the true story of how austin became the liberal hotspot of texas *


Es­ti­mated reading time is 3 min­utes.

AUSTIN IS NO­TO­RIOUS among Texas cities for being so damn lib­eral. This state of af­fairs has baf­fled many people over the years and one of them asked this ques­tion on Quora: What caused Austin, TX to be more lib­eral than the rest of Texas?” The common-sense an­swer is the in­flux of ed­u­cated stu­dents at the Uni­ver­sity of Texas in Austin.

I was in­trigued and did the nec­es­sary re­search to find the real an­swer, which has nothing to do with the (co­in­ci­dental) in­flux of ed­u­cated people that (prob­ably) af­fected the cul­tural and po­lit­ical con­scious­ness of Austin.

Nosir­reebob, that dog don’t hunt!

But there is a com­pletely dif­ferent and much more in­ter­esting an­swer. That an­swer can be found below in­dented be­tween the im­ages, and it is a dog that can hunt:


OrangeSunshine NicholasSchou book 600

“Dubbed the Hippie Mafia, the Broth­er­hood began in the mid-1960s as a small band of peace-loving, adventure-seeking surfers in Southern Cal­i­fornia. After dis­cov­ering LSD, they took to Tim­othy Leary’s mantra of ‘Turn on, tune in, and drop out’ and re­solved to make that vi­sion a re­ality by be­coming the biggest group of acid dealers and hashish smug­glers in the na­tion, and lit­er­ally pro­viding the fuel for the psy­che­delic rev­o­lu­tion in the process.” (pub­lisher)

You’re gonna miss me

My an­swer to the ques­tion, “What caused Austin, TX to be more lib­eral than the rest of Texas?” is likely to be a wee bit dif­ferent than the others you are likely to read here. It in­volves Roky Er­ickson, who helped found the 13th Floor El­e­va­tors in late 1965.

The El­e­va­tors were the first rock & roll band to openly pros­e­ly­tize the ben­e­fits of the then-legal LSD. This did not en­dear them with the au­thor­i­ties in Texas.

In 1969, Roky was ar­rested for pos­ses­sion of one mar­i­juana cig­a­rette (a ‘joint’) in Austin. At the time, Austin was al­ready de­vel­oping lib­er­ally: it got hip in the spring of 1968 when the Vulcan Gas Com­pany opened its doors down­town. By 1970, it was crawling with hippies.

But the state of Texas was me­dievally harsh in sen­tencing even minor pot in­frac­tions and Roky faced the pos­si­bility of sev­eral years hard-time if tried and convicted.

Er­ickson had been di­ag­nosed with para­noid schiz­o­phrenia the year be­fore, so he pleaded not guilty by reason of in­sanity. He was placed in the cus­tody of sev­eral Texas hos­pi­tals until 1972, during which time he was sub­jected to mul­tiple ses­sions of elec­tro­con­vul­sive (shock) therapy and daily, heavy-duty doses of Thorazine.

Un­be­knownst to Texas of­fi­cials, a hard­core group of El­e­va­tors fans found a way to exact re­venge on Austin: they ob­tained mas­sive amounts of Or­ange Sun­shine LSD from the Broth­er­hood of Eternal Love.


O wow, man! Look at that all those groovy stars! Faaar out.


As the acid was in the form of large tablets—affectionately re­ferred to as ‘barrel or­ange sun­shine’ and noted for its as­tounding potency—the El­e­va­tors fans had to spend months grinding the bar­rels into powder using old-fashioned mor­tars and pestles.

Need­less to say, all that grinding led to the fans un­in­ten­tion­ally in­haling large quan­ti­ties of LSD, which nat­u­rally in­ter­fered with their pro­fi­ciency at pestling (“O wow, man! Look at that groovy crack in the ceiling!”), which con­sid­er­ably length­ened the time it took to com­plete the pow­der­izing of the acid.

No one is sure of the dates and the amount of time spent on this mas­sive project, as every­body was too tripped out along the way to pay no never mind. (“It was a re­ally re­ally re­ally long time, man!”)

But everyone agrees that it was late at night (“O wow, man! Look at that all those groovy stars!”) when they drove two U‑Haul trucks full of or­ange sun­shine and shov­eled it into Austin’s drinking water.

But once the deed was done—Presto Chango and Alakazam!—Austin began evolving into the most po­lit­i­cally lib­eral city in the Lone Star State.

Look it up . . .


13thFloorElevators LaMaisons 1966 1000

FEA­TURED IMAGE: The photo at the top of this page is of the backs of 4/5s of the 13th Floor El­e­va­tors on stage at La Maisons in Houston, Texas, during the summer of 1966. And for the reader new to the El­e­va­tors, yes, that’s a jug in the hands of lyri­cist Tommy Hall.



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