Saturday, August 16, 2014

Slip Inside This House: The Nightmare Trip of the 13th Floor Elevators Part II

"There is no season when you are grown 
You are always risen from the seeds you've sown 
There is no reason to rise alone 
Other stories given have sages of their own"

Welcome to the second installment in my examination of the pioneering psychedelic rock band the 13th Floor Elevators. Hailing from Austin, Texas (which even back then was a kind of bohemian oasis in one of the most right wing states in the nation), the Elevators are one of the most enigmatic rock bands of all time. Lead singer and rhythm guitarist Roky Erickson is of course legendary, being one of the most famous "acid causalities" of the 1960s as well having been institutionalized (and at times subjected to electroshock treatment) at various points throughout his life.

Combine this with jug player Tommy Hall's occasional drug dealing and lysergic take on the occult and you're left with a group that could have been directly lifted from the pages of The Illuminatus! Trilogy. Naturally highly speculative accounts of the Elevators have been offered up by the likes of David McGowan in his Weird Scenes From the Canyon. Its something of a shock that Jan Irvin has yet to attack the band at length.

But moving along. In the first installment of this series I briefly addressed the Elevators' legacy and extensive influence as well as briefly addressing the psychedelic scene (initially based around peyote) that began developing around the University of Texas at Austin circa 1960. It was this scene that helped spawn the Elevators and provide them with their initial fan base.

the University of Texas at Austin during the early 1960s
With this installment I would like to examine the backgrounds of the various band members in brief. During their heyday the backbone of the group consisted of Erickson, Hall and lead guitarist Stacy Sutherland. While this nucleus remained fairly steady until 1968 the rhythm section was something of a revolving door. It originally consisted of drummer John Ike Walton and bass player Benny Thurman.

Thurman was the first member to depart, having been booted out in the spring of 1966 for a combination of reasons that included his excessive intake of speed, poor musicianship and even band politics to a certain extent. He was replaced by Ronnie Leatherman shortly thereafter and it was with this lineup that Elevators recorded their classic debut The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators.

the Elevator's classic debut
Disputes with the group's label and further internal squabbling led to the departure of Walton and Thurman in 1967. They were replaced by the two Dannys, Danny Thomas (drums) and Danny Galindo. This was arguably the group's tightest lineup and the one they recorded their epic second album, Easter Everywhere, with. Unsurprisingly, more than a few fans consider this the definitive Elevators lineup.

Leatherman later returned for the group's third and final studio album, 1969's Bull of the Woods. He was brought in to replace bass player Duke David, who had worked with Elevators in 1968. Both Hall and Erickson were largely absent from this album, with the bulk of the material being written by Sutherland (with ample help with the arrangements provided by the highly trained Thomas). Other musicians would assist the group with live shows (as members, especially Erickson, were increasingly prone to miss gigs as time went on) but they are not generally considered as official members of the group.

Thus, I shall confine myself to the already mentioned players. Things can be further narrowed down by excluding Leatherman, Thomas, Galindo, and David, as they all came from rather unremarkable backgrounds. Sutherland, Thurman, Walton, Erickson and Hall, the group's original lineup, are where the real curiosities reside.

