Owsley Brothers – acid flashback

Brothers Separated at Birth

Small town isolation in the sleepy gulf coast town of Freeport (Florida) and J.E. Reynolds imagines he has brothers. The Owsley Brothers Separated at Birth (2010) debut EP showed his siblings up as a bunch of slackers. Reynolds admits he wrote, performed and produced it. By the time the debut album Pure Lust arrives in 2011 his brothers are real.

Familial challenges aside, Separated at Birth is a great man alone (home) recording, so geographically bound you can hear the room it has been recorded in, and just as an urban community can readily fuel collaboration, isolation has fuelled self-reliance and self-preservation.

Owsley Brothers @ Central Square RecordsPhoto by Ed Jack

Owsley Brothers @ Central Square Records
Photo by Ed Jack

The Geography of Rock and a Paternal Aberration

In 1967 nineteen year old Paul Williams – editor of Crawdaddy! (the music paper he founded the previous year) – wrote about the emerging Haight-Ashbury scene of San Francisco, he had visited in December the previous year.

Back home he was  grouping his albums by location, and began talking about ‘the geography of rock’. As a New Yorker he could see, after his visit to San Francisco how the city, the cultural attitudes of the residents, the drugs, the love, and the venues were shaping a new music.

“We speak of a San Fransisco Sound because these groups developed here… at the Fillmore, the Avalon, the Trips Festivals, the Diggers, Haight Street and Ashbury and Masonic and Golden Gate Park, the Straight Theatre… and Owsley’s acid…” *

All that, and acid too.

In the early 60s while at the University of California, Owsley Stanley took a non ciriculum look at his chemistry books; cooking up his LSD recipe. In ’65 he meet the Grateful Dead. The Dead meet Owsely’s acid.

Owsley dug the Dead and was to became their sound-man. Prior electronics training in the Air Force enabled him to find work later as a radio and tv broadcast engineer. Once working for the Dead Owsley used this knowledge to push the boundaries of live concert sound systems. At the fore of the Dead’s notoriety, folklore and fame, is Owsley’s towering rig; ‘the wall of sound’.

Owsley Brothers reunited

The Owsley Brothers get separated at birth; one records loud and alone, swampy, bluesy life stories wrapped in gritty, often filthy Americana. Eventually his brothers find their kin and form a band. They don’t know where their old man is; all they know is their crazy uncle Owsley left a bunch of speakers in a shed littered with tiny squares of coloured paper.

The Owsley Brothers are working on a new album and have a fund-raising campaign to release a 7″ for Record Store Day. Its worth looking at their promo.

Get the free tracks from Separated at Birth at last.fm and the Rotten on the Vine single plus If It Ain’t One Thing from the digital album Cobalt from Bandcamp


*Williams, Paul, Crawdaddy! 1967, The Golden Road: A Report on San Francisco. Reprinted; London, Bloomsbury 2003, Hoskyns, Barney ed. The Sound and the Fury


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s