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PostSubject: The Strange but Mostly True Story of Laurel Canyon and the Birth of the Hippie Generation   Sun Nov 08, 2015 9:18 pm




CIA Hippie Mind Control: Inside Laurel Canyon with Dave McGowan




Published on Feb 23, 2015

The hippie movement of the 1960s, which began in Laurel Canyon, Los Angeles and peculiar military and political ties to prominent figures in the scene like Jim Morrison and Frank Zappa are looked at with Weird Scenes Inside the Canyon author Dave McGowan. We also discuss movement pioneer Vito Paulekas, Charles Manson and the Manson Family murders, and the theory that the CIA manufactured the hippie counterculture to undermine the anti war movement, in this uncensored Antidote interview, hosted by Michael Parker.

GUEST BIO and BOOK INFO:
David McGowan was born and raised in Torrance, California, just twenty miles south of Laurel Canyon. He graduated from UCLA with a degree in psychology and has, since 1990, run a small business in the greater Los Angeles area. Currently single, he is the proud father of three daughters. He is also a lifelong music fan who still frequently keeps his radio tuned to classic rock stations. McGowan's previous books include Programmed to Kill: The Politics of Serial Murder, and Understanding the F-Word: American Fascism and the Politics of Illusion.

Weird Scenes Inside the Canyon
How did an uncanny amount of rock superstars emerge from the rustic Laurel Canyon scene of the mid 60s when the primary music centers of the US at that time were NYC, Nashville, and Detroit? Why were many of these future stars sons and daughters of the military/intelligence complex and extreme privilege who just happened to all arrive in LA at the same time? From the Lizard King Jim Morrison to Frank Zappa, the Mamas and Papas, the Byrds, Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, even the Monkees, they all had conspicuous family heritages that did not exactly jive with what would become the free love, anti war soundtrack of a generation. Meanwhile, looming behind these musicians was a dark underbelly of Hollywood stars, young turks, the mob, shadowy intelligence assets, and charmers like little Charlie Manson who everyone liked at first.. How and why did this all happen? And what about that covert military installation on Lookout Mountain? Are you ready to have your rock and roll fantasies challenged? You may never listen to this music the same way ever again.

ADD’L LINKS:
http://www.davesweb.cnchost.com/
https://www.facebook.com/WeirdScenesI...
http://www.nuthousepunks.com/blog/201...
http://thelip.tv/
http://www.youtube.com/theliptv2
http://www.youtube.com/theliptv
https://www.facebook.com/thelip.tv

EPISODE BREAKDOWN:
00:01 Welcoming author David McGowan to Antidote.
01:00 What Lookout Mountain Laboratories was designed for, and what it is now.
06:05 Jim Morrison’s father’s involvement in the Vietnam war.
09:25 Morrison as an anti-war idol and his surprisingly scarce background in music.
12:55 Hippie-era bands that all had connections to government intelligence.
15:30 Crosby, Stills and Nash’s connections to important historical figures.
18:45 Frank Zappa’s father as a chemical warfare engineer.
20:20 Jackson Browne born in post-war Germany.
23:30 Early history of The Byrds appears suspicious and possibly casted.
25:15 The rise of hippie culture and music clubs in Los Angeles.
29:10 How The Young Turks of Los Angeles contributed to the popularization of clubs.
32:00 The Hippie/Rockefeller connection.
33:25 Charles Manson as a leader and a member of the Los Angeles music scene.
37:05 The Wonderland Murders.
39:05 The surprising number of stars whose parents committed suicide.
41:10 Were these hippie musical figures groomed to undermine the anti-war movement?
46:20 Thank you and goodbye.


====================================================



Inside The LC: The Strange but Mostly True Story of Laurel Canyon and the Birth of the Hippie Generation
Part I
May 8, 2008









 
"There’s something happening here


What it is ain’t exactly clear"



 
 

Join me now, if you have the time, as we take a stroll down memory lane to a time nearly four-and-a-half decades ago – a time when America last had uniformed ground troops fighting a sustained and bloody battle to impose, uhmm, ‘democracy’ on a sovereign nation.



 
It is the first week of August, 1964, and U.S. warships under the command of U.S. Navy Admiral George Stephen Morrison have allegedly come under attack while patrolling Vietnam’s Tonkin Gulf. This event, subsequently dubbed the ‘Tonkin Gulf Incident,’ will result in the immediate passing by the U.S. Congress of the obviously pre-drafted Tonkin Gulf Resolution, which will, in turn, quickly lead to America’s deep immersion into the bloody Vietnam quagmire. Before it is over, well over fifty thousand American bodies – along with literally millions of Southeast Asian bodies – will litter the battlefields of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.


 
For the record, the Tonkin Gulf Incident appears to differ somewhat from other alleged provocations that have driven this country to war. This was not, as we have seen so many times before, a ‘false flag’ operation (which is to say, an operation that involves Uncle Sam attacking himself and then pointing an accusatory finger at someone else). It was also not, as we have also seen on more than one occasion, an attack that was quite deliberately provoked. No, what the Tonkin Gulf incident actually was, as it turns out, is an ‘attack’ that never took place at all. The entire incident, as has been all but officially acknowledged, was spun from whole cloth. (It is quite possible, however, that the intent was to provoke a defensive response, which could then be cast as an unprovoked attack on U.S ships. The ships in question were on an intelligence mission and were operating in a decidedly provocative manner. It is quite possible that when Vietnamese forces failed to respond as anticipated, Uncle Sam decided to just pretend as though they had.)


 
Nevertheless, by early February 1965, the U.S. will – without a declaration of war and with no valid reason to wage one – begin indiscriminately bombing North Vietnam. By March of that same year, the infamous “Operation Rolling Thunder” will have commenced. Over the course of the next three-and-a-half years, millions of tons of bombs, missiles, rockets, incendiary devices and chemical warfare agents will be dumped on the people of Vietnam in what can only be described as one of the worst crimes against humanity ever perpetrated on this planet.


 
Also in March of 1965, the first uniformed U.S. soldier will officially set foot on Vietnamese soil (although Special Forces units masquerading as ‘advisers’ and ‘trainers’ had been there for at least four years, and likely much longer). By April 1965, fully 25,000 uniformed American kids, most still teenagers barely out of high school, will be slogging through the rice paddies of Vietnam. By the end of the year, U.S. troop strength will have surged to 200,000.


 
Meanwhile, elsewhere in the world in those early months of 1965, a new ‘scene’ is just beginning to take shape in the city of Los Angeles. In a geographically and socially isolated community known as Laurel Canyon – a heavily wooded, rustic, serene, yet vaguely ominous slice of LA nestled in the hills that separate the Los Angeles basin from the San Fernando Valley – musicians, singers and songwriters suddenly begin to gather as though summoned there by some unseen Pied Piper. Within months, the ‘hippie/flower child’ movement will be given birth there, along with the new style of music that will provide the soundtrack for the tumultuous second half of the 1960s.


 
An uncanny number of rock music superstars will emerge from Laurel Canyon beginning in the mid-1960s and carrying through the decade of the 1970s. The first to drop an album will be The Byrds, whose biggest star will prove to be David Crosby. The band’s debut effort, “Mr. Tambourine Man,” will be released on the Summer Solstice of 1965. It will quickly be followed by releases from the John Phillips-led Mamas and the Papas (“If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears,” January 1966), Love with Arthur Lee (“Love,” May 1966), Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention (“Freak Out,” June 1966), Buffalo Springfield, featuring Stephen Stills and Neil Young (“Buffalo Springfield,” October 1966), and The Doors (“The Doors,” January 1967).


 
One of the earliest on the Laurel Canyon/Sunset Strip scene is Jim Morrison, the enigmatic lead singer of The Doors. Jim will quickly become one of the most iconic, controversial, critically acclaimed, and influential figures to take up residence in Laurel Canyon. Curiously enough though, the self-proclaimed “Lizard King” has another claim to fame as well, albeit one that none of his numerous chroniclers will feel is of much relevance to his career and possible untimely death: he is the son, as it turns out, of the aforementioned Admiral George Stephen Morrison.


 
And so it is that, even while the father is actively conspiring to fabricate an incident that will be used to massively accelerate an illegal war, the son is positioning himself to become an icon of the ‘hippie’/anti-war crowd. Nothing unusual about that, I suppose. It is, you know, a small world and all that. And it is not as if Jim Morrison’s story is in any way unique.


 
During the early years of its heyday, Laurel Canyon’s father figure is the rather eccentric personality known as Frank Zappa. Though he and his various Mothers of Invention line-ups will never attain the commercial success of the band headed by the admiral’s son, Frank will be a hugely influential figure among his contemporaries. Ensconced in an abode dubbed the ‘Log Cabin’ – which sat right in the heart of Laurel Canyon, at the crossroads of Laurel Canyon Boulevard and Lookout Mountain Avenue – Zappa will play host to virtually every musician who passes through the canyon in the mid- to late-1960s. He will also discover and sign numerous acts to his various Laurel Canyon-based record labels. Many of these acts will be rather bizarre and somewhat obscure characters (think Captain Beefheart and Larry “Wild Man” Fischer), but some of them, such as psychedelic rocker cum shock-rocker Alice Cooper, will go on to superstardom.