Sutherland, like Walton and Leatherman, hailed from Kerrville, Texas. Like many of his fellow band mates in the Elevators, Sutherland came from a solidly (upper) middle class background.
"Stacy Keith Sutherland was born on May 28, 1946 in San Antonio – at that time there was no adequate hospital in Kerrville. His family, who had worked in Kerrville for three generations, certainly wasn't poor – when Stacy was born, his parents, G.C. and Sibyl Sutherland, owned two ranches in the area and a house in the center of town. He had an older brother, Beau... and a younger sister, Heather. Stacy's mother, a teacher, encouraged him from an early age to pursue his interests in art and music. Having lived through the dust bowls and the failed fortunes of the Great Depression, she wanted the best for Stacy, who was her obvious favorite. A great storyteller, she often acted out Mark Twain's books for the children, while sharing with them an obsession with the infamous Texas outlaws Bonnie and Clyde, as well as Pretty Boy Floyd. Her mother had kept scrapbooks filled with newspaper accounts and clippings of the pair's exploits that provided the only entertainment during the depression. It's clear that the stories had a profound affect on both brothers, and their later direction – Beau work for J. Edgar Hoover in the FBI, while Stacy became one of Texas' most infamous musicians. One of the family ranches had twenty acres in the large stretch of land by the Guadalupe River – it was here that Stacy collected velvet ants, chased nighthawks and spent the rest of his time hunting or fishing. When he was seven, his father had given him a gun, much to Sibyl's displeasure."
(Eye Mind, Paul Drummond, pg. 12)
Bonnie and Clyde, who fascinated Sutherland as a child and inspired him as an adult
In addition to firing a rifle, Stacy also learned the guitar at a young age. He got his first guitar at the age of nine and never looked back. While the instrument would provide Stacy with a happy medium to express himself the religious upbringing he experienced, especially at the hands of his maternal grandmother, would have a devastating effect on him in later years.
"There was plenty of religion on offer in Kerrville. His mother was Mormon, and his father Baptist (he eventually joined the Mormon church at the age of seventy-one). Stacy duly attended the Centerpoint Baptist Sunday School from the age of six, and was baptized at ten. While orthodox religion couldn't fulfill his spiritual needs, Stacy's traditional upbringing filled him with a fear that prevented him from challenging it. Later, the awe he felt from nature was far greater than what he felt in church; this was reinforced by hallucinogens, and the countryside became his spiritual landscape and cathedral. Still, the Christian concepts of good and evil – particularly instilled in him by his maternal grandmother – haunted him throughout his life. Stacy matter-of-factly told his friends that his grandmother had been fighting off devils for ninety-three years. As result, he viewed himself as 'bad,' and thought hallucinogens were a catalyst to divine understanding that would help make him good. His anxiety triggered bad drug experiences in which he had many repeated premonitions of his own untimely death."
(ibid, pg. 16)
this image is believed to be a drawing of Sutherland done around the time he graduated from high school
Clementine Hall, Tommy Hall's wife during this era, would further elaborate on the effect Sutherland's grandmother would have on him in an interview with researcher Paul Drummond:
"I remember meeting Stacy's grandmother because she was surrounded by private detective books and magazines and things like that. She was the most paranoid person I've ever met. She knew that if she stepped out her front door, somebody was gonna mug her and kill her and do sex crimes on her. And she was always wrestling with devils, and Stacy used to say she wrestled with the devil all her life long and she's made me wrestle with the devil. 'Cos Stacy was always wrestling with his own devils. He was the dark angel of the family. But he got the darkness from his grandmother. His grandmother always said he was gonna end up in prison. And he was terrified of prison, not because of being locked up, but he didn't want to be raped. And she told him he would be in prison, and he would probably be raped. You don't tell that to a child. It was his grandmother..."
(ibid, pgs. 110-11) 
Sutherland and his teenage friends had begun experimenting with drugs relatively young, at least for this era. Some of these attempts were pretty desperate and at least one proved to be fatal: one of Stacy's close friends, Billy Nesbitt, copped a buzz by setting an alarm clock and sticking his head in an oven and inhaling the fumes before shutting the gas off just in time. Naturally the alarm clock didn't go off one time and that was the end of Mr. Nesbitt.

Stacy began scoring marijuana in Austin while he was still in high school. During one of these runs he briefly encountered Tommy Hall. By 1964, while attending Southwest Texas College at San Marcos, Stacy tripped for the first time. His experience was fueled by peyote.

In 1964, Stacy Sutherland also tried to smuggle drugs for the first time. This occurred when Stacy and another individual procured a pound of cannabis in Mexico and tried to cross the border with it in a brand new Chevrolet. Their plan was easily foiled due to the people who had sold them the weed altering customs to the run. While Stacy was able to prevent his parents from finding out about the bust, it resulted in him being expelled from school.

It was around this time that future Elevators drummer John Ike Walton began playing regularly with Stacy. Walton came from a very well to do family.
"John Ike was born on November 27, 1942, the youngest sibling of three, in Beeville, Texas, inland from the Gulf of Mexico. His 'wildcatter' father struck oil on several properties to which he owned the profitable mining rights. John Ike spent much of his childhood on the coast in Port Aransas before the family moved to Kerrville in 1950, where they build a huge, sprawling house on Fairview Drive complete with a swimming pool. John Ike attended the local school before transferring to Schreiner, a former military college..."
(Eye Mind, Paul Drummond, pgs. 18-20)
John Ike Walton
Unfortunately, I have not been able to turn up much information on John Ike Walton's father, who is never named in Drummond's book. During this era (the early 1960s) Texas oil men had become increasingly politically active, especially the so-called "Suite 8F Group" that would go on to wield an enormous amount of power in the LBJ and Nixon administrations. I've found nothing to indicate, however, that Walton's father was in league with this clique. What's more, the Walton family fortune was effectively ruined by Emma Walton (John Ike's mother)'s decision to invest a substantial amount of money in her son's band. But more on that later.

