown of Judas.
What are some of the most memorable tales with Pranksters?
san francisco they have a st. stupid's parade every year. Someone
emailed me once to tell me I had been inducted into the stupidity
club for all the great work I've done, and it was a compliment thing.
Pranksters definitely are a collective but it is a collective of the spirit and that American spirit has been passed on from the founding fathers through the literature of Melville, the transcendentalism of Emerson, the elusiveness of Whitman, the eyeopening of Faulkner, zoom into the Beat authors and here it takes a wild turn of spontaneity in tribal dance, uninhibited jazz, nonsensical word raps and other unfettered reaching of the spirit toward new found freedoms.
What is the “think” you miss most from the Pranksters “family”?
The "think" is to be mindful of those who are here and those who have passed on and to think, isn't it wonderful we are still all good friends and miss those great gatherings when we would tootle on our instruments and warble with our voices and slop great gobs of paint on inanimate objects and dip and whirl in happy dance and film the whole thing and then watch it to see if what we're doing is anything worthwhile, afterwards sleep it off and get back to work.
Do you remember anything funny or interesting from the nationwide trip on the Furthur?
One of the funniest and most interesting things was Roy Sebern painting the word, FURTHER, on the destination sign on the top front of the bus, saying, ‘This is a good luck word, to keep the bus moving toward its destination,’ then later on, during one of the recurring repainting of the bus, someone spelled the sign, FURTHUR, and it stayed like that for a while before it was repainted back to FURTHER again, then much later, a couple of the Grateful Dead musicians formed a new band called FURTHUR.
Why did you think that Pranksters, continued to generate such a devoted following?
Didn’t think anything of the kind at the time, now I think the biggest reason so many people know about the Pranksters is from reading Tom Wolfe’s Electric Kool Aid Acid Test.
Which of historical personalities would you like to meet?
You mean now or in the hereafter? Whatever, there’s only a few million to choose from, so let’s start with Adam and work our way through the Bible, Abraham, Joseph and Rachel and Isaac and Moses and Jonah and Noah and Jesus onward through Marco Polo and Saint Francis and Homer, going completely out of chronological order from now on, Picasso and Louis Armstrong and Don Quixote and Casey Stengel and Walden Pond and Pappy Boyington and Sunny Boy Williamson and that’s enough.
Come To Jesus Time
By Ken Babbs
It wasn't really an acid test. It was a Halloween party at The Spread where I lived in Soquel, California, east of Santa Cruz. Our instruments and amps and microphones filled the living room. I played the electric bass, Kesey the electric guitar, George Walker on drums, Gretchen Fetchen on electric piano, Mike Hagen on guitar.
We did a sound check and then went outside to commune with the moon. We were in costume: Mountain Girl played Little Bo Peep; Lee Quarnstrum, Clark Kent, ace reporter; George Walker, Flash Gordon, moving so fast you couldn't see him; Mike Hagen, Eastern Oregon wheat rancher; Gretch, Wonder Woman. I was the Spirit; Kesey the Wizard of Oz.
We stood in a circle, held hands and hummed. A cloud covered the moon and everything went dark. Out of the house rose the sounds of a mangled celestial orchestra and off key chorus:
Judge decreed it, clerk he wrote it down Give you this jail sentence you'll be Nashville bound
We went inside. Garcia, Weir, Lesh, Pigpen, and Kreutzmann, played our instruments and belted out the song:
Some got six month some got one solid. But me and my buddies all got lifetime here
We sidled in, singing and rapping. They eased out and we took over, the only song we knew:
Have you ever heard the story of Peggy the Pistol
She didn't shoot a gun but she shot a lot of crystal.
After that we took turns with the band until early in the morning when the music wound down. We sprawled on the floor, held microphones, rapped long nonsensical poetic free jazz word play that morphed into deep religiosos, talking about meeting on the other side; if we believed in it or not.
Cassady, the Catholic, said, "Doggone dogma, Dog Man."
Kesey, the Baptist, said, "Want to fervently believe."
Robert Stone, the iconoclast, said, "Are you shitting me?"
Babbs, the delayer, said, "Won't know till we get there."
George Walker, not committing himself, said, "How about it, Allen, what's the Buddhist take?"
Allen didn't hesitate.
"There was a chicken on the side of the road who saw another chicken on the other side. 'How do I get to the other side?' he yelled. The other chicken yelled back, ‘You are on the other side.’"
Allen smiled benignly. Dawn crested the eastern ridge and everyone packed up and went home, leaving behind a mess, a three day job, sweeping, mopping, scouring, bringing in the furniture, restoring the home.