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:
“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 . . .
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.
Mystically liberal Virgo enjoys long walks alone in the city at night in the rain with an umbrella and a flask of 10-year-old Laphroaig who strives to live by the maxim, “It ain’t what you know that gets you into trouble; it’s what you know that just ain’t so.
I’ve been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet, a pawn, and a college dropout (twice!). Occupationally, I have been a bartender, jewelry engraver, bouncer, landscape artist, and FEMA crew chief following the Great Flood of ’72 (and that was a job that I should never, ever have left).
I am also the final author of the original O’Sullivan Woodside price guides for record collectors and the original author of the Goldmine price guides for record collectors. As such, I was often referred to as the Price Guide Guru, and—as everyone should know—it behooves one to heed the words of a guru. (Unless, of course, you’re the Beatles.)