By 1965 Sutherland and Walton had relocated to Austin from Kerrville. There they played out of bars to raise money. During this time they encountered the Elevators' original bassist, Benny Thurman. Unlike Sutherland and Walton, Thurman did not come from an upper middle class background. Still, his background was no less curious.
"Following graduation in 1960, he attended the University of Texas to train as a classical violinist. When endlessly practicing stultifying music led to problems, Benny's father, a retired military officer, was quick to enlist him in the U.S. Marine Corps.
"Benny: 'I was getting really tired of Vivaldi and Brahms in the practice rooms four hours a day. And although stuffy people in the orchestra itself, you know? They very seldom smile. I wanted to get out and in three days I was [in the Marine Corps Reserve] – "Hello mother hello father, here I am at Camp Grenada," that's the way it was, the song came out and I was there, "A" Company, First Battalion, Second Training Regiment, U.S. Marine Corps. So they say, man, you passed the test. They had nothing going on 'cept the Bay of Pigs at that time, no war. I turn twenty-one in the Marines, and I was in for life – but it didn't work out that way.'
"Even the strict discipline of the Marines couldn't rein Benny in: 'I got out of the Marine Corps for sleepwalking, because I had a sleep dysfunction and I couldn't tell my dreams from reality. I had a rough time.'
"Supposedly, he rode a motorcycle naked through the mess hall and walked down the runway wearing only a pair of shoes, which he tucked under the perimeter fence before scaling it. Having left the Marines in 1965, Benny found himself joining his father painting barracks houses near the military airport on 53rd Street."
(Eye Mind, Paul Drummond, pg. 21)
Unfortunately, I have not been able to determine with any certainty where Thurman was assigned in the Marine Corps. I've found no listings for a "Second Training Regiment." There is a First Battalion Second Marines infantry unit, but it seems to have been headquartered at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina for decades. Benny seemingly served much of his stay in the Marines at Camp Pendleton, CA. The closet thing I've been able to find at Camp Pendleton matching Benny's description is the First Battalion First Marines. Both of these battalions saw action in 1965, the Second Marines in the Dominican intervention while the First Marines were deployed in Vietnam beginning in August 1965. Benny does not seem to have seen any combat during his nearly five years in the US Marine Corps, however.

I was also unable to turn up any credible evidence of MK-Ultra experiments or such like conducted at Camp Pendleton during this time frame. The closet thing I could find were reports of non-lethal weapons being tested at Camp Pendleton, but these tests apparently occurred during the 1990s.

It should be noted, however, that there has been much speculation concerning the Naval Neuropsychiatric Research Laboratories in San Diego for some time. This speculation dates back to when a Lt. Commander Dr. Thomas Narut alleged that potential assassins for the US Navy were "programmed" at this facility during a 1975 NATO conference held in Oslo. Per Narut, one method of indoctrination included the showing of ultra-violent, Clockwork Orange-like films to desensitize the recruits.

These allegations first gained widespread public attention after respected journalist Peter Watson (who was in attendance at the NATO conference when Narut made his infamous remarks) penned an article for The Sunday Times concerning Narut's statement at both the conference and during a later, private interview with the reporter. Watson's allegations were of course hotly denied by official channels, but rather unconvincingly.
"After Watson wrote an article for London's Sunday Times about Dr. Narut's remarks, several American journalists attempted to interview the doctor. Contacted at home by one writer, an irritated Narut said, 'I can't say word about the conference. I have nothing at all to add to things,' and he hung up. Other reporters who tried to reach Narut were less successful and were told that he was no longer employed at the Naples naval facility; one reporter was told that the facility had 'nobody with the name Narut on staff.' Within days, Navy and Pentagon officials emphatically denied everything that Dr. Narut had said. Eventually, one persistent journalist was informed off the record that the Navy 'kept elite units of trained assassins in secret locations across the world,' and that the overall designation for some of the units was Project Pelican. 'The project is a matter of national security,' said one Navy official in the Pentagon. Not long after Watson's article appeared, a psychologist at the San Diego Neuropsychiatric Center contacted him to say that the films indeed existed and that they were loaned out to other facilities."
(A Terrible Mistake, H.P. Albarelli, pgs. 346-347)
While this certainly makes for interesting speculation concerning Benny's posting, Dr. Narut indicated the individuals selected for these assassination teams were recruited extensively from military prisons, and that all recruits were individuals who had already shown a capacity to kill in premeditated ways. While Benny displayed mental instability both before and after joining the Marines, I am not aware of any history of violence on the former bass player's part. Indeed, Benny's mental breakdown in the Marine Corps may have been driven by a fear of facing combat, as the escalation of the Vietnam War was already well underway by then. This does not seem to indicate that was he prime assassin material. But moving along.