 
Zappa, along with certain members of his sizable entourage (the ‘Log Cabin’ was run as an early commune, with numerous hangers-on occupying various rooms in the main house and the guest house, as well as in the peculiar caves and tunnels lacing the grounds of the home; far from the quaint homestead the name seems to imply, by the way, the ‘Log Cabin’ was a cavernous five-level home that featured a 2,000+ square-foot living room with three massive chandeliers and an enormous floor-to-ceiling stone fireplace), will also be instrumental in introducing the look and attitude that will define the ‘hippie’ counterculture (although the Zappa crew preferred the label ‘Freak’). Nevertheless, Zappa (born, curiously enough, on the Winter Solstice of 1940) never really made a secret of the fact that he had nothing but contempt for the ‘hippie’ culture that he helped create and that he surrounded himself with.


 
Given that Zappa was, by numerous accounts, a rigidly authoritarian control-freak and a supporter of U.S. military actions in Southeast Asia, it is perhaps not surprising that he would not feel a kinship with the youth movement that he helped nurture. And it is probably safe to say that Frank’s dad also had little regard for the youth culture of the 1960s, given that Francis Zappa was, in case you were wondering, a chemical warfare specialist assigned to – where else? – the Edgewood Arsenal. Edgewood is, of course, the longtime home of America’s chemical warfare program, as well as a facility frequently cited as being deeply enmeshed in MK-ULTRA operations. Curiously enough, Frank Zappa literally grew up at the Edgewood Arsenal, having lived the first seven years of his life in military housing on the grounds of the facility. The family later moved to Lancaster, California, near Edwards Air Force Base, where Francis Zappa continued to busy himself with doing classified work for the military/intelligence complex. His son, meanwhile, prepped himself to become an icon of the peace & love crowd. Again, nothing unusual about that, I suppose.


 
Zappa’s manager, by the way, is a shadowy character by the name of Herb Cohen, who had come out to L.A. from the Bronx with his brother Mutt just before the music and club scene began heating up. Cohen, a former U.S. Marine, had spent a few years traveling the world before his arrival on the Laurel Canyon scene. Those travels, curiously, had taken him to the Congo in 1961, at the very time that leftist Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba was being tortured and killed by our very own CIA. Not to worry though; according to one of Zappa’s biographers, Cohen wasn’t in the Congo on some kind of nefarious intelligence mission. No, he was there, believe it or not, to supply arms to Lumumba “in defiance of the CIA.” Because, you know, that is the kind of thing that globetrotting ex-Marines did in those days (as we’ll see soon enough when we take a look at another Laurel Canyon luminary).


 
Making up the other half of Laurel Canyon’s First Family is Frank’s wife, Gail Zappa, known formerly as Adelaide Sloatman. Gail hails from a long line of career Naval officers, including her father, who spent his life working on classified nuclear weapons research for the U.S. Navy. Gail herself had once worked as a secretary for the Office of Naval Research and Development (she also once told an interviewer that she had “heard voices all [her] life”). Many years before their nearly simultaneous arrival in Laurel Canyon, Gail had attended a Naval kindergarten with “Mr. Mojo Risin’” himself, Jim Morrison (it is claimed that, as children, Gail once hit Jim over the head with a hammer). The very same Jim Morrison had later attended the same Alexandria, Virginia high school as two other future Laurel Canyon luminaries – John Phillips and Cass Elliott.


 
“Papa” John Phillips, more so than probably any of the other illustrious residents of Laurel Canyon, will play a major role in spreading the emerging youth ‘counterculture’ across America. His contribution will be twofold: first, he will co-organize (along with Manson associate Terry Melcher) the famed Monterrey Pop Festival, which, through unprecedented media exposure, will give mainstream America its first real look at the music and fashions of the nascent ‘hippie’ movement. Second, Phillips will pen an insipid song known as “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair),” which will quickly rise to the top of the charts. Along with the Monterrey Pop Festival, the song will be instrumental in luring the disenfranchised (a preponderance of whom are underage runaways) to San Francisco to create the Haight-Asbury phenomenon and the famed 1967 “Summer of Love.”


 
Before arriving in Laurel Canyon and opening the doors of his home to the soon-to-be famous, the already famous, and the infamous (such as the aforementioned Charlie Manson, whose ‘Family’ also spent time at the Log Cabin and at the Laurel Canyon home of “Mama” Cass Elliot, which, in case you didn’t know, sat right across the street from the Laurel Canyon home of Abigail Folger and Voytek Frykowski, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves here), John Edmund Andrew Phillips was, shockingly enough, yet another child of the military/intelligence complex. The son of U.S. Marine Corp Captain Claude Andrew Phillips and a mother who claimed to have psychic and telekinetic powers, John attended a series of elite military prep schools in the Washington, D.C. area, culminating in an appointment to the prestigious U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis


 
After leaving Annapolis, John married Susie Adams, a direct descendant of ‘Founding Father’ John Adams. Susie’s father, James Adams, Jr., had been involved in what Susie described as “cloak-and-dagger stuff with the Air Force in Vienna,” or what we like to call covert intelligence operations. Susie herself would later find employment at the Pentagon, alongside John Phillip’s older sister, Rosie, who dutifully reported to work at the complex for nearly thirty years. John’s mother, ‘Dene’ Phillips, also worked for most of her life for the federal government in some unspecified capacity. And John’s older brother, Tommy, was a battle-scarred former U.S. Marine who found work as a cop on the Alexandria police force, albeit one with a disciplinary record for exhibiting a violent streak when dealing with people of color.


 
John Phillips, of course – though surrounded throughout his life by military/intelligence personnel – did not involve himself in such matters. Or so we are to believe. Before succeeding in his musical career, however, John did seem to find himself, quite innocently of course, in some rather unusual places. One such place was Havana, Cuba, where Phillips arrived at the very height of the Cuban Revolution. For the record, Phillips has claimed that he went to Havana as nothing more than a concerned private citizen, with the intention of – you’re going to love this one – “fighting for Castro.” Because, as I mentioned earlier, a lot of folks in those days traveled abroad to thwart CIA operations before taking up residence in Laurel Canyon and joining the ‘hippie’ generation. During the two weeks or so that the Cuban Missile Crisis played out, a few years after Castro took power, Phillips found himself cooling his heels in Jacksonville, Florida – alongside, coincidentally I’m sure, the Mayport Naval Station.


 
Anyway, let’s move on to yet another of Laurel Canyon’s earliest and brightest stars, Mr. Stephen Stills. Stills will have the distinction of being a founding member of two of Laurel Canyon’s most acclaimed and beloved bands: Buffalo Springfield, and, needless to say, Crosby, Stills & Nash. In addition, Stills will pen perhaps the first, and certainly one of the most enduring anthems of the 60s generation, “For What It’s Worth,” the opening lines of which appear at the top of this post (Stills’ follow-up single will be entitled “Bluebird,” which, coincidentally or not, happens to be the original codename assigned to the MK-ULTRA program).



 
Before his arrival in Laurel Canyon, Stephen Stills was (*yawn*) the product of yet another career military family. Raised partly in Texas, young Stephen spent large swaths of his childhood in El Salvador, Costa Rica, the Panama Canal Zone, and various other parts of Central America – alongside his father, who was, we can be fairly certain, helping to spread ‘democracy’ to the unwashed masses in that endearingly American way. As with the rest of our cast of characters, Stills was educated primarily at schools on military bases and at elite military academies. Among his contemporaries in Laurel Canyon, he was widely viewed as having an abrasive, authoritarian personality. Nothing unusual about any of that, of course, as we have already seen with the rest of our cast of characters.


 
There is, however, an even more curious aspect to the Stephen Stills story: Stephen will later tell anyone who will sit and listen that he had served time for Uncle Sam in the jungles of Vietnam. These tales will be universally dismissed by chroniclers of the era as nothing more than drug-induced delusions. Such a thing couldn’t possibly be true, it will be claimed, since Stills arrived on the Laurel Canyon scene at the very time that the first uniformed troops began shipping out and he remained in the public eye thereafter. And it will of course be quite true that Stephen Stills could not have served with uniformed ground troops in Vietnam, but what will be ignored is the undeniable fact that the U.S. had thousands of ‘advisers’ – which is to say, CIA/Special Forces operatives – operating in the country for a good many years before the arrival of the first official ground troops. What will also be ignored is that, given his background, his age, and the timeline of events, Stephen Stills not only could indeed have seen action in Vietnam, he would seem to have been a prime candidate for such an assignment. After which, of course, he could rather quickly become – stop me if you’ve heard this one before – an icon of the peace generation.


 
Another of those icons, and one of Laurel Canyon’s most flamboyant residents, is a young man by the name of David Crosby, founding member of the seminal Laurel Canyon band the Byrds, as well as, of course, Crosby, Stills & Nash. Crosby is, not surprisingly, the son of an Annapolis graduate and WWII military intelligence officer, Major Floyd Delafield Crosby. Like others in this story, Floyd Crosby spent much of his post-service time traveling the world. Those travels landed him in places like Haiti, where he paid a visit in 1927, when the country just happened to be, coincidentally of course, under military occupation by the U.S. Marines. One of the Marines doing that occupying was a guy that we met earlier by the name of Captain Claude Andrew Phillips.


