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Further (also known as "Furthur") was a school bus purchased by author Ken Kesey in 1964 to carry his "Merry Band of Pranksters" cross-country, filming their counterculture adventures as they went. The bus was named by artist Roy Sebern, who first painted the word “Furthur” (with two U's, quickly corrected) on the destination placard as a kind of one-word poem and inspiration to keep going whenever the bus broke down.
Beat legend Neal Cassady was the driver on their maiden voyage from La Honda, California to New York for the publication of Kesey's novel Sometimes a Great Notion. The trip was filmed by the Pranksters, but this footage wasn't released as a movie until the 2011 documentary film Magic Trip.
Extensively customized with amenities such as a stove, refrigerator, and bunks, and painted by the various pranksters in a variety of psychedelic colors and designs, it featured a sound system with interior and external intercom and an observation turret made from a washing machine drum fitted into a hole cut in the roof. Furthur and its passengers' adventures were fueled by prolific psychedelic drug use. The bus is also featured prominently in Tom Wolfe's book The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. The original bus's last journey was a trip to the Woodstock Festival in 1969. Once its historic trips had come to an end it was parked on Kesey's Farm in Oregon where it deteriorated over the decades. Kesey's family is now in the process of restoring/raising money to restore the original bus. Ken created a second Further/Furthur in 1990.
Kesey had visited New York in November 1963 with his wife and Prankster George Walker to attend the Broadway opening of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and to see the 1964 New York World's Fair site under construction. His plan to drive back cross-country the following year to see the Fair gradually grew into an ambitious scheme to bring along a group of friends and turn their adventures into a movie. As more Pranksters volunteered, they realized they needed a bus, so Kesey bought a yellow 1939 International Harvester school bus for $1,250 from Andre Hobson of Atherton, California. The license plates read "MAZ 80".
Hobson had already added bunks, a bathroom and a kitchen with refrigerator and stove, for taking his 11 kids on vacation. The Pranksters repainted it, and hired welders to add a turret, a railing, and a windshield on top, and a platform on the back to hold an electric generator and a motorcycle. The generator was wired to an elaborate audio/video system.
Roy Sebern reportedly misspelled the word 'FURTHER' on the destination sign over the windshield, but it was quickly corrected and appears in the film spelled correctly, yellow letters against black. (Sebern says he had been designated as driver before Cassady showed up.)
The paint was not day-glo but primary colors, and the peace symbol wasn't yet evident. The word 'Sunshine' was written in blue, but it was too early to refer to orange sunshine LSD or Kesey's not-yet-conceived daughter Sunshine.
The list of participants is not entirely well-documented. They took the general name "Merry Band of Pranksters" shortened to Merry Pranksters, but many people who considered themselves Pranksters chose not to go, and others became Pranksters only because they chose to go.
Chloe Scott (founder of the Dymaxion Dance Group in 1962, age about 39) only lasted a day, because the chaos was too much for her. Cathy Casamo was a friend of Mike Hagen's who joined at the last minute, hoping to star in the movie they were supposedly making, but she was left behind in Houston. The legendary Neal Cassady showed up at the last minute and displaced Roy Sebern as driver, as far as New York. Ken Babbs may not have planned to venture past the stop at his San Juan Capistrano home.
Jane Burton, George Walker, Steve Lambrecht, Paula Sundsten, Sandy Lehmann-Haupt (sound engineer, younger brother of Christopher, and important source for Tom Wolfe's account ), Page Browning, Ron Bevirt (photographer and bookstore owner), and siblings Chuck Kesey, Dale Kesey, and John Babbs are also named as participants.
There was a conscious decision that everyone dress in red, white and blue stripes (so they could claim to be loyal patriots), maybe with distinctive patterns so they'd be easier for future film-goers to tell apart. They brought a Confederate flag too. Their haircuts were conservative too—long hair was only starting to come into fashion with the Beatles.
Tom Wolfe's book gives the misleading impression that he was a participant. (He only met Kesey the following year.) Carolyn "Mountain Girl" Adams Garcia (not present) has also been confused with Cathy Casamo. Kesey's wife Faye is sometimes mistakenly included, and Futhur-painter Roy Sebern. Robert Stone met them briefly in New York City.
They were stopped several times by police and highway patrol, but explained they were filmmakers. Drug use hadn't yet gotten enough media attention for the authorities to be suspicious.
The first trip
They left on June 17, 1964, but because of various vehicle problems it took them 24 hours to go the first 40 miles.
Their route took them first from La Honda to San Jose to Los Angeles. Chloe Scott bailed out in San Jose, but Cathy Casamo joined them there. They spent two days at Ken Babbs' home in San Juan Capistrano, painting his swimming pool. (One version claims he only joined at that point.)
Outside Wikieup, Arizona they got stuck in the sand by a pond, and had an intense LSD party while they waited for a tractor to pull them out. In Phoenix they confounded the Goldwater presidential headquarters by painting "A VOTE FOR BARRY IS A VOTE FOR FUN!" above the bus windows on the left side, and driving backwards through the downtown.
Casamo had apparently taken too much LSD in Wikieup, and spent much of the drive from Phoenix to Houston naked on the rear platform.