Benny (left) and John Ike (right)
Roky Erickson also grew up around the Austin area. There has been speculation that he suffered quite severe abuse as a child.
"... Born Roger Kynard Erickson on July 15, 1947, Roky was a musical prodigy who took up the piano at age five and the guitar at age ten. He was also, according to the 2005 documentary feature You're Gonna Miss Me, a severely abused child; there are strong indications, according to the filmmakers, that architect father Roger, who rarely spoke to the family, sexually abused Roky and his four younger brothers."
(Weird Scenes From the Canyon, David McGowan, pg. 46)
These indications McGowan is referring to include comments made by Don Erickson concerning a statement once made by his mother about his father being in a bedroom with one of the other brothers and Roky reciting a poem in which he hints that there is a dark secret within the family. However, the filmmakers engaged in a bit of selective editing with Roky reciting the poem, known as "I Know the Hole in Baby's Head". In the unedited version Roky reveals that this secret is his suspicion that his parents murdered one of their children. He also claims that he has many sisters (of which I've found no record of), so the reliability of this footage is certainly suspect.

None of the other brothers interviewed for the film (Donnie, Mikel and Sumner) or Evelyn make mention of any sexual abuse implicitly. Indeed, it is even hinted that Roger Erickson lived right next to Sumner Erickson (the brother Roky would eventually go to live with during his recovery) when You're Gonna Miss Me was being filmed.

However, every brother (outside of Roky) interviewed for the film expressed deep seated anger at Evelyn over how they were raised. Indeed, there also indications that Evelyn's relationship with her sons were quite unusual as well. At the age of 38 she took up yoga and ceased having any sexual relations with Roger. She even went so far as to start sleeping on the family home's roof after this declaration. She states in You're Gonna Miss Me that her love for her sons far surpassed that of her love for Roger and several friends of the family have stated that Evelyn viewed her sons, but especially Roky, as surrogate husbands. One home movie shown in the film displays Evelyn in a skin tight yoga outfit either attempting to demonstrate moves or dancing while one of her sons, possibly Sumner, gazes on from his bed while wearing nothing other than short shorts.

But back to Roger Erickson for a moment. While there are ample indications that Roky and his brothers were physically abused by their father (both Donnie and Mikel have gone on record concering these claims), researcher Paul Drummond didn't turn up any evidence of sexual abuse after years of interviews with the Erickson family.

Roger Erickson had rushed into marriage with Evelyn Kynard in 1944 shortly after Evelyn was chosen to audition for Arthur Godfrey's national televised talent competition. Comedian Lenny Bruce launched his career in 1949 through the same talent competition but Evelyn's marriage to Roger put the brakes on any possibility she may have had in show business. This may have contributed to the later strain of the couple's relationship as well as Evelyn's own mental breakdown. In You're Gonna Miss Me images are shown of an amateur film she shot depicting her life with Roky in a supporting role. One suspects it was her way of living out her own show business fantasies on some level.

Arthur Godfrey, whose talent competition briefly made Evelyn a local celebrity
Roger Erickson had been in a hurry to marry Evelyn after he had enlisted in the military. While Drummond doesn't specify which branch of the armed forces Roger served in, it is implied to be the Air Force (which was still a branch of the Army during this era). He was overseas during World War II but there is no indication as to what he may have been up to that this researcher has found.