 
But David Crosby is much more than just the son of Major Floyd Delafield Crosby. David Van Cortlandt Crosby, as it turns out, is a scion of the closely intertwined Van Cortlandt, Van Schuyler and Van Rensselaer families. And while you’re probably thinking, “the Van Who families?,” I can assure you that if you plug those names in over at Wikipedia, you can spend a pretty fair amount of time reading up on the power wielded by this clan for the last, oh, two-and-a-quarter centuries or so. Suffice it to say that the Crosby family tree includes a truly dizzying array of US senators and congressmen, state senators and assemblymen, governors, mayors, judges, Supreme Court justices, Revolutionary and Civil War generals, signers of the Declaration of Independence, and members of the Continental Congress. It also includes, I should hasten to add – for those of you with a taste for such things – more than a few high-ranking Masons. Stephen Van Rensselaer III, for example, reportedly served as Grand Master of Masons for New York. And if all that isn’t impressive enough, according to the New England Genealogical Society, David Van Cortlandt Crosby is also a direct descendant of ‘Founding Fathers’ and Federalist Papers’ authors Alexander Hamilton and John Jay.


 
If there is, as many believe, a network of elite families that has shaped national and world events for a very long time, then it is probably safe to say that David Crosby is a bloodline member of that clan (which may explain, come to think of it, why his semen seems to be in such demand in certain circles – because, if we’re being honest here, it certainly can’t be due to his looks or talent.) If America had royalty, then David Crosby would probably be a Duke, or a Prince, or something similar (I’m not really sure how that shit works). But other than that, he is just a normal, run-of-the-mill kind of guy who just happened to shine as one of Laurel Canyon’s brightest stars. And who, I guess I should add, has a real fondness for guns, especially handguns, which he has maintained a sizable collection of for his entire life. According to those closest to him, it is a rare occasion when Mr. Crosby is not packing heat (John Phillips also owned and sometimes carried handguns). And according to Crosby himself, he has, on at least one occasion, discharged a firearm in anger at another human being. All of which made him, of course, an obvious choice for the Flower Children to rally around.


 
Another shining star on the Laurel Canyon scene, just a few years later, will be singer-songwriter Jackson Browne, who is – are you getting as bored with this as I am? – the product of a career military family. Browne’s father was assigned to post-war ‘reconstruction’ work in Germany, which very likely means that he was in the employ of the OSS, precursor to the CIA. As readers of my “Understanding the F-Word” may recall, U.S. involvement in post-war reconstruction in Germany largely consisted of maintaining as much of the Nazi infrastructure as possible while shielding war criminals from capture and prosecution. Against that backdrop, Jackson Browne was born in a military hospital in Heidelberg, Germany. Some two decades later, he emerged as … oh, never mind.


 
Let’s talk instead about three other Laurel Canyon vocalists who will rise to dizzying heights of fame and fortune: Gerry Beckley, Dan Peek and Dewey Bunnell. Individually, these three names are probably unknown to virtually all readers; but collectively, as the band America, the three will score huge hits in the early ‘70s with such songs as “
Ventura Highway
,” “A Horse With No Name,” and the Wizard of Oz-themed “The Tin Man.” I guess I probably don’t need to add here that all three of these lads were products of the military/intelligence community. Beckley’s dad was the commander of the now-defunct West Ruislip USAF base near London, England, a facility deeply immersed in intelligence operations. Bunnell’s and Peek’s fathers were both career Air Force officers serving under Beckley’s dad at West Ruislip, which is where the three boys first met.


 
We could also, I suppose, discuss Mike Nesmith of the Monkees and Cory Wells of Three Dog Night (two more hugely successful Laurel Canyon bands), who both arrived in LA not long after serving time with the U.S. Air Force. Nesmith also inherited a family fortune estimated at $25 million. Gram Parsons, who would briefly replace David Crosby in The Byrds before fronting The Flying Burrito Brothers, was the son of Major Cecil Ingram “Coon Dog” Connor II, a decorated military officer and bomber pilot who reportedly flew over 50 combat missions. Parsons was also an heir, on his mother’s side, to the formidable Snively family fortune. Said to be the wealthiest family in the exclusive enclave of Winter Haven, Florida, the Snively family was the proud owner of Snively Groves, Inc., which reportedly owned as much as 1/3 of all the citrus groves in the state of Florida.


 
And so it goes as one scrolls through the roster of Laurel Canyon superstars. What one finds, far more often than not, are the sons and daughters of the military/intelligence complex and the sons and daughters of extreme wealth and privilege – and oftentimes, you’ll find both rolled into one convenient package. Every once in a while, you will also stumble across a former child actor, like the aforementioned Brandon DeWilde, or Monkee Mickey Dolenz, or eccentric prodigy Van Dyke Parks. You might also encounter some former mental patients, such as James Taylor, who spent time in two different mental institutions in Massachusetts before hitting the Laurel Canyon scene, or Larry “Wild Man” Fischer, who was institutionalized repeatedly during his teen years, once for attacking his mother with a knife (an act that was gleefully mocked by Zappa on the cover of Fischer’s first album). Finally, you might find the offspring of an organized crime figure, like Warren Zevon, the son of William “Stumpy” Zevon, a lieutenant for infamous LA crimelord Mickey Cohen.


 
All these folks gathered nearly simultaneously along the narrow, winding roads of Laurel Canyon. They came from across the country – although the Washington, DC area was noticeably over-represented – as well as from Canada and England. They came even though, at the time, there wasn't much of a pop music industry in Los Angeles. They came even though, at the time, there was no live pop music scene to speak of. They came even though, in retrospect, there was no discernable reason for them to do so.


 
It would, of course, make sense these days for an aspiring musician to venture out to Los Angeles. But in those days, the centers of the music universe were Nashville, Detroit and New York. It wasn’t the industry that drew the Laurel Canyon crowd, you see, but rather the Laurel Canyon crowd that transformed Los Angeles into the epicenter of the music industry. To what then do we attribute this unprecedented gathering of future musical superstars in the hills above Los Angeles? What was it that inspired them all to head out west? Perhaps Neil Young said it best when he told an interviewer that he couldn’t really say why he headed out to LA circa 1966; he and others “were just going like Lemmings.”


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PostSubject: Re: The Strange but Mostly True Story of Laurel Canyon and the Birth of the Hippie Generation   Sun Nov 08, 2015 9:20 pm

The Strange but Mostly True Story of Laurel Canyon and the Birth of the Hippie Generation
Part XIII
January 26, 2009






“No one could recall ever seeing or hearing about Gram being involved in a protest of any sort.”

Author Ben Fong Torres, who interviewed scores of people close to Gram Parsons while researching Hickory Wind


 

 
Timing is a curious thing. When I first started this series in May of 2008, the fact that Jim Morrison’s father had served as the commander of the ships involved in the Gulf of Tonkin ‘incident’ had gone virtually unreported for some four-and-a-half decades. Readers were shocked – shocked, I tell you! – when I began this series by trotting out that revelation. Some even accused me of making it up, or of somehow twisting the facts.


 
But as fate would have it, as December of 2008 rolled around, the mainstream media was suddenly awash with reports of the unusual Morrison family connection. On December 8, for example, the Los Angeles Times carried a report on Admiral George Stephen Morrison, described therein as “a retired Navy rear admiral and the father of the late rock icon Jim Morrison.” According to the Times report, “Morrison had a long career that included serving as operations officer aboard the aircraft carrier Midway and commanding the fleet during the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident, which led to an escalation of American involvement in Vietnam.” (emphasis added)


 
The very next day, on December 9, the New York Times followed suit with a report by William Grimes: “George S. Morrison, who commanded the fleet during the Gulf of Tonkin incident that led to an escalation of the Vietnam War and whose son Jim was the lead singer of the Doors … Aboard the flagship carrier Bon Homme Richard, Mr. Morrison commanded American naval forces in the gulf when the destroyer Maddox engaged three North Vietnamese torpedo boats on Aug. 2, 1964. A skirmish and confused reports of a second engagement two days later led President Lyndon B. Johnson to order airstrikes against North Vietnam and to request from Congress what became known as the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, allowing him to carry out further military operations without declaring war.” (emphasis again added)


 
Mr. Grimes has penned a rather charitable account of the Tonkin Gulf incident, to be sure, but what is of far more interest here is the fact that the media is talking about the Morrison/Tonkin Gulf/Doors connection at all. What makes it okay to do so now, it would appear, is the fact that Admiral Morrison exited this world on November 17, 2008, at the ripe old age of 89. His death was reportedly due to unspecified injuries sustained in a fall. According to his obituaries, his distinguished career included raining bombs down on Japanese civilians and Pacific Islanders during the final year of World War II, and serving as “an instructor for secret nuclear-weapons projects in Albuquerque.”


 
On December 7, the day before George Morrison’s name turned up in the LA Times’ obituaries, another key name from the Laurel Canyon saga appeared there as well: Elmer Valentine, co-owner of the hottest clubs on the Strip in the late 1960s and early 1970s – the Whisky-A-Go-Go, the Roxy, and the Rainbow. Valentine died of unspecified causes on December 3, 2008, at the age of 85. On December 9, the New York Times ran his obituary right alongside that of Morrison. Valentine was therein characterized as “a self-described crooked cop who fled Chicago to start a new life on the Sunset Strip.”


