Ken Babbs was Ken Kesey's neighbor and main Prankster friend up in Oregon. Ken Babbs, is known as the "Intrepid Traveler" and the house engineer and main fixer-upper that wired the bus, code named Furthur,inside and out for sound that the pranksters broadcast to a startled public.

Among many of his credits is the sound system created for the Trips Festival. Babbs was a pioneer in sound systems that made it possible to crank up the sound levels in a large auditorium without getting a homogenized screech. When sound amplifiers were turned up to acceptable decibel levels for the venue, sound became distorted with echoes and feedback. When the Trips Festival was scheduled for the high poured cement construction of the San Francisco Longshoreman's Union Hall it was discovered that sound, and in particular music, would present the usual distortion dilemma. That was when Ken Babbs, a Vietnam war Marine veteran helicopter pilot and sound engineer, stepped in and created a sound system that resolved the problem. He later went on to develop the sound system at the Oakland Coliseum with the aid of Owlsey Stanley.

These days Babbs lives on his farm in Plesant Hill, Oregon and is still in the thick of it with Kesey. you can see what he's up to at He also helped Kesey co-autor "The Last Go Round," a great book about the Pendelton Roundup, one of the oldest and largest rodeos in America.

He also studied creative writing with the Chief at Stanford.

This is one of his stories from that web site.

One time in the sixties, Jerry Garcia and I took a ride through San Francisco and he said there's someone we have to go see and he gave me the directions to this little dive apartment down some bleak street and we went into an ugly dark room full of a messy life and its accourterments or however you spell it and Jerry yelled out, Dave, Dave, wake up, and a bleary eyed guy staggered off a mangled couch and rubbed his eyes. Jerry, he said, what's the haps?

The haps are, Jerry said, that we are going to start a new group and we want you in it.

Ah, I can't play any more.

Sure you can, and Jerry commenced to convince him of his worth and the worth of the new band and how he, Jerry would play slide guitar and he, David would play rhythm and sing and by the time we left it had all been set up.

Out in the car Jerry told me that he had really been worried about David and was hoping this would bring him up out of his downer funk.

It worked. David Nelson joined up with Jerry Garcia in New Riders of the Purple Sage and David has been playing and touring ever since.


-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- you can write Babbs at

Babbs is also the manager of the Pranktown Busriders, a Cosmic Baseball Association team.

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