After being discharged, he returned to Texas and enrolled in the University of Texas at Austin with the assistance of his veteran's benefits. As noted above, he became an architect and a very successful one at that. By the 1950s the Ericksons enjoyed an upper middle class life style that seems to have added to the domestic strain.
"As the Fifties progressed and Roger's work as an architect group, he made frequent trips away to lavish swimming pool conventions around the country. Roky was even photographed with Esther Williams, the formation-swimming film star. The increased family profile in the Austin social circuit led to new pressures within the family. Evelyn lapped up the opportunity to become a sybarite, dressing the part and grooming her sons as the family climbed the social ladder. Roger's reaction was to escalate his alcohol consumption and stay late in the office. For Roky, it meant learning to become the perfectly polite and well-mannered eldest son, able to meet and greet as the whole family went on show. There were frequent family trips to San Antonio to see the latest movies and Roky even enjoyed golf as a hobby. However, under the middle-class success the cracks were beginning to show. Roky was an extremely emotional child, and was quick to observe the situation. His brother Donny recalled, Roky coined the phrase 'dad's an alcoholic and mom's a neurotic.' Mikel Erickson also witnessed the shift in family fortunes translate into tension between his parents.
"Mikel Erickson: 'He was a good architect and he was making money. They always had parties, and they always had a stocked bar and drank a lot. Then one day my mother just decided she wasn't going to drink anymore. My mother was a heavy spender; she loved dressing the part. When we went to conventions and things like that, she'd spent thousands. Dad pretty much stayed in the office, and we'd see dad for an hour or two, and my mother would have a list, bag, good, bad... and it was his job to go punish. He was an alcoholic, workaholic.'"
(Eye Mind, Paul Drummond, pg. 54) 
Roky, with Evelyn's encouragement, took up acting at a young age while in school; he appears on the far right playing the Mad Hatter in a school production of Alice in Wonderland
While Roger Erickson's behavior is certainly reprehensible and the physical abuse he dished out does seems to have been quite severe, there is no concrete evidence that he stooped to sexual abuse. Drummond (as do the filmmakers of You're Gonna Miss Me) indicates that Roky's mother played a much larger role in his later mental problems than her husband. While Evelyn would run the gauntlet of religious beliefs over the years (and at one point she even dabbled in Scientology) she was clearly marked by Christian fundamentalism at a very young age. In You're Gonna Miss Me she claims to have had an encounter with Jesus when she was baptized at the age of 12.

Evelyn would develop an obsession with the healing power of prayer. This lead her in later years to deny Roky various medications for his condition, which made his behavior even more erratic (though in fairness to Evelyn, given the extent of abuse Roky experienced at the hand of psychologists and psychiatrists over the years, its easy to understand why she would have a low opinion of them). Evelyn seems to have become convinced of the rightness of her faith when Donnie Erickson, her second son, experienced medical problems during his birth in 1950.
"Evelyn: 'When Donnie was born, his lungs weren't expanded properly. The preacher walked in the room and it was like sunshine in the midst of a cloudy day; he said, '"Just release the baby and Jesus' hands." That sounds easy, but it's not. So, you practice releasing the baby and the Jesus' hands, and that takes him out of your hands. I could tell the third morning when he started breathing, I knew he was going to be okay, all my prayers – a miracle, but you can't tell people, they think you're crazy.'
"The event was also significant because it further reinforced Evelyn's already strong religious beliefs, particularly in the healing power of prayer. It was to be the first but not the last time that her faith was pitted against medical opinion."
(Eye Mind, Paul Drummond, pg. 52)
Some of Roky's friends who spent time around his family became convinced that Evelyn also suffered from her own mental instabilities, which she passed on to Roky. Clementine Hall, Tommy Hall's wife during this era, was particularly adamant on this point.
"Clementine: 'Evelyn is a sweet, sweet lady. She's batty and sweet, and she was batty and sweet then. She had an illness, a mental illness, and she used her son as a surrogate husband. It's just not something you do. Look at families where you have, say, five brothers. The eldest is rarely the infantile child, and yet in that family, he was. He was not the responsible older brother who does responsible things. Always in that kind of family the eldest brother is the one who is on time, is prompt, gets up, does all the stuff, because he has to be responsible for so many. Roky was a helpless child in that respect. He was babied, and babied, and babied by his mother into total helplessness. But I'll say for her that she also made him an extremely loving and generous person.'"
(ibid, pg. 62)
And now we come to the enigmatic Tommy Hall, one of the most curious figures to emerge from the First Psychedelic Era. While largely unknown both now and back then, Hall has likely had a vastly overlooked influence on psychedelic and New Age culture. This is despite the fact that he came from a most unlikely background for a psychedelic guru.