 
Some scribes, I suppose, would find it a bit disconcerting to find that some of the characters in their work-in-progress had suddenly started dropping dead. After all, the cause of death in both cases is a bit fuzzy, and Morrison dropped just four days after Part 11 was posted and Valentine followed suit 6 days after Part 12 went up. But they were both quite elderly, of course, so maybe it was just their time to go.


 
Anyway, the real focus of this chapter is singer/songwriter/guitarist/keyboardist Gram Parsons, and the Gram Parsons story, as it turns out, is essentially a microcosm of the Laurel Canyon story. Most of the classic elements are present and accounted for: the royal bloodlines, the not-so-well-hidden intelligence connections, the occult overtones, the extravagantly wealthy family background, an incinerated house or two, and, of course, a whole lot of curious deaths. Without further adieu then, let’s get to know a little more about Mr. Parsons.


 
First of all, let’s begin with the obvious: Gram Parsons was far from being the biggest star to emerge from the Laurel Canyon scene. In his short lifetime, he failed to achieve any significant level of commercial success. None of his albums, whether recorded solo or with the International Submarine Band, the Byrds, or the Flying Burrito Brothers, climbed very high on the sales charts. But to many fans and musicians alike, he is considered a hugely influential and tragically overlooked figure.


 
It is safe to say that Parsons does not have nearly the number of fans that, say, David Crosby or Frank Zappa have. Compared to contemporaries who died during the same era and at roughly the same age – artists like Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix – Parsons is all but unknown. But the fans that he does have tend to be particularly rabid ones, and if you happen to be one of them, you might want to skip this chapter. And the next, actually, because this is kind of a long story.


 
We begin back about, oh, a thousand years ago, with Ferdinand the Great, the first King of Castille on the Iberian Peninsula. It is to him that the wealthy Connor family claims their family lineage can be traced. Also in the family tree was King Edward II of England, son of Edward I and Eleanor of Castille. According to some sources, Eddie II was murdered by having a red-hot iron rod shoved up his ass, though most of his loyal subjects probably didn’t shed many tears. Bringing the royal bloodline to America was one Colonel George Reade, born in the UK in 1608 and married in Yorktown, Pennsylvania sometime thereafter.


 
Reade’s offspring would ultimately spawn Ingram Cecil Connor, Jr., a well-to-do gent who settled in Columbia, Tennessee. Like his father before him, Cecil attended Columbia Military Academy. In May 1940, at the outset of World War II, he then enlisted in the US Army Air Force as a 2nd Lieutenant. In March of 1941, Cecil, who during the war would become known as “Coon Dog,” though no one seems to remember why, was shipped off to Hawaii. Nine months later, of course, Pearl Harbor came under attack by Japanese bombers.


 
Not to worry though – Cecil was never in harm’s way, having opted to forgo living in officer’s quarters on the military base in favor of staying at a luxurious, massive estate near Diamond Head owned by uber-wealthy heiress Barbara Hutton. Hutton, for those who don’t know, was the granddaughter of Frank Woolworth, the founder of the Woolworth’s five-and-dime store chain. She was also the daughter of Franklyn Laws Hutton, a co-founder of E.F. Hutton, one of the nation’s most prestigious brokerage firms until it ran afoul of the law for such crimes as check kiting, money laundering and mail fraud. Barbara was also the niece of Marjory Post Hutton, the daughter of C.W. Post, founder of what would become General Foods.


 
Like so many of the other characters who have populated this story (including Gram Parsons), Barbara was traumatized in childhood by the alleged suicide of a parent. According to news reports, it was 5-year-old Barbara who discovered her mother Edna’s lifeless body in May of 1917. An empty bottle of strychnine was reportedly recovered by police from a nearby bathroom. There was no autopsy performed and no official inquest was ever conducted, as would be expected when an extremely wealthy person dies under questionable circumstances.


 
In 1930, just after the onset of the last Great Depression, Barbara was thrown a lavish debutante ball attended by those at the very top of the food chain, including members of the Astor and Rockefeller families. The next year, she inherited a fortune estimated to be worth the equivalent of $1 billion today. She was just nineteen at the time. Two years later, she received further inheritance that raised her net worth to an estimated $2-$2.5 billion (in today’s dollars). Much of the rest of the country was busily wallowing in abject poverty.


 
Ms Hutton lived a very troubled life, with numerous failed marriages and relationships. One of her many paramours was Phillip van Rensselaer, who later penned a book about her life which he entitled Million Dollar Baby. Van Rensselaer, it will be recalled, was from the same family tree as Laurel Canyon’s own David Crosby – the man whom Gram Parsons would briefly replace in the Byrds. And that, boys and girls, brings us back to our man-of-the-hour.


 
(I almost added “after that brief digression” to the preceding sentence, but then I remembered that, though I rarely read commentary on my work on the web, I did stumble across something the other day. The review was positive overall, though it did note that my website design was, uhmm, I think the word was “atrocious,” and that I had (this may not be an exact quote) “an unnatural fondness for the word ‘digress.’” I could, I suppose, mount a spirited defense against the charges, but the evidence appears to be overwhelming. But here I really have digres ... let’s just get back to our story, shall we?)


 
As World War II drug on, Ingram Cecil Connor, Jr. worked his way up the chain of command to the rank of Major. In the Pacific theater of operations, he was a decorated hero and a squadron commander who flew numerous combat missions. After the war, he continued to serve in the Air Force at a base in Bartow, Florida, very near the Snively family home in Winter Haven. On March 22, 1945, the spring equinox, “Coon Dog” Connor married Avis Snively.


 
The Snively clan had first come to America circa 1700, about a century after the arrival of the man who spawned the Connor clan. According to historical records and genealogical charts, Johann Jacob Schnebele, a Swiss Mennonite, was born in 1659. When in his late 50s, around 1715 or shortly thereafter, he ventured across the Atlantic and settled near Cornwall, Pennsylvania. Johann died and was buried in 1743 near Lancaster, Pennsylvania.


 
Brought over with him to America was his son Jacob, born on the winter solstice of 1694, and his daughter Maria, born in 1702. In 1724, in Mannheim, Pennsylvania, Maria Schnebele married the son of immigrants Hans Hersche and Anna Geunder. That son had Americanized his name and become known as Andrew Hershey. The Schnebele name was likewise Americanized to Snavely (or Snively). The Hershey and Snavely clans would continue to happily intermarry, ultimately producing, in 1857, Milton Snavely Hershey, the son of Henry Hershey and Fanny Snavely.


 
Milton S. Hershey, of course, would go on to found the world’s largest producer of chocolate confections. Less well known is that Hershey failed miserably in his first several attempts to launch a candy company, in Philadelphia, Chicago and New York City. All of those ventures were financed with Snively/Snavely family money. Hershey ultimately succeeded in launching the successful Lancaster Caramel Company in 1883. In 1900, he sold the caramel company to focus exclusively on chocolate confections. With proceeds from that sale, he purchased 40,000 acres of undeveloped land and built not only the world’s largest chocolate facility, but an entire company town.


 
The moral of this story, in case you missed it, is that without the Schnebele/Snavely/Snively family fortune, there never would have been any such thing as a Hershey bar or a town known as Hershey, Pennsylvania.


 
As for Maria’s brother, Jacob Schnebele, he died in August of 1766 in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, but not before fathering an astounding nineteen children. One of those was son Andrew, who himself fathered fourteen kids. From that branch of the family tree would emerge John Andrew “Papa John” Snively, born in 1888, who headed off to Florida in the early 1900s to seek his fortune. By the 1950s, Snively Groves was the largest shipper of fresh fruit in the state of Florida.


 
Avis Snively, who exchanged vows with Ingram Cecil Connor, Jr., was the daughter of Papa John. On November 5, 1946, Coon Dog and Avis gave birth to their first child and only son, Ingram Cecil Connor III, later known as Gram Parsons. Soon after, the family relocated to Waycross, Georgia, where, as with Winter Haven, the Snively family owned a massive amount of land devoted to citrus fruit production. It was there that young Ingram “Gram” Connor was raised.


 
The Connor family home in Waycross, as would be expected, was large and luxurious, and there were numerous servants in attendance, all of whom had considerably more skin pigmentation than did the Connors. Coon Dog and Avis entertained frequently, and both were well known to be heavy drinkers; there were hushed rumors that they were ‘swingers’ as well. As Gram’s younger sister, known as Little Avis, would later recall, “Things were mighty strange around the house.”


 
In September of 1957, when Gram was not yet eleven, he was sent off to attend the Bowles School, a combination prep school and military academy in Jacksonville, Florida. On his entry questionnaire, he was asked for his top three college choices; Gram chose Annapolis, West Point, and Georgia Tech. While attending Bowles, he became a member of the Centurions, the school’s version of an elite fraternity.


 
The following year, just before Christmas 1958, Ingram Cecil “Coon Dog” Connor, Jr. was found sprawled across his bed in the family home, a bullet hole in his right temple. A .38 handgun was found nearby. There was no note to be found. Cecil’s brother Tom had visited just the month before, around Thanksgiving, and Coon Dog had told him that he’d never been happier and that life with Avis was wonderful. Curiously, his death was initially ruled to be accidental.


 
Just ten months before Cecil’s death, Papa John Snively, Avis’ dad, had also died, and now she found herself with both of the men in her life gone. And yet, according to a family member, she never appeared to grieve and she displayed a “total lack of remorse” over anything she may have done to drive Coon Dog to allegedly commit suicide (by some reports, she had been having an affair).


