For Psychedelic Hipsters: Rock Scully Remembers Life In The Hurricane
By: Jim McCaffrey, The Bulletin 06/28/2007
Monterey, CA - Forty summers have passed and still it seems like what is
most important to remember about the Summer of Love is that it was not. Rock
Scully, the 20-year manager of the seminal San Francisco rock band The Grateful
Dead, was there, he remembers, and he's telling all who want to know 1967
in the city by the bay was anything but a Summer of Love. Scully has recorded
some of his memories of that summer and the times leading up to it on a new
CD called 40th Anniversary Summer of Love Oral Archive (on the BeanBag1 Entertainment
label [BeanBag1.com] available from CDBaby.com/cd/rockscully, Amazon.com and
He remembers that summer of 1967 as the sad end to a beautiful time. It
was when the good vibes, music and community morphed into bad drug trips,
predatory music deals and human disaster in San Francisco's Haight Ashbury
district. It's a strange joke of time and circumstance that (much like the
so-called Summer of Love) the Grateful Dead, a group that once earned a reputation
as one of the great roaring beasts of rock 'n' roll, have been gelded by selective
memory, publicists and well-meaning fans into something that resembles a
benign, if somewhat impish and impertinent, band of wood sprites.
Scully, against all odds and good sense, held on as manager of the Grateful
Dead from 1965 to 1985. In that era, managing that band could only have been
like jumping a tornado and trying to steer.
The Dead may never have been scarier to the suits-and-ties, silent majority
and government officials of America's Great Society than in the summer of
1967. The band and their friends were notorious outlaws. Their known associates
included Hells' Angels, Pranksters, LSD manufacturers and dope smugglers.
"We weren't boy scouts," Scully concedes.
At the same time, the Dead family was part of a group of bands, social activists
and hip businesses that acted as unofficial mayors of the San Francisco counterculture.
The core of this community was well-established in the Haight by 1965 and
was already living by the ethos, mores and lifestyles that were to define
their generation in the years to come.
"I moved to the Haight district in 1963," Scully recalled recently for The
Bulletin. "More and more young people filed in, and there began to be a communal
spirit. We were all listening to the same music. We were all listening to
[Bob] Dylan and Joan Baez and Mimi Farina.
"We were adventurers, artists, musicians. All the ancillary stuff developed
in our community. Communal living, recycling, organic farming, personal freedom
and [an emphatic recognition of] women's rights all developed in the 1964
and 1965 period."
Headquarters (so to speak) for this turgid scene centered around 710 Ashbury
St. Though the band members had rooms in the old boarding house, this place
was as much a headquarters as a home.
Scully met Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh, Ron "Pigpen" McKernan, Bill Kreutzman
and Bob Weir - the musicians who became The Grateful Dead - in 1965 through
an LSD manufacturer who was bankrolling the band and wanted him to manage
them. LSD was legal at the time.
"Our house at 710 Ashbury was a boardinghouse when we moved into it," Scully
remembered. "We had a first floor office. Weir would sleep in the reclining
chair in the office. Pigpen slept in the back of the kitchen. Garcia was upstairs
next to me. It was about that time that Garcia bought a pedal steel guitar
that he set up in the hallway."
Scully recalls 710 smelling like cooked bacon. "It was a bachelor pad. There
were wet towels on the bathroom floor. We didn't have much furniture. In the
office, we sat on the desk." The sense of community was palpable though from
the start. "Boz Skaggs lived up at the top of the hill," he recalled. "Steve
Miller lived another block up. 1965 was a wonderful summer. We were co-existing
with [The Beatles' film] 'A Hard Days' Night.' We started experimenting with
light shows. "710 was an information hub. We weren't the number one band.
That was the Jefferson Airplane. We could go over to the park or out to the
Panhandle with a flatbed truck and a generator and play for free and we got
away with it. And we had a wonderful time doing it. In 1965 and 1966 there
was a sense of joy in the community."
For all his involvement with the zeitgeist that created the legend of that
time, Scully does not identify himself with the most prominent label of his
era. "The word 'hippie' was a newspaper construct - something made up by the
San Francisco Chronicle," he recalled. "We called ourselves 'freaks' and
'outlaws' or 'pranksters' or just 'hip.' I never called myself a 'hippie.'
I was a radical. I wasn't a 'hippie.'"
Scully is now on the San Francisco Arts Commission. He's back working with
the city organizing the 40th Anniversary Summer of Love concert there for
the Labor Day weekend. It will be held Sept. 2 at Speedway Meadows in Golden
Gate Park. Among the acts scheduled for the show are Country Joe McDonald,
Canned Heat, The New Riders of the Purple Sage, Greg Allman, Dan Hicks, The
Charlatans and Fishbone.
Jim McCaffrey can be reached at jmccaffrey @ thebulletin.us