Tommy Hall
Born on September 21, 1942, Hall grew up in Memphis, Tennessee. His parents divorced while Tommy was still in high school. His father, a successful doctor, remarried and relocated to Lubbock, Texas. There he became prominent amongst the local political class. Of his father, in an interview with Joseph Kahn Tommy stated:
"I got taught classical music [by my parents] when I was little, they just brought me right up into the upper class, just by how they trained me. They just designed me, they knew exactly where I was going to go. My parents divorced and we lived with [my father's] mother and grandmother, in like a farm or ranch house. I had a half-brother and half-sister. I used to go visit my father in Texas. I automatically had an interest, because he has money. I had to be super groovy to be my father son. He was an ear, nose and throat specialist with a big clinic in Lubbock. He had a heated swimming pool and knew all the big Texas politicians. Living with him was like living in another world. I had to be cool, you know, know what to do, just shut up..."
(Eye Mind, Paul Drummond, pg. 32)
Upon graduating high school Tommy opted to attend the University of Texas at Austin (UT). There he became involved with the emerging psychedelic scene (discussed further in part one) revolving around the "Chuck Wagon" (a canteen on the campus that served cheap food) and the "Ghetto" (a dilapidated student quarters off campus) despite his far right politics. Other UT students involved in the scene were initially quite uncomfortable with Tommy's political leanings. Tary Owens, who attended UT with Tommy, told researcher Paul Drummond:
"I was active in the folk music scene in Austin, playing at Threadgills and recording blues. He (Tommy) used to hang out at the Chuck Wagon with our crowd, but he really wasn't trusted – he was considered uncool. He was very into the folk music thing, but he was different from all the rest of us. Whereas politically we were very left-wing, Tommy Hall was very right-wing. He was a member of the Young Americans for Freedom. It was a super-right-wing organization. That bothered me about him from the very beginning. And he was arrogant. His arrogance was really hard to put up with."
(ibid, pg. 34)
Tary Owens, who became something of a legend in the Austin scene
The Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) has been a lightening rod for suspicion over the years and not without reason: It was founded by arch Skull and Bonesman William F. Buckley Jr. after all. The organization was founded on September 11, 1960 after Buckley got some "young conservatives" to adopt the "Sharon Statement." While its influence has waned in recent decades, the YAF was quite prominent in the 1960s. Conservative darling Pat Buchanan got his start with the YAF before being hired as Nixon's speech writer, for instance. But this is only scratching the surface of the YAF's activities during the 1960s.
"Complementing the right's success in Washington is the new and unprecedented success it has achieved among the young, particularly in college campuses. In September 1970 Ronald R. Docksai, national secretary of Young Americans for Freedom, an organization godfathered by Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater, placed his organization's numerical strength at fifty-five thousand, distributed over five hundred chapters. In California, the aging and not overly gifted Senator George Murphy attracted some six thousand youthful workers to his unsuccessful 1970 re-election campaign. In Michigan a virtually unknown conservative name Robert Huber nearly toppled Lenore Romney in the GOP primary on the strength of the sizable student effort. In New York the Youth for Buckley drew five thousand volunteers. 'This is the first time that we've had a conservative youth movement en masse,' Buckley enthused. His enthusiasm is shared by Willis Carto, who was quick to move in on the Youth for Wallace movement and its successor, the National Youth Alliance, and by Patrick J. Frawley Jr., whose protégé Edward Butler is working to build a campus counterforce to the New Left.
"This emerging youth movement suggests that continuity and the access to administrative power has now been achieved by the right. The youth movement promises to infuse new energy into such established organizations as the American Security Council and the Liberty Lobby – and even into God-and-flag fundamentalism, as the Jesus freaks demonstrate. No doubt new groups and institutions will emerge from it, led by the alumni of Young Americans for Freedom, Youth for Goldwater, and the National Youth Alliance."
(Power on the Right, William Turner, pgs. 252-253)
a 1960s YAF rally
Given the affiliation of such politically connected figures as Buckley and Reagan with the YAF there have long been suspicions of intelligence ties to the organization. And indeed, the YAF would become a key counterbalance to the emerging counterculture on American campuses as the 1960s wore on. Its also interesting to note that the YAF was one of the first organizations to promote the "Jesus freaks" movement as well. The Jesus freak movement originated with the CIA-connected Campus Crusade for Christ, as I noted before here. But I digress.

