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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