 
Some six months after Cecil’s death, Avis, Gram and Little Avis boarded a train for a cross-country trip. They were gone the entire summer. Not long after returning, the family moved from the house that Cecil had died in and Avis soon met Robert Ellis Parsons, who owned a business that ostensibly specialized in leasing heavy construction equipment. Parson’s clients, curiously enough, happened to be in Cuba, then under the brutal hand of Batista, and in various South American countries that were also under the thumb of US-installed dictators


 
It is unclear, by the way, where the “Ellis” in Parsons name comes from, so it would probably be irresponsible to mention the Ellis family that is an intermarried branch of the Bush family, but with the Cuba connection and all, it’s hard for the mind not to wander there.


 
The Snively clan took an immediate dislike to Parsons, who was described by one family member as a “greedy son of a bitch.” Nevertheless, Avis quickly married him and Bob Parsons quickly took control of her life. One of his first moves was to adopt Gram and Avis, even going so far as to have new birth certificates drawn up listing him as their biological father (how exactly does one go about doing that, by the way?) He also promptly impregnated Avis and convinced her to file a $1.5 million lawsuit against her brother, John, Jr., and her sister, Evalyn. The suit was settled out of court, with Avis receiving an unspecified number of citrus groves, but the real repercussions would be felt some fifteen years later with the bankruptcy of much of the family business in 1974.


 
In 1960, just a year after marrying, Bob and Avis added daughter Diane to the family. Also added was eighteen-year-old babysitter Bonnie, whom Bob immediately began an affair with, which apparently was not a very well-kept secret. What was a somewhat better kept secret is that, in the early 1960s, following the Cuban revolution, Robert Ellis Parsons became involved in the ‘Cuban cause,’ which is to say that he had very close ties to the leaders of an exile group that was being trained in Polk County, Florida to overthrow the Cuban government.


 
On one occasion (or at least one occasion that is acknowledged), he brought young Gram along to visit the group’s training camp. As luck would have it, a team from Life magazine happened to also be there that day and Gram – wouldn’t you know it? – was photographed at the camp. When Avis was informed of that development, she worked quickly to insure that those photos were never published. To this day, they have never surfaced.


 
During that same era, Bob Parsons converted a downtown warehouse that he owned into a teen nightclub to showcase the talents of his ‘son,’ Ingram “Gram” Parsons, who sang and played keyboards and the guitar. Circa 1963, Gram got a folk combo together that was known as the Shilos. During the summer of 1964, the summer before Gram’s senior year of high school, the band spent a month in New York. During that brief time, Parsons met and bonded with Brandon DeWilde, Richie Furay, and John Phillips, then of the Journeymen. He would meet up with all three again a couple years later in Laurel Canyon.


 
Despite his early preference for Annapolis or West Point, Gram applied to Harvard and Johns Hopkins. Despite decidedly unimpressive grades and test scores, he was accepted by Harvard, purportedly due to an essay he submitted that he likely didn’t actually write. During his last year of high school, Gram and the Shilos booked an hour gig at the campus radio station at Bob Jones University … yes, that Bob Jones University.


 
At his high school graduation in June of 1965, Gram was in his cap and gown and all set to proceed with the ceremonies when he was pulled aside and informed that his mother Avis had suddenly passed away. Seemingly unaffected, he chose to participate in the ceremonies. A classmate and friend has said that there was no sign that anything was troubling Gram that day as he went through the graduation rituals.


 
Avis had died in the hospital, reportedly of alcohol poisoning, right after Bob Parsons had smuggled her in a bottle of scotch. Gram’s mother was just forty-two at the time of her death. His father, Coon Dog, had only made it to the age of forty-one. Neither of their kids, Gram or Little Avis, would make it even that far.


 
Soon after his mother’s death, Gram received a draft notice from the Selective Service. Not to worry though – Bob quickly got him a 4-F deferment and Gram happily went off to Harvard, enrolling in September of 1965. By February of 1966, just five months later, Gram had had enough of Harvard and he withdrew. According to some sources, he never really went to Harvard at all, but rather spent all his time taking in the folk music scene in Cambridge and putting his own band together.


 
Gram arrived at Harvard a few years too late to catch the peak of the folk music scene in Cambridge. In the early 1960s, the college town had been one of the cradles of the resurgent folk movement, hosting such luminaries as Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Bob Neuwirth, Tom Rush, Pete Seeger, Richard and Mimi Farina, Geoff and Maria Muldaur, Eric Andersen and Joni Mitchell.


 
The epicenter of the Cambridge folk scene was the legendary Club 47, opened in 1958 as a jazz and blues venue. A very young Joan Baez, whose reputedly CIA-connected father worked at nearby MIT, was the first folkie to take the stage, not long after the club opened. Dylan reportedly first performed there in 1961, taking the stage between the billed acts. The scene hit its peak in the summer of 1962, which was the Cambridge equivalent of the Haight’s Summer of Love.


 
The Cambridge scene, and others in Greenwich Village and elsewhere, were necessary precursors to the Laurel Canyon scene. The canyon scene was essentially created by taking the music of that earlier scene, particularly the work of Dylan and Seeger, and mixing it with the instrumentation being utilized across the pond by a band known as the Beatles. It is entirely fitting then that, as with Laurel Canyon, the Cambridge scene came complete with its own resident psycho killer.


 
In addition to the folk scene hitting its peak in the summer of 1962, something else newsworthy happened in Cambridge that summer: a lot of women started turning up dead – six of them in that first summer alone, and seven more over the next couple of years. And as Susan Kelly noted in The Boston Stranglers, one of those victims was killed right across the street from Club 47: “Just across the street from [victim Beverly Samans’] apartment, a very young and not yet famous Joan Baez and an equally youthful and unknown Bob Dylan were playing to reverently hushed audiences at the Club 47.”


 
As the title of Kelly’s book implies, there actually was no such person as the Boston Strangler, but that didn’t stop authorities and the media from pinning all the murders on one Albert DeSalvo, far better known as the Boston Strangler. And so it was that just as Laurel Canyon would have Charlie Manson as its unofficial mascot, the earlier scene in Cambridge had Albert DeSalvo. And neither of them, curiously enough, appear to have actually committed any murders, though a whole lot of people certainly did get murdered.


 
Folkie Richard Farina, by the way, was the husband of Mimi Baez, Joan’s younger sister. Farina had attended Cornell University as an engineering major. Cornell also happened to be where Joan and Mimi’s dad, Albert Baez, conducted classified research. Albert Baez tended to move around a lot, popping up for varying periods of time at Stanford, UC Berkeley, Cornell, and MIT, all of which have been repeatedly identified as hotbeds of MK-ULTRA research.


 
Albert Baez also traveled abroad, to France, Switzerland, and, in 1951, to Baghdad, Iraq, where he spent a year purportedly teaching physics and building a physics laboratory at the University of Baghdad. 1951 also happened to be the year that Mossadegh was duly elected in neighboring Iran and the CIA immediately began planning a coup to oust him, but I’m sure that that is just a coincidence.


 
Anyway, Farina married Mimi when he was twenty-six and she was just seventeen. The two of them, along with Joan, became stars of the Cambridge folk music scene, which they were introduced to when their dad moved the family to Boston in 1958 when he went to work at MIT. Richard and Mimi’s marriage was a short one, alas, as Richard Farina was killed in a motorcycle accident in Carmel, California, on, of all days, April 30, 1966. On that very same day, in nearby San Francisco, Anton Szandor LaVey declared it to be the dawn of the Age of Satan.


 
But perhaps I’ve gotten sidetracked here …


 
During Gram’s brief time at Harvard, he began gathering together what would become the International Submarine Band. When he dropped out in early 1966, he and his new bandmates moved to the Bronx in New York, where Gram rented an 11-room party house where marijuana and LSD flowed freely. One unofficial member of his band was child-actor-turned-aspiring-musician Brandon DeWilde, known in the 1950s as “the king of child actors.” Parsons and DeWilde worked together on demo tapes during their time in New York.


 
In November/December 1966, nine months after leaving Harvard for New York, Gram ventured out to California. While there, he met a certain Nancy Ross, who at the time was living with David Crosby. In Ben Fong-Torres’ Hickory Wind, Ross provides some interesting biographical details: “I grew up with David Crosby here in town … I was thirteen when we met. David and I were part of the debutante set … My father was a captain in the Royal Air Force of England … I married Eleanor Roosevelt’s grandson, Rex, at sixteen, seventeen. I was still married to Rex when I was with David … The marriage lasted a couple of years. I got an apartment and started designing restaurants for Elmer Valentine of Whisky-a-Go-Go.”


 
At age nineteen, Ross went with Crosby “up to his little bachelor apartment, where I drew pentagrams on the wall.” Soon after, Crosby bought a house on Beverly Glen and Ross moved in with him. That is where Gram Parsons found Nancy Ross and stole her away from David Crosby: “Brandon DeWilde, who was a good friend of David’s and Peter Fonda’s, brought Gram up to our Beverly Glen house one Christmas time.” According to Nancy, Gram quickly stole her heart.


 
Shortly after, in early 1967, Parsons permanently relocated to Los Angeles with his band in tow. According to Fong-Torres, Gram – who received up to $100,000 a year from his trust fund, a considerable amount of money in the mid-1960s – “found a house for the rest of the band on
Willow Glen Avenue
, off
Laurel Canyon Boulevard
and just north of Sunset.” He and Nancy found an apartment together nearby.


