Cronies: Adventures with Ken Kesey, Neal Cassady, The Merry Pranksters, and the Grateful Dead

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Cronies: Adventures with Ken Kesey, Neal Cassady, The Merry Pranksters, and the Grateful Dead is an autobiographical account by Ken Babbs, one of the founding members of “The Merry Pranksters.” He takes the reader on a journey that spans over forty years, from first meeting Kesey at Stanford in 1958 to Kesey’s memorial in 2001. This book is a shrine to Ken Kesey and Neil Cassady, and to a world they wanted to create. Babbs recounts the stories of Neil Cassady joining the trip to New York aboard the legendary bus, Furthur. He tells of the “Acid Tests” and the Grateful Dead. Throughout his journeys with Kesey, they interact with many counter-culture icons, from the Beats Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg to psychedelic advocate Dr. Timothy Leary and even the Hells Angels.

I was in high school when I first read about the adventures of Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty. A few years later I was on the road myself, following the Grateful Dead and traveling to music festivals. Getting to these shows anyway possible, at some point the conversations always went to “Did you know what Ken Kesey use to say?” or “Did you hear the story about Neil Cassady?” We were following in the footsteps of the “Merry Pranksters.”

Babbs has given us a highly entertaining memoir. With Cassady in the driver’s seat, on-the-road excitement filled the pages, along with unusual adventures and the antics that only a “Prankster” could come up with. Babbs tells his own story of the mad-capped mayhem in their journey.

This book is for anyone who has followed the Grateful Dead. It is for anyone who has road-tripped to a music festival, or another festival; those who have piled into a car, a truck, or a van with a bunch of cronies and headed into the woods to camp. Or for the those who needed to do the solo trip. This book is for anyone who has read Kerouac’s On the Road, dreamt of leaving it all behind, getting with close friends, and venturing forth into the unknown. It’s an enlightening, adventure-filled book for the inner prankster in us all.

It’s an important read for this day and age, as we continue to struggle with the global pandemic and other social crises. Too many people want to get back to “normal,” whatever that means. Babbs offers accounts of fun and chaos, while also highlighting important issues of the day. There’s an opportunity to go forth, make a difference, and define joy however you want.


Reviewed By:

Author Ken Babbs
Star Count 4.5/5
Format Hard
Page Count 528 pages
Publisher Tsunami Press
Publish Date 11-Jan-2022
ISBN 9780989446297
Bookshop.org Buy this Book
Issue May 2022
Category Biographies & Memoirs
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