Owsley “Bear” Stanley, the recording engineer, architect of the Grateful Dead’s famed Wall of Sound and renowned LSD chemist, left behind more than 1,300 concert soundboard tapes when he died in 2011. Now, the Owsley Stanley Foundation, a 501c(3) nonprofit organization, is working to preserve these recordings, which he called his “sonic journals.”
It takes a lot of time — and money — to digitize the reel-to-reel tapes, which are nearing he end of their shelf lives, as the OSF explains on its website. To help raise that money, the foundation has been releasing a series of live recordings from the vault. The latest is “Bear’s Sonic Journals: Merry-Go-Round at the Carousel,” which features a Tim Buckley performance from 1968 in San Francisco.
We recently spoke with Owsley Stanley Foundation volunteers Hawk Semins, Pete Bell and Starfinder Stanley (Bear’s son) about the foundation’s mission, why the Buckley release is special, Bear’s approach to live sound, the Wall of Sound and the man’s legacy of innovation in the recording and chemical arts.