 
Meanwhile, back home, Bob Parsons had married Bonnie shortly after the death of Avis, and the newlywed couple had then moved with Little Avis and Diane to New Orleans. Back in Waycross, the Connor family home that had been abandoned after Coon Dog’s (alleged) suicide had been occupied since 1960 by the family of Sheriff Robert E. Lee. In late 1968, on the eve of the election that put Richard Nixon in the White House, the stately home exploded from within and caught fire. The cause of the explosion was never determined.
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PostSubject: Re: The Strange but Mostly True Story of Laurel Canyon and the Birth of the Hippie Generation   Sun Nov 08, 2015 9:21 pm

The Strange but Mostly True Story of Laurel Canyon and the Birth of the Hippie Generation
Part XIV
March 17, 2009









Oh, and as I watched him on the stage

My hands were clenched in fists of rage

No angel born in hell

Could break that Satan’s spell

And as the flames climbed high into the night

To light the sacrificial rite

I saw Satan laughing with delight

The day the music died


Don McLean, American Pie


 
(... continued from Part XIII )

Once ensconced in the hills above Los Angeles, Gram Parsons and his band began recording what would prove to be their only album, Safe at Home, which some pop music historians regard as the first country-rock album, but others regard as a straight country album performed by guys who look like they should be playing in a rock band. Whatever the case, by the time the album was released, in 1968, Gram had disbanded the International Submarine Band and unofficially joined the Byrds, replacing the recently departed David Crosby, who had determined that there wasn’t quite room in the band for both he and his ego.


 
Parsons’ time with the Byrds was rather brief, just four to five months, after which he was replaced by virtuoso guitarist Clarence White, who had been part of the Cambridge folk scene. Despite his brief tenure, Parsons is credited with having a major influence on the album that the band produced during that period, Sweetheart of the Rodeo, which is also regarded by some music aficionados as the first true country-rock album.


 
Soon after leaving the Byrds, Parsons ran into Richie Furay, who was casting about for a new band after the breakup of Laurel Canyon’s own Buffalo Springfield. Gram and Furay considered working together but quickly realized that they wanted to go in different musical directions, so Furay went to work putting Poco together while Parsons assembled the Flying Burrito Brothers. By 1969, Gram’s new band had taken shape, with Gram supplying lead vocals and guitar, Chris Hillman also on guitar, Chris Etheridge on bass, and “Sneaky Pete” Kleinow on pedal steel guitar. With various other local musicians sitting in, the band recorded and released The Gilded Palace of Sin, which is probably also regarded by some as the first true country-rock album. Byrd Michael Clarke would later join the band, as would soon-to-be-Eagle Bernie Leadon.


 
Also in 1969, late in the year, 23-year-old Gram hooked up with 16-year-old Gretchen Burrell. His new love interest was the daughter of high-profile news anchor Larry Burrell, who was very well-connected in Hollywood. Before long, Gretchen had moved into Parsons’ place at the notorious Chateau Marmont Hotel, with her parents’ blessings – because most wealthy parents, I would think, want their teenage daughter living in a debauched rock star’s drug den. Another guest at the hotel at that same time, incidentally, was Rod Stewart (at whose home, readers of Programmed to Kill will recall, one of the victims of the so-called Sunset Strip Killers would later be last seen).


 
At the tail end of 1969, Parsons and his fellow Burrito Brothers had the dubious distinction of playing as one of the opening acts at the Rolling Stones’ infamous free show at Altamont. Gram had become a very close confidant of the Stones, particularly Keith Richards, and he would later be credited with being the inspiration for the country flavor evident on the Stones’ Let it Bleed album.


 
Parsons had first met up with the Stones when they were in Los Angeles in the summer of 1968 to mix their Beggar’s Banquet album. Also hooking up with the Stones around that same time was Phil Kaufman, a recently-released prison buddy of Charlie Manson. Kaufman initially lived with the Manson Family after being released in March of 1968, and he thereafter remained what Kaufman himself described as a “sympathetic cousin” to Charlie. He also went to work as the Rolling Stones’ road manager for their 1968 American tour, which is the type of job apparently best filled by ex-convict friends of Charles Manson.


 
In late summer of 1969, following the probable murder of Brian Jones in July, the Stones were back in LA to complete their Let It Bleed album and prepare for yet another tour. According to Ben Fong-Torres, writing in Hickory Wind, “Mick and Keith stayed at Stephen Stills’s [sic] house near Laurel Canyon … Before Stills, the house had been occupied by Peter Tork of the Monkees.” (For the record, other reports hold that the Peter Tork house was in, not near, Laurel Canyon.)






On December 6, 1969, temporary Laurel Canyon residents Mick and Keith, along with permanent Laurel Canyon residents Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and the Flying Burrito Brothers, all gathered at a desolate speedway known as Altamont to stage a free concert. By the time it was over, four people were dead and another 850 concert-goers were injured to varying degrees, mostly by members of the Hell’s Angels swinging leaded pool cues.



 
The Angels had, of course, been hired by the Stones to ostensibly provide security. That decision is almost universally cast as an innocent mistake on the part of the band, though such a claim is difficult to believe. It was certainly no secret that the reactionary motorcycle clubs, formed by former military men, were openly hostile to hippies and anti-war activists; as early as 1965, they had brutally attacked peaceful anti-war demonstrators while police, who had courteously allowed the Angels to pass through their line, looked on. It was also known that the Angels were heavily involved in trafficking meth, a drug that was widely blamed for the ugliness that had descended over the Haight.


 
Perhaps less well known was that more than a few of those biker gangs had uncomfortably close ties to Charlie Manson, particularly a club known as the Straight Satans, one of whose members, Danny DeCarlo, watched over the Family’s arsenal of weapons. At least one of the performers taking the stage at Altamont, curiously enough, also had close ties to the motorcycle clubs; as was revealed in his autobiography, Crosby “had friends in every Bay Area chapter of the Hells Angels.”



 
The death that the concert at Altamont will always be remembered for, of course, is that of Meredith Hunter, the young man who was stabbed to death by members of the Hell’s Angels right in front of the stage while the band (in this case, the Rolling Stones) played on. The song they were playing, contrary to most accounts of the incident, was Sympathy for the Devil, as was initially reported in Rolling Stone magazine based on the accounts of several reporters on the scene and a review of the unedited film stock.


 
Most accounts claim that Hunter was killed while the band performed Under My Thumb. All such claims are based on the mainstream snuff film Gimme Shelter, in which the killing was deliberately presented out of sequence. In the absence of any alternative filmic versions of Hunter’s death, the Maysles brothers’ film became the default official orthodoxy. Of course, someone went to great lengths to insure that there would be only one available version of events; as Rolling Stone also reported, shortly after the concert, “One weird Altamont story has to do with a young Berkeley filmmaker who claims to have gotten 8MM footage of the killing. He got home from the affair Saturday and began telling his friends about his amazing film. His house was knocked over the next night, completely rifled. The thief took only his film, nothing else.”


 
Contrary to the impression created by Gimme Shelter, Hunter was killed not long into the Stones’ set. But as the film’s editor, Charlotte Zwerin, explained to Salon some thirty years later, the climax of the movie always has to come at the end: “We’re talking about the structure of a film. And what kind of concert film are you going to be able to have after somebody has been murdered in front of the stage? Hanging around for another hour would have been really wrong in terms of the film.” What wasn’t wrong, apparently, was deliberately altering the sequence of events in what was ostensibly a documentary film.



 
One of the young cameramen working for the Maysles brothers that day, curiously enough, was a guy by the name of George Lucas (it is unclear whether it was Lucas who captured the conveniently unobstructed footage of the murder.) Not long after, Lucas began a meteoric rise to the very top of the Hollywood food chain. Also present that day, and featured in the film gyrating atop a raised platform near the stage, was the King of the Freaks himself, Vito Paulekas.


 
Many of the accounts of the tragedy at Altamont include the demonstrably false claim that Hunter can unmistakably be seen drawing a gun just before being jumped and killed by the Angels (some accounts even have Hunter firing the alleged gun). The relevant frames from the film are included here for your review. What can certainly be fairly clearly seen is the large knife being brought down into Hunter’s back. But a gun being brandished by Mr. Hunter? If you can see one, then you either have far better eyes than I, or a far more active imagination. Or both.


 
The Angel who was charged with the murder and then ultimately acquitted, Alan David Passaro, was found floating facedown in a reservoir in March of 1985 with $10,000 in his pocket. Despite a widespread belief to the contrary, Passaro’s acquittal was not based on the jury having been convinced that Hunter had drawn a gun, but rather on the fact that the knife wounds that killed Hunter were apparently upstrokes, which meant that they were not the wounds inflicted on-camera by Passaro. He and/or someone else continued to stab Hunter after he was down, and it was those wounds, which the cameras didn’t clearly record, that killed him.



