Berkeley, California and the Red Dog Saloon in Virginia City, Nevada

During the early 1960s Cambridge, Massachusetts, Greenwich Village in New York City and Berkeley, California anchored the American folk music circuit. Berkeley's two coffee houses, the Cabale Creamery and the Jabberwock, sponsored performances by folk music artists in a beat setting. Starting in 1960, Chandler A. Laughlin III helped manage these two beat coffee houses, and he recruited the original talent that led to a unique amalgam of traditional folk music and the developing psychedelic rock scene.

In April 1963, Laughlin established a kind of tribal, family identity among approximately fifty people who attended a traditional, all-night Native American peyote ceremony in a rural setting. This ceremony combined a psychedelic experience with traditional Native American spiritual values; these people went on to sponsor a unique genre of musical expression and performance at the Red Dog Saloon in the isolated old-time mining town of Virginia City, Nevada.

Starting in June 1965, Laughlin and his cohorts created what became known as "The Red Dog Experience," featuring previously unknown musical acts--Big Brother and the Holding Company, Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service, The Charlatans, The Grateful Dead and others--who played in the completely refurbished, intimate setting of Virginia City's Red Dog Saloon. There was no clear delineation between "performers" and "audience" in "The Red Dog Experience," during which music, psychedelic experimentation, a unique sense of personal style and the first primitive light shows combined to create a new sense of community. George Hunter of the Charlatans and Laughlin himself were true "proto-hippies," with their long hair, boots and outrageous clothing of distinctly American (and Native American) heritage.

LSD manufacturer Owsley Stanley lived in Berkeley during 1965 and provided much of the LSD that became a seminal part of the "Red Dog Experience," the early evolution of psychedelic rock and budding hippie culture. At the Red Dog Saloon, The Charlatans were the first psychedelic rock band to play live (albeit unintentionally) loaded on LSD.

Psychedelic Rock in San Francisco, 1965–1966

The Red Dog Experience

When the summer of 1965 ended, participants in "The Red Dog Experience" returned to San Francisco and spread their new sense of community with the creation of the Family Dog by Luria Castell, Ellen Harman and Alton Kelley. On October 16, 1965 the Family Dog hosted San Francisco's first psychedelic rock performance, dance and light show at Longshoreman's Hall, modeled on their experiences at the Red Dog Saloon. Two other events followed before year's end, one at California Hall and one at the Matrix.

Trips Festival

After the first three Family Dog events, a much larger psychedelic event occurred at San Francisco's Longshoreman's Hall. Called "The Trips Festival," it took place on January 21–23, 1966, and was organized by Stewart Brand, Ken Kesey, Owsley Stanley and others. Ten thousand people attended this sold-out event, with a thousand more turned away each night. The big night, Saturday, January 22, saw the Grateful Dead and Big Brother and the Holding Company on stage, and 6,000 people arrived to imbibe punch spiked with LSD and witness one of the first fully-developed light shows of the era.

Fillmore Auditorium and Avalon Ballroom

By February 1966, the San Francisco psychedelic music scene was poised to come into full flower. The Family Dog became Family Dog Productions under organizer Chet Helms, promoting happenings at the Avalon Ballroom and the Fillmore Auditorium in initial cooperation with Bill Graham. The Avalon Ballroom, the Fillmore Auditorium and other venues provided settings where participants could partake of the full psychedelic music experience. Bill Ham, who had pioneered the original Red Dog light shows, perfected his art of liquid light projection, which combined light shows and film projection and became synonymous with the San Francisco ballroom experience.

The sense of style and costume that began at the Red Dog Saloon flourished when San Francisco's Fox Theater went out of business and hippies bought up its costume stock, reveling in the freedom to dress up for weekly musical performances at their favorite ballrooms. As San Francisco Chronicle music columnist Ralph Gleason put it, "They danced all night long, orgiastic, spontaneous and completely free form."


The Charlatans, Big Brother and the Holding Company, and the Grateful Dead all moved to San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury neighborhood during this period.

Some of the earliest San Francisco hippies were former students at San Francisco State College (later renamed San Francisco State University) who were intrigued by the developing psychedelic hippie music scene and "dropped out" after they started taking psychedelic drugs. These students joined the bands they loved and began living communally in the large, inexpensive Victorian apartments in the Haight.

Young Americans around the country began moving to San Francisco, and by June 1966, around 15,000 hippies had moved into the Haight.


Hippie action in the Haight centered around the Diggers, a guerrilla street theatre group that combined spontaneous street theatre, anarchistic action, and art happenings in their agenda to create a "free city." The Diggers grew from two radical traditions thriving in the area during the mid-1960s: the bohemian underground art/theater scene, and the political movement encompassing the new left, civil rights, and peace.

By late 1966, the Diggers opened stores which simply gave away their stock; provided free food, medical care, transport and temporary housing; they also organized free music concerts and works of political art.

Love Pageant Rally

On October 6, 1966, the San Francisco hippies staged a gathering in the Golden Gate Park panhandle, called "The Love Pageant Rally." As explained by Allan Cohen, co-founder of the San Francisco Oracle, the purpose of the rally was two-fold — to draw attention to the fact that LSD had just been made illegal, and to demonstrate that people who used LSD were not criminals, nor were they mentally ill. Rather, people who took LSD were mostly idealistic people who wanted to learn more about themselves and their place in the universe, and they used LSD as an aid to meditation and to creative, artistic expression. Thousands of hits of LSD were distributed free at the rally, and the Grateful Dead played; its huge success drew many more curious seekers to the Haight-Ashbury district.

Los Angeles

Los Angeles also had a vibrant hippie scene during the mid-1960s. The Venice coffeehouses and beat culture sustained the hippies, giving birth to bands like The Doors. Sunset Strip became the quintessential L.A. hippie gathering area, with its seminal rock clubs Whisky-a-Go-Go and the Troubadour. The Strip was the location of the protest described in Buffalo Springfield's early 1966 hippie anthem, "For What It's Worth."


Before the Summer of Love, Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert formed the International Foundation for Internal Freedom in Newton, Massachusetts, inhabiting two houses but later moving to a 64-room mansion at Millbrook, New York, with a communal group of about 25–30 people in residence until they were shutdown in 1967.

Drop City

In 1965, four art students and filmmakers, Gene Bernofsky, JoAnn Bernofsky, Richard Kallweit and Clark Richert, moved to a seven acre tract of land near Trinidad, Colorado. Their intention was to create a live-in work of Drop Art, continuing an art concept they had developed earlier, and informed by "happenings."

As Drop City gained notoriety in the 1960s underground, people from around the world came to stay and work on the construction projects. Inspired by the architectural ideas of Buckminister Fuller and Steve Baer, residents constructed domes and zonahedra to house themselves, using geometric panels made from the metal of automobile roofs and other inexpensive materials. In 1967 the group, consisting of 10 core people and many contributors, won Buckminster Fuller's Dymaxion award for their constructions.

The community quickly grew in reputation and size, accelerated by media attention, including news reports on national television networks. Several other communities were formed in the region. With the Summer of Love and the explosion of the hippie movement, large numbers poured into Drop City. Overwhelmed, the original occupants left. Drop City continued for several more years, then was finally abandoned.