By all accounts, Tommy Hall's transformation was quite sudden. He enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin in August 1961 and by 1962 he had become deeply immersed in the university's burgeoning psychedelic scene. With his conversion came what would become his periodic dabblings in drug dealing.
"Tommy, being an avid reader, was already fluent in the works of Huxley. His sudden conversion from right-wing Republican to 'Turn-On Tommy,' the self-styled on-campus guru, took many by surprise. Between 1962 and '64, as the talents of the anthropology and chemistry students developed the synthesis of raw peyote into mescaline, capsules, Tommy Hall became one of the initiated; however, no one can recall how or when it happened.
"By late 1963, Austin's beatnik proto-hippies were learning to be pot dealers and chemists and, for certain Ghetto residents, paranoia proved justified as the cops moved in. They huddled in the bushes in a back alley by the Ghetto, watching for any illegal activity. Soon the center of operations was forced to move to a new underground dwelling known as the 'Mansion,' at 702 West 32nd Street...
"Unsurprisingly the Mansion was busted, but although the police found plenty of peyote, they could do nothing, as it was legal. No marijuana was found because nobody was brave or stupid enough to actually keep it in their house, until the summer of 1963, when Tommy left halls of residence on San Jacinto and joined the hip community at the Mansion and began dealing marijuana. Financial benefits aside, Tommy believed he was dealing marijuana to spread enlightenment. He was one of the few willing to take the risk and set up runs to the Mexican border to score increasingly large amounts. But some of the early hippie elite complained that Tommy's enlightenment rap made him a bore, they were quite happy for him to take the risks. He was now becoming friends with some 'proto' hippie elite... 
"Tary Owens: 'Somewhere along the line, somebody turn Tommy Hall on. I didn't trust him. I didn't really discuss drugs with him. And he could not keep his mouth shut. It all made me very nervous because I didn't want to get busted. The police had raided the Mansion and made a big splash in the paper – 'Beatnik Pad Raided.' We really were very careful. As soon as Tommy started taking peyote and smoking pot, he was a proselytizer and a dealer. He wanted to tell the world about it. It was very uncomfortable for me living in the same building with him, because he was dealing and, at that time, one joint would get you twenty years. So, it was very scary.'
"Tommy also applied his chemistry skills to synthesizing peyote into mescaline, making regular trips to Hudson's cactus farm for raw materials. Morning Glory seeds were also on the menu and they came in charmingly titled packets 'Heavenly Blues' and 'Pearly Gates'..."
(Eye Mind, Paul Drummond, pgs. 39-40)

It was during his time living at and dealing out of the Mansion that Tommy Hall began to court his soon-to-be-wife, Clementine Tausch. Clementine possessed her own curious background: Egon Tausch, her father, was a military attache for South America and Mexico. While having being born in San Francisco, she lived with her father all over South America as a child.

While living in Washington state she married a man named Vincent Thompson and had a child at the ripe old age of 17. Clementine then divorced her husband at 22 while pregnant with their daughter and relocated from Seattle to Austin, where she enrolled at the UT in 1961. She was living with her father, who was apparently working for Governor John Connally at this time, a few blocks from what would be dubbed the Mansion.

Clementine Hall's background is easily the most suspect of all the individuals who surrounded the Elevators in the early days. Her father's work as a military attache in Latin America almost surely had some type of intelligence function. What's more, his then-boss John Connally had ties to the deep state via his involvement with the Hotel Del Charro set (which included oil man Clint Murchison, J. Edgar Hoover and Syndicate representatives, among others). Connally was also famously wounded during the Kennedy assassination while riding in the presidential limo, which has led many to speculate on his potential involvement in the plot.

Connally with the President and First Lady on that faithful day
Her decision to marry Tommy Hall after initially disliking him a great deal is also curious. Her marriage to Hall placed Clementine at the heart of the Austin scene and would lead her to contribute lyrics to a pair of Elevator songs. She also claimed to have helped Tommy Hall in his spiritual development as well.