In Houston, they visited the Zoo, and then author Larry McMurtry's suburban home. Casamo's antics led to her being briefly institutionalized, so the Pranksters left her behind, and another friend had to pick her up and drive her back home. (Kesey's "Further inquiry" wrestles with his enduring guilt about these events.)
In New Orleans, Cassady showed them the nightlife, and then they accidentally went swimming in a 'blacks only' area on Lake Ponchartrain.
In New York they picked up novelist Robert Stone (who recounted his viewpoint in "Prime Green"). They reunited with Chloe Scott and staged a party at her apartment, attended by Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. They also visited the World's Fair. Ginsberg arranged a visit with LSD enthusiasts Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert in Millbrook, New York, but the west-coast style of partying was too wild for the Millbrook academics.
Their route home, without Cassady to drive, took them through Canada. They arrived back in La Honda in August.
Kesey and Babbs took on the frustrating challenge of editing dozens of hours of film, and separate audio tapes. They previewed their progress at regular, open parties every weekend at Kesey's place. These evolved into 'Acid Tests' with live music from the Grateful Dead (known first as the Warlocks).
Tom Wolfe used the film and tapes as the basis of his book, but Kesey's edit was never released. A major new edit was finally released in 2011 as "Magic Trip".
Other Further trips included an anti-Vietnam war rally in 1966 and Woodstock in 1969 (without Kesey). More can be read about the adventures of the Merry Pranksters on Further in Tom Wolfe's book The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test, for which a movie directed by Gus Van Sant is in development.
The Smithsonian Institution sought to acquire the bus but Ken would not give it to them.
Ken Kesey parked the bus in a swamp on his farm in 1989 when he acquired a new bus, a 1947 International Harvester also named Furthur/Further.
Both buses currently reside at Kesey's farm in Oregon.
The two top photos are of the second bus, painted by Kesey and the Pranksters in 1990.
The name of both of Ken Kesey's buses is Furthur and/or Further, they both used both names. The original bus had "Furthur" written in the destination sign for a brief period, and Tom Wolfe called the bus Furthur in his book, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. The first Further died shortly after a trip to Woodstock. The second Harvester bus was created in the late 1980s. The second bus is labeled Further on the front and Furthur on the back, it is not called Further 2), and is not a meant as a replica. Ken looked at it as if these were the same bus. Like the Starship Enterprise, it didn't matter how many ships were wrecked - only that the crew kept on traveling through space.
The "Great Smithsonian Prank" was a prank on the media. The local TV station came to the farm where Kesey and friends were painting the new bus and later aired "Ken Kesey has restored the original Further and is taking it to the Smithsonian." The next morning, a variety of national media were asking to "come along on the trip to the Smithsonian." The media rode along on Further for about a week thinking it was the original bus and that it was going to be donated to the museum.
In 1993, Kesey drove the second bus to California to speak at a private party hosted by Apple Computer. The producers who had invited him apparently had no knowledge of his history or politics, and once he started making drug references they removed him from the stage. They then wouldn't let him get the bus out of the parking lot, forcing him to hang around the event until it ended.
Currently, Ken Kesey's Son, Zane Kesey, has renovated the bus & will be touring the country all Summer for a 50th Anniversary Trip.
The activities of the Merry Pranksters and the success of Wolfe's book led to a number of psychedelic busses appearing in popular media over the next few years, including in the Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour and the Partridge Family TV show. In the 2007 film Across the Universe, a fictionalized version of the bus appears, this one a Chevrolet bearing the name "Beyond" in place of "Further". The bus also figures obliquely as a "technicolor motor home" in the Steely Dan song Kid Charlemagne, which is actually about another LSD proponent, Owsley Stanley, who was never associated with the bus or the Merry Pranksters . The G4 original television show Code Monkeys also references the bus, in the first episode of the second season where a character voiced by Tommy Chong tells the legend of Chester Hopperpot, a psychedelic pioneer who toured the country in a magical hippie bus called "Farther".
- Martin, Douglas (3 November 2001). "Sandy Lehmann-Haupt, 59, One of Ken Kesey's Busmates". The New York Times.
- Dodgson, Rick (2013). It’s All a Kind of Magic: The Young Ken Kesey. University of Wisconsin Press. p. 132. ISBN 0299295133.
- The Ultimate Trip: "Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test" Heads to the Big Screen, Rolling Stone
- Ken Kesey’s original magic bus being restored. MSNBC (2006-01-20). Retrieved on 2012-07-15.
- Barnard, Jeff (9 January 2006). "Kesey's bus on magic road to resurrection (Associated Press)". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 18 July 2011.
- Ed McClanahan and the Merry Prankster Bus Reunion Tour, Interview with Ed McClanahan. September 22, 1994
- Further On! True Facts About The Smithsonian Caper. Zane Kesey.
- Apple Drops LSD Pioneer Into Party, Has Bummer, San-Jose Mercury News
- Ken Kesey, The Further inquiry. Viking, 1990. ISBN 0-670-83174-3
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Further (bus).|
- History at the NoFurthur site
- original film of bus painting (13:00-14:00)
- Furthur Down the Road Foundation