Real or Fake?

Acid Test Warlocks

Claimed to be 1st Acid Test Handbill Poster [ Back to Gallery ]
This item showed up on ebay a little over a year ago and has caused quite a controversy as to its authenticity. The item was quickly purchased by an avid Acid Test collector who believes the item to be authentic. While I respect this individual's opinion, I can't say I agree. Why? Well let me outline a few facts and things from my point of view:

1. In 1968 Tom Wolf wrote the Electric Kool Aid Acid Test from numerous interviews with the participants in the Acid Test, including the first Acid Test which this item represents. Prior to Tom Wolf being an author, he worked as a news reporter for several years, so he was very trained in documenting facts from interviews. In the book Wolf clearly states that only one sign (drawn on a board by Hartweg on the day of the event) was used to advertise this event and the sign was placed in a local book store with the address of Ken Babbs House on the sign. According to the book, very few people saw the sign and as a result very few people showed up since the event was only organized the day before. Further, Wolf states that music for this 1st event was provided by the Pranksters, not the Grateful Dead or Warlocks. Wolf also states the Grateful Dead's first attendance at an Acid Test was the week following at San Jose. While I will admit, the EKAAT, may not be 100% accurate since it is based upon interviews, it is probably the best source of documentated information regarding these Acid Test events because it was written around the time they were being held, not from recollections of people 40 years after the fact and was done by an experienced news writer.

2. In 1972 Rolling Stone published an interview with Jerry Garcia and Mountain Girl which Jerry gives a great history of the early evolution of the Grateful Dead including the band's first involvement with the Acid Tests. In the interview, Garcia (along with Mountain Girl who was a Prankster during the Acid Test period) states very clearly that the San Jose Acid Test was the first time the Grateful Dead ever played for an Acid Test. In fact, Jerry is asked directly in the interview "when was the first time you ever met Ken Kesey?" and Garcia's reply is the "San Jose Acid Test" was the first time he had ever met him. Jerry also states that it was Page Browing up until San Jose who was the connection between Kesey and the band and Browing was the one who convinced Kesey to use the Grateful Dead to play for their first Acid Test in San Jose. Garcia also states, in the interview, that the band had changed their name from the Warlocks well prior to the San Jose and Ken Babbs event, which meant the former Warlocks would not have been using that name around the time of the first Acid Tests. The 1972 Rolling Stone Interview of Jerry and Mountain Girl is available to read on line for anyone interested in the early history of the GD and I would highly recommend it since it gives great insight into the band in those early years.

3. In Phil Lesh's recent book, he too confirms Jerry Garcia, Mountain Girls and the Electric Kool Aid Acid Test history that: a) the Warlocks never played for the first Acid Test or any Acid Test under the name of the Warlocks b) the Grateful Dead's first Acid Test was San Jose and c) the band had already changed their name from the Warlocks (to the Emergency Crew) and then to the Grateful Dead prior to the first Acid Test ever being held. What is interesting about Lesh's recollection however is, he states we (not exactly sure who we are, sinc Garcia since he says he was not there) attended the first event as individuals by pursuading Page Browing for an invite to what he thought would be a drug party. Phil states that no one brought any instruments and no one played since they were never invited as a band. So while there may be a bit of inconsistency between Phil's recollection and Garcia's that they never attended the first event, it is consistant that the band never played at the first Acid Test or was it ever invited to play. As a result it is rather ludicrous to believe they printed handbills or posters promoting the band as performers for this event, not to forget they had already changed their name by this time.

4. All of the authentic Acid Test items I have ever encountered if actually used for the event have had specific addresses for the location of the event. It is only logical that if you wanted people to show up, you would give an address. There is however the Hartweg piece pictured in the AOR which says "Muir Beach-Find it Fool", in the venue box. I have seen this actual poster, which was orginally came from Kesey's estate, with the magic marker writing on it and was used to make up handbills. I believe the venue addition, along with some additions to the original Hartweg poster, such as the addition of "Hugh Rumbly" has a seperate explanation which I would be happy to share with anyone interested.

5. Finally, the seller of this handbill has sold various other items, all of which have never been seen before including a different versions of the Carthay Studios handbill and all show in my opinion the same manufactured distressing - so, either this is a truly unique find of extremely rare Acid Test memorabilia or it is just too good to be true. Personally, I take the latter view because of all of the above.

On the optimistic side , the collector/buyer of these items sincerely believes in their authenticity and says he will have some new and relevant facts to prove their authenticity in the near future which he will share.

As a final note, there is clearly a lot of conflicting information on the web with regard to the actual Acid Test events, who participated, dates and times. Unfortunately a lot of this will likely never be sorted out, unless one kept some sort of reliable written record or documentation. Today, almost 50 years after the events, it is virtually impossible to remember the exact dates, times and happenings from memory, especially if you happened to be high on LSD at the time. That is why the earliest interviews and written history, along with proven surviving artifacts, are so important in establishing authenticity. Because these items are now so valuable and commanding such high prices, it is only certain that more and more forgeries will enter the market to try to take advantage of unsuspecting collectors .

In the meantime, if you have any viewpoints or information you would like to share, please feel free to write and I will include them in the discussion.
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