While Hall had long held an interest in esoteric topics he seems to begun extensive research on such things after being "turned on." Its far beyond the scope of this series to address his philosophical influences at length but here is a brief run down of the authors of whom he has chiefly concerned with during this period:
"Tommy's formal study of philosophy and psychology led him to the ideas of Korzybski (the father of general semantics) and more esoteric works by Gurdjieff and Ouspensky, which he fused with the creativity of Hesse, Huxley, Jarre, Ginsburg, and Kerouac. Combined with his recent revelations of the possibilities of LSD, the old adage of looking through the wrong end of a microscope was true."
(Eye Mind, Paul Drummond, pg. 44) 
occultist and long suspected Tsarist spy G.I. Gurdjieff
How Tommy Hall was first introduced to LSD is something of a mystery. There are allegations that his first trip was part of a medical experiment at the University of Texas.
"... Although Tommy Hall's introduction to psychedelic substances appears to have come through his involvement with the underground scene at the Ghetto, his decision to pursue and develop his own ideas appears to come from the laboratory and contact with LSD.
"Tommy had moved away from Chemical Engineering, finding the practical side of weighing and mixing compounds too demanding compared to the mathematics. He decided to concentrate on experimental psychology instead, and it appears likely that during this program he came into contact with LSD.
"Clementine: 'He was a psychology major and they used him in some LSD experiments in the actual university. And the horror of that was that he learned very rapidly that you do not take LSD with a bunch of men in white coats sitting around and looking at you. It makes you extremely paranoid, even if you're very stable, which he was. And the more he would react angrily to the horrible things they were saying and the way they were saying them, the more they knew he was paranoid. He was just outraged that while he was in this terribly sensitive stage, because he was a psychology major, he could also see himself from the outside. He was outraged that – here's someone who was totally vulnerable and you are asking these probing and stupid questions, and you are annoyed when the answer doesn't come out the way you want it when they're stoned – they can't get the answer out the way you want it. And so he said that never, ever again would he allow anyone that he knew of to have any kind of drugs without a total supportive, loving surrounding.'"
(Eye Mind, Paul Drummond, pg. 43)
clinical LSD experiments
Researcher Paul Drummond couldn't find any evidence of LSD tests being administered at the University of Texas on anything other than rats. This researcher also could not find any evidence of LSD experiments conducted on humans at the UT during his inquiries either. Thus, this account should be seen as highly suspect.

Officially LSD seems to have appeared in the Austin scene in 1965, a good five years after its psychedelic culture had first begun to emerge. Who introduced LSD to the scene is debated but the most likely candidate is a curious one.
"By the summer of 1965, the first vial of blue liquid had arrived in Austin for the East Coast. Exactly who was the first to introduce it has become a point of issue. Tary Owens amongst others claims it came via an unexpected source – Billy Lee Brammer. Brammer was born in Dallas in 1929. He worked for the Austin Statesman and Texas Observer as a journalist before being invited to Washington to work as an aide to Lyndon Johnson in 1955. His only novel, The Gay Place (1961), was published to critical acclaim, but few sales. It was a historical and political novel based in Austin and depicted a state of corruption and confusion, with a manipulative Johnson-esque character called Governor Fenstemaker. Johnson showed his displeasure by edging Brammer out of his staff and, by 1965, he was back in Austin with vials of LSD-25. Although he became active in the underground scene and continued to write, he never produced another complete work. The other source of LSD, according to Bob Simmons, was a New York hipster called Richard Lloyd, a close friend of Gilbert Shelton's roommate.
"What was extraordinary about Austin was that the backwater university town had spawned a psychedelic culture, which burgeoned in 1962 prior to the wide-scale availability of LSD. In 1965, as LSD started to gather popularity, Austin's scene continued to develop due to its location as a haven between the triangular trade routes of the east and west coasts and Mexico. Former Austinite Chet Helms was now ensconced in the San Francisco scene and had made his own contacts. He was making regular trips between east and west coasts and was a regular guest with the Halls in Texas. Soon it seemed that everyone was experimenting with this new wonder drug...
"Chet Helms: 'Michael Hollingshead and various people had their ins into Sandoz early on, and had ways of getting [LSD]. I had an old friend named Tate Hall, who was a Sandoz rep and brought all those things over here and handed them out rather freely to get people to try them. DMT, psilocybin, LSD. Really Sandoz was trying to figure out what could be done with them and what use they were.'"
(Eye Mind, Paul Drummond, pgs. 44-46) 
Billy Lee Brammer
Billy Lee Brammer was a most curious figure indeed. After his thinly fictionalized account of the Johnson machine in The Gay Place was published in 1961 Brammer never had steady employment again for the rest of his life. He eventually died of a drug overdose in 1978 after years of operating on the margins. Given the distinct possibility that Brammer's career was ruined by the deep state, it seems unlikely that he would have knowingly been serving an intelligence function by introducing LSD to the Austin scene. And because he had aired LBJ's dirty launder it seems equally unlikely that the deep state would have trusted Brammer at this point either.

The college network that seems to have supplied the LSD connection to Austin is also interesting. Michael Hollingshead was a close associate of Timothy Leary and involved with the Millbrook scene. Leary himself has long been suspected of intelligence ties (though this is far less certain than many conspiracy researchers would have you believe) while the Millbrook scene was under the patronage of William Mellon Hitchcock, a scion of the wealthy and intelligence-linked Mellon family. I've written much more on Millbrook and Hitchcock before here.

This would not be the last time the Elevators would venture in the outer spheres of the Millbrook people either. But more on that in a future installment. Stay tuned.

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