Ken Kesey


Born September 13, 1935 (Colorado)

Died November 10, 2001 (Oregon)

American Writer & Merry Prankster

Ken Kesey intersected with the Beat Generation vortex in the late 1950s. He was attending the Stanford University Writing Program on a Woodrow Wilson Scholarship living on Perry Lane in Palo Alto but making frequent trips to San Francisco's North Beach. At this time, North Beach was,

Kerouac country, full of nihilistic jazz musicians and junkies-- Zen junkies, heroin junkies, even car junkies, locked into a Neal Cassady world of speed and movement. (Jay Stevens, Storming Heaven).

Based on his experience, in part, of the North Beach beatnik community.Kesey began a novel called Zoo about the intersection of middle America and bohemia Like Jack Kerouac, Kesey was a jock_artist, and the two worlds frequently collided inside of both of them.. Kesey played football in high school and in 1960 he competed in a wrestling tournament for a spot on the Olympic team.

He didn't get to the Olympics but during the summer of 1960 he did enroll in a test of psychotomimetic drugs at the Menlo Park Veterans Hospital. For several weeks Kesey was dosed with drugs like psilocybin, LSD, IT-290 and Ditran.

These drug experiments altered Kesey's basic reality paradigm and he began his own sustained period of psychedelic research. During that summer he worked as a psychiatric aide at the Veterans Hospital and began writing One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, which would become his first published novel.

Shortly after Cuckoo's Nest was published in 1962, Neal Cassady appeared at Kesey's Perry Lane home. Cassady had read the novel, and was strongly identifying with the Randle P. McMurphy character. For the next couple of years, Cassady would provide his cosmic services to Kesey and his band of psychedelic warriors, The Merry Pranksters.

In the summer of 1964 Kesey met Jack Kerouac at a Prankster party in New York. The meeting, apparently, did not go well. Urged to go to the party by his old road warrior pal, Cassady, Kerouac stayed just a few minutes at the party and apparently left disgusted.

Kesey felt bad about his botched meeting with Kerouac. An opportunity had been missed largely through an inexcusable lack of sensitivity. To the Pranksters, Kerouac was like a symbolic big brother, who'd given them the confidence and direction when they'd most needed it, but had been unable to follow his own example. He had been King of the Beats, but he'd renounced the crown. (Stevens).

Kesey continued throughout the decade riding the crest of cultural change. As the Beat Generation vortex lost its central pressure and the next generation emerged, Kesey was there, spanning both cultural cyclones.

Kesey's Merry Pranksters, with Neal Cassady driving their magical mystery bus "Furthur", were the direct descendants of those hipsters who, fifteen years earlier, drove naked down the highway, in a two-toned Hudson, looking for America.

Ken Kesey

Pitching Record YEAR TEAM ERA W L IP ER BB K 1989 Beats 3.87 13 11 228 98 57 73 1990 Beats 4.00 7 13 209 92 81 164 1995 Beats 2.95 8 2 125 41 62 79 1996 Beats 2.91 6 5 133 43 48 72 4 Seasons 3.55 34 31 695 274 248 388

Book Review: The Further Inquiry by Ken Kesey

Other people were beginning to show up at Kesey's [in 1962], and that was part of the trouble. Some of the Perry Lane crowd didn't know exactly what to make of [Neal] Cassady. Here he is before us in Kesey's Versailles, coming on, coming on, with jis shirt off and his arms jerking and his abdominal obliques jutting out at the sides like a weight lifter's...We are hip, we value the holy primitive. Only Kesey is intimating that one should learn from Cassady, he is talking to you. Which he was. Cassady wanted intellectual communion. But the intellectuals just wanted him to be the holy primitive, the Denver kid, the natural in our midst. Sometimes Cassady would sense they weren't accepting him intellectually and go off into the corner, still on his manic monologue, muttering, "All right, I'll take my own trip, I'll go off on my own trip, this is my own trip, you understand..."

--Tom Wolfe, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test

1997 Dharma Beats Roster

1997 Ken Kesey Cosmic Player Plate
Published: December 24, 1996
Updated: November 11, 2001
© 1996, 1997 by the Cosmic Baseball Association