Friday, May 06, 2016

Furthur, likely the most famous bus in America, and possibly the most culturally significant

Ken Kesey managed to see the 1964 New York World's Fair site under construction, but needed to return to New York the following year for the publication party for a novel and hoped to use the occasion to visit the Fair after it opened.

This plan gradually grew into an ambitious scheme to bring along a group of friends and turn their adventures into a road movie, taking inspiration from Jack Kerouac's On the Road. As more Pranksters volunteered for the trip they soon realized they had outgrown Kesey's station wagon, so Kesey bought a retired yellow school bus for $1,250

In 1964, when Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters drove from California to New York, the vehicle was already 25 years old. After its cross-country escapades, the bus sat in Kesey's farm in Oregon's Willamette Valley.

The cross-country trip of Further led to a number of psychedelic buses appearing in popular media over the next few years, including in the Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour (film) (1967)
The Who released Magic Bus (song) with its lyric "Further further further further..."
and the Partridge Family TV show (1970)
and the Muppets Electric Mayhem trippy painted bus

(following excerpts from a 2006 article)
For some 15 years, the 1939 International bus dubbed “Further” has rusted away in a swamp on the Kesey family’s Willamette Valley farm, out of sight if not out of mind, more memory than monument.

That is where Ken Kesey — author of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” and hero of a generation that vowed to drop out and tune in with the help of LSD — intended it to stay after firing up a new bus in 1990.

But four years after his death, a Hollywood restaurateur has persuaded the family to resurrect the old bus so it can help tell the story of Kesey, the Merry Pranksters and the psychedelic 1960s.

“One of the things that is really optimistic for me is it’s got full air in the tires from Cassady,” says Kesey, referring to Neal Cassady, who was the wheelman in Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road,” and drove Further on that first trip. “Honestly, if the tires had been flat, I would have said, ‘Just leave it there.”’

The body is badly rusted. The paint is peeled. The roof leaks. The engine, not original, and transmission have both been underwater. The original bunk beds and refrigerator are gone, but the driver’s seat remains.

Bob Santelli, artistic director of the Experience Music Project in Seattle: “I consider the bus to be one of the most important icons of the ’60s Counter Culture,” says Santelli. “Inside that bus occurred many of the things the counter culture was all about, from a revolutionary perspective. That is mobility, freedom to be on the move, and to react to situations and create situations to react to, drug use and experimenting with drugs, and the importance of music in a cultural revolution.”

Fresh from the stunning success of “Cuckoo’s Nest,” Kesey wanted to drive to New York City for the 1964 World’s Fair and a coming-out party for his new book, “Sometimes a Great Notion,” making a movie along the way.

Fresh from the stunning success of “Cuckoo’s Nest,” Ken Kesey bought the bus for $1,250 from Andre Hobson in Atherton, Calif., a sales engineer who had outfitted it with bunks, a bathroom and a kitchen to take his 11 kids on vacation

Kesey’s home in the Santa Cruz Mountains south of San Francisco, they installed a sound system, a generator on the back and went wild with the paint. Artist Roy Sebern painted the word “Furthur” on the destination placard as a kind of one-word poem and inspiration to keep going whenever the bus broke down. It wasn’t until much later that he found out he had misspelled it. Just as the bus was constantly being repainted, somewhere along the line the Further sign was corrected.

The wildly painted bus got stopped by the police, but with their short haircuts and preppy clothes, the Pranksters were never arrested.

The film and tape rolled constantly, but when they got back to La Honda, they could never get the two to synchronize. Author Tom Wolfe used the material for his book, “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test,” but the movie lay dormant until 2000, when a digital editing machine made it possible and Kesey issued, “Intrepid Traveler and His Merry Band of Pranksters Look for A Kool Place.”

After one last trip, to Woodstock, N.Y., in 1969, Kesey put the bus out to pasture, where it served as a dugout for softball games. The Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., expressed some interest in restoring the bus, but Kesey would never let it go.

The idea of a 50 year anniversary cross country trip was nixed when they finally admitted that the idea of fixing it up was nuts, it's too far rusted, and the cost of trying for a restoration is around a half a million dollars. Never going to happen. They pulled it out of the swamp in 2005... and in 10 years did literally nothing, and raised no money

R Carlberg

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