Repairing a Synthesizer from the 1960s Was Quite the Trip for Engineer

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A warning to all you vintage musical instrument enthusiasts out there: you might want to take some extra precautions next time you go to work on an instrument that had anything even remotely to do with the 1960s counterculture scene in California.

There has long been an urban legend that certain musical instruments were dipped in LSD during the 1960s so performers could have their minds expanded while they were onstage.

Except maybe it’s not a legend after all.

A man named Eliot Curtis who works as the Broadcast Operations Manager for KPIX Television in San Francisco had a mind-altering experience when he agreed to repair a synthesizer from the 1960s at Cal State University East Bay. Curtis was working on the synthesizer in his home workshop when things got a little trippy.

Curtis said that, after working on the vintage synthesizer, he realized he was somehow tripping on LSD. His wife Holly said, “I think it’s super wild. I think this whole situation is a nice chapter in the history of the counter culture.”

The instrument in question was commissioned back in the 1960s by two musicians who taught at the university. The two men, Glenn Glasow and Robert Basart, were leading figures in the San Francisco Bay Area’s counterculture music scene at the time, so it’s safe to assume that there was some LSD floating around the two men.

The synthesizer fell into disrepair and had been sitting in storage for decades. While doing his repairs, Curtis noticed a crusty residue under a knob on the instrument. He attempted to clean the residue using his finger and about 45 minutes later…the adventure began.

Curtis said the trip lasted about nine hours. The residue was tested, and it turned out to indeed be LSD. An LSD researcher said the substance can remain powerful for a long time if it is kept in cool, dark places.

It turns out that this particular synthesizer was made by Don Buchla, a pioneer in the field of synthesizers. Some of Buchla’s instruments even ended up on a school bus belonging to author Ken Kesey and his band of Merry Pranksters.

A long, strange trip, indeed…