Legacy Time 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 other outlets).

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