 
About one year after Altamont, otherwise obscure singer/songwriter Don McLean penned the lyrics to what was destined to become one of the most iconic songs in the annals of popular music: American Pie. Those lyrics are essentially a chronological recitation of various tragedies that shaped the world of popular music. Not long after a reference to the August 1969 Manson murders and their connection to the Laurel Canyon music scene (Helter Skelter in a summer swelter, The birds flew off with a fallout shelter, Eight miles high and falling fast), and just before a reference to the October 1970 death of Janis Joplin (I met a girl who sang the blues, And I asked her for some happy news, but she just smiled and turned away, I went down to the sacred store, Where I’d heard the music years before, but the man there said the music wouldn’t play), can be found a verse, reproduced at the top of this post, in which McLean characterizes the death of Hunter as a ritualized murder.


 
I, of course, would never make such a wild and reckless claim.



 
As was the custom with big events in the mid to late-1960s, particularly in the northern California area, Altamont was drenched in acid. And as was also the custom at that time, that acid was provided free-of-charge by Mr. Augustus Owsley Stanley III, also known as The Bear. At the so-called “Human Be-In” staged in January of 1967, for example, Owsley had kindly distributed 10,000 tabs of potent LSD. For the Monterey Pop Festival just five months later, he had cooked up and distributed 14,000 tabs. For Altamont, he did likewise.




The 1960s were, you see – and you can look this up if you don’t believe me – the era of brotherly love. So if someone happened to have, say, a cache of acid with a street value of $20,000-$30,000 (a considerable amount of money in the 1960s), he was naturally expected to hand it out for free to thousands of random strangers. Of course, probably the only person who routinely had such vast stockpiles of LSD was the premier acid chemist of the hippie era, Augustus Owsley Stanley.
 
No one – not Ken Kesey, not Richard “Babawhateverthefuckhecalledhimself” Alpert, not even Timothy Leary – did more to ‘turn on’ the youth of the 1960s than Owsley. Leary and his cohorts may have captured the national media spotlight and created public awareness, but it was Owsley who flooded the streets of San Francisco and elsewhere with consistently high quality, inexpensive, readily available acid. By most accounts, he was never in it for the money and he routinely gave away more of his product than he sold. What then was his motive? According to Martin Lee and Bruce Shlain, writing in Acid Dreams, “Owsley cultivated an image as a wizard-alchemist whose intentions with LSD were priestly and magical.”

 
To be sure, Owsley is revered by many as something of an icon of the 1960s counterculture – a man motivated by nothing more than an altruistic desire to ‘turn on’ the world. But then again, the trio listed in the preceding paragraph are revered by many as well, so you’ll excuse me if I’m a bit hesitant to embrace Owsley as some sort of anti-hero – especially given his rather provocative background and family history.

 

Augustus Owsley Stanley III is the son, naturally enough, of Augustus Owsley Stanley II, who served as a military officer during World War II aboard the USS Lexington and thereafter found work in Washington, D.C. as a government attorney. He raised his son primarily in – where else? – Arlington, Virginia. Young Owsley’s grandfather was Augustus Owsley Stanley, who served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1903 through 1915, as the Governor of Kentucky from 1915 through 1919, and as a U.S. Senator from 1919 through 1925. Senator Stanley’s father, a minister with the Disciples of Christ, served as a judge advocate with the Confederate Army. His mother was a niece of William Owsley, who also served as a Governor of Kentucky, from 1844 through 1848, and who lent his name to Owsley County, Kentucky.

 
During Owsley III’s formative years, he attended the prestigious Charlotte Hall Military Academy in Maryland, but was reportedly tossed out in the ninth grade for being intoxicated. Not long after that, at the tender age of fifteen, Owsley voluntarily committed himself to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington, D.C.. St. Elizabeth’s, it should be noted, had a far more sinister name upon its founding in 1855: the Government Hospital for the Insane. He remained confined there for, uhmm, ‘treatment’ for the next fifteen months. During that time, his mother, in keeping with one of the recurrent themes of this saga, passed away.

 
Owsley apparently resumed his education following his curious confinement, but he had reportedly dropped out of school by the age of eighteen. Nevertheless, he apparently had no trouble at all gaining acceptance to the University of Virginia, which he attended for a time before enlisting in the U.S. Air Force in 1956, at the age of twenty-one. During his military service, Owsley was an electronics specialist, working in radio intelligence and radar.



 
After his stint in the Air Force, Owsley set up camp in the Los Angeles area, ostensibly to study ballet. During that same time, he also worked at Pasadena’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which was undoubtedly the primary reason for his move to LA. In 1963, Owsley moved once again, this time to Berkeley, California, which just happened to be ground-zero of the budding anti-war movement. He may or may not have briefly attended UC Berkeley, which is where he allegedly cribbed the recipe for LSD from the university library.


 
Owsley soon began cooking up both Methedrine and LSD in a makeshift bathroom lab near the campus of the university. On February 21, 1965, that lab was raided by state narcotics agents who seized all his lab equipment and charged Stanley with operating a meth lab. As Barry Miles recounted in Hippie, “Berkeley was awash with speed and Owsley was responsible for much of it.” Nevertheless, Owsley walked away from the raid unscathed, and, with the help of his attorney, who happened to be the vice-mayor of Berkeley, he even successfully sued to have all his lab equipment returned. He quickly put that equipment to work producing some 4,000,000 tabs of nearly pure LSD in the mid-1960s.


 
Also in February of 1965, Owsley and his frequent sidekicks, the Grateful Dead, moved down to the Watts area of Los Angeles, of all places, to ostensibly conduct ‘acid tests.’ The group rented a house that was conveniently located right next door to a brothel, curiously paralleling the modus operandi of various intelligence operatives who were (or had been) involved in conducting their own ‘acid tests.’ The band departed the communal dwelling in April 1965, just a few months before Watts exploded in violence that left thirty-four corpses littering the streets.


 
Owsley had been with the Dead from the band’s earliest days, as both a financial backer and as their sound engineer. He is credited with numerous electronic innovations that changed the way that live rock music was presented to the masses – and likely not in a good way, given that his work as a sound technician undoubtedly drew heavily upon his military training.


 
In 1967, Owsley unleashed on the Haight a particularly nasty hallucinogen known as STP. Developed by the friendly folks at Dow Chemical, STP had been tested extensively at the Edgewood Arsenal as a possible biowarfare agent before being distributed to hippies as a recreational drug. Owsley reportedly obtained the recipe from Alexander Shulgin, a former Harvard man who developed a keen interest in psychopharmacology while serving in the U.S. Navy. Shulgin worked for many years as a senior research chemist at Dow, and later worked very closely with the DEA.


 
In 1970, Owsley began serving time after a conviction on drug charges. That time was served, appropriately enough, at Terminal Island Federal Correctional Institution, the very same prison that had, just a few years earlier, housed both Charlie Manson and Phil Kaufman. A few years later, it would also be home to both Timothy Leary and his alleged (but not actual) nemesis, G. Gordon Liddy. After his release, Owsley continued to work as a sound technician, eventually graduating to a new medium: television.


 
After that rather lengthy digression, we return now to our regularly scheduled program: the Gram Parsons saga. Along with Mick and the boys, Gram made a hasty exit from the chaos at Altamont via the Stones’ private helicopter. The next year, his Flying Burrito Brothers released their second album, Burrito Deluxe, which was produced by Jim Dickson, the man who played such a pivotal role in shaping Laurel Canyon’s first band, the Byrds. By June, Parsons had been booted out of the band, reportedly due to chronic alcohol and drug abuse. He quickly signed with A&M Records and was partnered with our old friend Terry Melcher.



 

Gram became a regular visitor to Melcher’s Benedict Canyon home, where the self-destructive pair worked on songs together, with Gram on guitar and Melcher on piano. John Phillips became a close associate of Parsons at this time as well. Meanwhile, sister Avis had been institutionalized back in New Orleans. She had gotten pregnant, after which Bob Parsons had moved quickly to have her committed and to have her marriage annulled. Little Avis reached out repeatedly to big brother Gram for help, but got none.



 
In late October of 1970, Gram went to A&M and signed out the master tapes of ten songs that he had recorded with Melcher; those tapes were never seen or heard again, as seems to happen from time-to-time with recordings made with Melcher. During roughly that same period of time, Parsons was busted with a briefcase full of prescription drugs. As would be expected, however, the charges were quietly dropped and Gram walked away unscathed.


 
There are many who claim, by the way, that the musicians under examination in this series were relentlessly persecuted by agents of the state, ostensibly to silence their voices of protest. But if that is true, then why is it that on more than one occasion when the state seems to have had solid evidence of crimes that could bring prison time, no action was taken? Our old friend David Crosby, for example, has candidly acknowledged that “the DEA could have popped me for interstate transport of dope or dealing lots of times and never did …” And John Phillips, busted for wholesale trafficking of pharmaceuticals, was, by his own account, “looking at forty-five years and got thirty days.” He began serving his sentence on April 20, appropriately enough, and served just twenty-four days – in a minimum security prison that offered “residents” such activities as “basketball, aerobics, softball, tennis, archery, and golf,” and that featured a “delicious kosher kitchen, an elaborate salad bar, and a tasty brunch on Sundays.”


 
Sorry, but we seem to have drifted off course once again. I’ll try to stay focused on the Gram Parsons story for the rest of this post.


