Ken Kesey’s PA Controller, photo credit Don Kennedy, National Music Centre, Studio Bell.
“In the mid to late sixties, counterculture was in full swing, and the momentum that was getting behind the ‘High Tide’ (as Hunter S. Thompson called it) reached a fever pitch by the time Don was experimenting and designing modules. It’s no mystery that Don was a known participant at the Trips Festivals in San Francisco, often helping with the sound and music aspects of the festival. The San Francisco Tape Music Center system was hauled to the festivals and used as a central nervous system/public address station where the MC could manipulate sound and address the audience with modulated voice and psychedelic effects to enhance the audio-visual experience. It was around this time that Ken Kesey was ‘recruiting’ Merry Pranksters, a band of misfit artists, poets and LSD enthusiasts to travel around in ‘Further’, their psychedelic painted school bus. One of the original Merry Pranksters, Ken Babbs, recalls meeting Don at the Trips Festival: We got to know him [Don Buchla] at the trips festival in Frisco in 1966 when he set up his synthesizer scene on the balcony next to our electronic setup. He had ten speakers spread out on the balcony which ran on three sides of the hall. He had a keyboard where you could run your fingers along it and have the sound zoom around through the speakers. He let me run his stuff whenever I wanted. He liked getting on the bus and wanted to know if there was anything he could make for us. We came up with the idea for the Buchla box pictured. It was essentially a mixer with a couple of effects built in. The case for the Buchla Box was hydro-dipped and painted by Ken Babbs’ son, Simon. This could be one of the many origins of the ‘red panels are dipped in LSD’ myths, as many people assumed the Buchla Box was dipped in LSD, all the while confusing the PAINT dipping process that Simon Babbs and Zane Kesey both utilized in their psychedelic artwork. Years later, Ken Kesey and Ken Babbs signed the Buchla Box and Simon sold it on eBay (I know, I know). The PA system eventually ended up at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame where it remained for some time. …”
YouTube: Tripping (1999 Ken Kesey / Merry Pranksters documentary) 55:18