The Merry Pranksters were a counter-culture group who formed around author Ken Kesey in the early 1960s in the La Honda hills area south of San Francisco. Kesey wrote two influential novels in the early 1960s. The first, One Few Over The Cuckoo's Nest, was an acclaimed best-seller later made into a move starring Jack Nicholson. The second, Sometimes a Great Notion, was also made into a movie starring Paul Newman. Author Tom Wolfe tells a very accurate story of Ken Kesey and his Merry Prankster band in Wolf's own best-seller The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.
Kesey and the Pranksters, who included Stewart Brand and Neal Cassady, the Beat-era figure who was Dean Moriarty in Jack Kerouac's 1957 novel On the Road, were to LSD-25 what Johnny Appleseed was to apples. They organized Acid Tests in the San Francisco area in 1965 - 1967 and in Los Angeles, dosing Kool-Aid with pure and powerful LSD and providing hundreds of people with their first LSD trip, often to the music of the Warlocks, later to be named the Grateful Dead, and unique sound and light shows. The acid trips were the forerunner of the psychedelic music scene that came together in San Francisco involving bands such as Quicksilver Messenger Service, Big Brother and the Holding Company, and Jefferson Airplane. Concerts at the Filmore Ballroom and the Avalon Ballroom were essentially commercial reproductions of what began with the Merry Pranksters and their Acid Tests.
In 1964 Kesey and the Merry Prankster piled into a day-glo painted school bus and drove from California to New York and back, with the legendary driver Neil Cassady at the wheel, giving a whole new meaning to the term road trip.
Kesey was arrested a number of times for marijuana law violations, including one final incident at Stewart Brand's apartment in the North Beach area of San Francisco.