 
In 1971, Gram married Gretchen Burrell. The lavish affair was held, curiously enough, at the New Orleans home of step-dad Bob Parsons, a fact that has left Gram’s chroniclers somewhat puzzled. Bob Parsons was, after all, the man who had – at least in the eyes of many family members – terrorized and institutionalized Gram’s younger sister, carried on a scandalous affair with the family’s babysitter, murdered Gram’s mother and subsequently married that babysitter, and repeatedly looted the family coffers. And yet it was Bob Parsons, of all people, whom Gram trusted to host his wedding, suggesting a bond between the two that would seem to defy conventional explanations.


 
That same year, Gram spent some time in France, hanging out once again with the Rolling Stones. The following year, he was signed to Reprise Records by Mo Ostin and he and Gretchen moved back into the Chateau Marmont, where Gram and Emmylou Harris began working on the songs that would make up his first solo album. Emmylou, as Fong-Torres notes, had been raised on “various military bases around Virginia,” so she quickly fit right in with the Laurel Canyon crowd.


 
In 1973, with his first solo album, entitled simply GP, due for release, “Gram and Gretchen finally moved out of the Chateau Marmont and found a cozy brown wood-shingled house on
Laurel Canyon Boulevard
, which wound its way north from Hollywood through the stars’ favorite canyon.” Working once again with Emmylou, Gram began working on tracks for what would be his posthumously-released second solo album, Grievous Angel.


 
As July of 1973 rolled around, a series of tragedies befell Parsons and the people around him. In July of the previous year, Gram’s friend Brandon DeWilde – who had introduced Gram to Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, Bruce Dern and Jack Nicholson, resulting in Gram’s involvement in The Trip – had been killed in a traffic accident. A year later, on July 15, 1973, Gram’s friend and fellow musician, Clarence White, was hit by a car and killed. According to Fong-Torres, “Around the same time that Clarence White was killed, Sid Kaiser, a familiar face in the Los Angeles rock scene, a close friend of Gram’s and, not so incidentally, a source of high-quality drugs, died of a heart attack.” Just after those two deaths, “In late July 1973 … [Gram’s] house in Laurel Canyon burned down.”


 
Other sources, for the record, have placed that house in Topanga Canyon rather than Laurel Canyon. Whatever the case, Gram was home when the house caught fire and was briefly hospitalized for smoke inhalation. Having lost their home and all their possessions, Gram and Gretchen “moved into Gretchen’s father’s spacious home on
Mulholland Drive
in Laurel Canyon.” Because the Burrells, naturally enough, also lived in everyone’s favorite canyon.


 
Gram wouldn’t live in the Burrell estate long though; on September 19, 1973, Ingram Cecil Connor III died in a nondescript room at the Joshua Tree Inn. His death is usually attributed to a drug overdose, but toxicology reports suggest otherwise. Parsons’ death received minimal press coverage, partly because, as fate would have it, singer/songwriter Jim Croce went down in a blaze of glory the very next day, on September 20, 1973. But though the media had moved on, the Gram Parsons story wasn’t quite over yet.


 
Parsons had been a regular visitor to Joshua Tree National Park, where one of his favorite pastimes was said to be ingesting hallucinogenic drugs and then searching for UFOs. Sometimes he would take friends, such as Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, along with him to help with the search. I’m no expert, to be sure, but it seems to me that if your goal is to succeed in spotting UFOs, then the dropping-acid strategy is probably a pretty good approach. But again, that’s not really my area of expertise.


 
In September of 1973, Gram was accompanied to Joshua Tree by his personal assistant, Michael Martin, Martin’s girlfriend, Dale McElroy, and Parson’s former high school sweetheart, Margaret Fisher. As the story goes, the group soon ran out of pot and quickly dispatched Martin back to LA to pick up a fresh supply. He was, therefore, officially not there at the time of Gram’s death, though why he hadn’t returned has never been explained, especially given that his job was, specifically, to keep an eye on Gram and monitor his drug intake.


 
How Gram Parsons died is anyone’s guess. There are as many versions of the event as there were witnesses to it. Actually, that’s not quite true – there are more versions than there were witnesses, because some of those witnesses have told more than one story. Officially, Parsons died of an overdose, but forensic testing revealed no morphine or barbiturates in his blood. Morphine showed up in his liver and urine, but as experts have noted, those toxicology results indicate chronic, but not recent, use.


 
Police seem to have had little interest in getting at the truth and made no apparent effort to reconcile the various conflicting accounts. Details of the incident – such as how long Gram had been left alone, whether he was still alive when discovered, who made that discovery, etc. – were wildly inconsistent in the accounts of Fisher, McElroy, and Frank and Alan Barbary (the Inn’s owner and his son, who were also witnesses, and whose accounts conflicted both with each other and with the girls’ accounts).


 
At the hospital, police spoke briefly with the two girls and then released them. Within two hours, Phil Kaufman was on the scene to pick up Fisher and McElroy. Bypassing the police and the hospital, Kaufman went directly to the Inn, which the girls had returned to, and quickly hustled them straight back to LA. Police never spoke to either of the women again, despite the conflicting accounts and the open question of what exactly it was that killed Gram.


 
On the autumnal equinox of 1973, Kaufman and Martin, driving a dilapidated hearse provided by McElroy, arrived at LAX to claim the body of Gram Parsons. Apparently no one, including the police officer who was nearby, found it at all unusual that two drunken, disheveled men in an obviously out-of-service hearse (it had no license plates and several broken windows) had arrived without any paperwork to claim the body of a deceased celebrity. In fact, according to Kaufman’s dubious account, the cop even helped the pair load the casket into the hearse – and then looked the other way when Martin slammed the hearse into a wall on the way out of the hangar.


 
Kaufman and Martin then drove the body back out to Joshua Tree, doused it with gasoline and set it ablaze. Local police initially speculated that the cremation was “ritualistic,” which indeed it was, but such reports were, and continue to be, scoffed at.


 
On September 26, LAPD detectives, led by anchorman Larry Burrell, came knocking on Kaufman’s door with warrants to serve. Bizarrely enough, director Arthur Penn was there with a full crew shooting scenes for the film Night Moves with star Gene Hackman (because when you’re a friend of Charlie Manson’s, it would appear, everyone in Hollywood wants to hang out with you). While the crew continued working, Kaufman was taken in, but he was back just a few hours later. In the end, he and Martin were fined $300 each plus reimbursement for the cost of the coffin.


 
In January 1974, four months after his death, Grievous Angel was released to critical acclaim and public indifference. Later that year, Gram’s adoptive father, Bob Parsons, died as well, reportedly of alcohol-related illness. He had apparently been making moves aimed at gaining control of the deceased musician’s estate. In keeping with family tradition, Bob failed to make it to the age of fifty (Gram’s real dad, Coon Dog, had died at forty-one, his mother at forty-two, and Gram at just twenty-six).


 
By sheer coincidence, no doubt, the deaths of Gram and Bob Parsons were followed by the bankruptcy of much of the Snively family business, which also occurred in 1974. Around that same time, Little Avis gave birth to daughter Flora. Sixteen years later, both were killed in a boating accident in Virginia. Avis had made it all the way to age forty.
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PostSubject: Re: The Strange but Mostly True Story of Laurel Canyon and the Birth of the Hippie Generation   Sun Nov 08, 2015 9:23 pm


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Inside The LC: The Strange but Mostly True Story of Laurel Canyon and the Birth of the Hippie Generation
Part XXII
Updated April 1, 2014






No, this isn't actually a new installment of the Laurel Canyon series. It is, instead, an explanation of why there haven't been any new chapters posted in quite some time now. There are, I can assure you, a number of new chapters that have been written - one on Frank Zappa and a couple of his more colorful discoveries (Captain Beefheart and Larry "Wild Man" Fischer), one on Arthur Lee and his band Love, one on John Kay and his band Steppenwolf, and one on Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys. There are also a number of new additions to the Laurel Canyon Death List. And some supplemental material concerning the death of young Godo Paulekas.

There is also a new chapter that takes a look at the punk and new wave scene that, in the late 1970s, began replacing the sounds of Laurel Canyon on the radio dial. And a new epilogue that reveals that Charlie Manson wasn't the only serial killer/mass murderer with curious ties to the Laurel Canyon scene. And a new preface that aims to accomplish two things: explain to readers how and why I came to pen this saga, and preemptively respond to potential critics. Also added is a forward written by my esteemed colleague, Nick Bryant, author of The Franklin Scandal.

None of that, however, will be making an appearance on this website, or on any other website. Instead, it will be incorporated into - drum roll, please - a Laurel Canyon book! I have been, you see, quietly working for some time now with a publisher in the UK. And what we have put together is, I honestly believe, a vastly improved telling of the Laurel Canyon saga. In addition to all the new material that will be exclusive to the book, much of the previously posted material has been reorganized and extensively edited to improve the flow of this rather dark journey through what was supposed to be a hippie utopia. And both an index and a bibliography have been added to make this work a more valuable research tool.

The published version carries a different title: Weird Scenes Inside the Canyon: Laurel Canyon, Covert Ops & the Dark Heart of the Hippie Dream. In the Table of Contents below, all chapters/sections that appear in red consist of all new, previously unposted material; those in orange have been supplemented with varying amounts of new material. Since late September, Weird Scenes has had its very own Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/WeirdScenesInsideTheCanyon, with additional information. If you stop by, please be sure to hit the 'like' button.

The book's official release date is April 4. I have begun taking pre-orders for signed copies here, for both paperback and hardcover editions. From that same page, you can also order signed copies of my previous book, Programmed to Kil
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