Sound engineer repairs synthesizer from the 60s and gets high

Reading Time: 2 minutes

An analog synthesizer from the 60s. Some cleaning spray. And the attempt to scrape off a crusty coating with your fingers. So began for Eliot Curtis a nine-hour LSD trip. Involuntarily.

Some stories are so good, they are self-written. Like the technical director of the TV station KPIX in San Francisco, who wanted to restore a Buchla Model 100 in his free time – immersing himself in music history more than he did could have dreamed.

Before we tell its story, you should get acquainted with the avant-garde sound super machine that is the Buchla Model 100 synthesizer. It plays a crucial role here.

Very impressive! The modular synthesizer was introduced in 1966 by Don Buchla, a pioneer of electronic sounds. Buchla was part of the San Francisco counterculture and was, among others, friends with Owsley Stanley, the sound engineer of Grateful Dead – and notorious producer of extremely pure LSD.

Jump to the present. The Technical Director of KPIX-TV, who likes to screw on technical equipment, that’s Eliot Curtis. Curtis had become aware of a copy of this legendary Buchla Model 100, San Francisco KPIX 5 reports. The machine has been stored in a cold, dark room at Cal State University East Bay since the 1960s.

Curtis decided to get the synthesizer back on track. And came across a problem

On the device, a red extra module was attached. The technician opened it and saw something stuck under one of the buttons. Curtis described the substance to San Francisco KPIX 5 as:


He sprayed a cleanser on the spot and scraped his fingers to remove the residue. 45 minutes later he started to feel a bit strange. Such a strange tingling spread. It should accompany him for the next nine hours.

Eliot Curtis had taken LSD. Unknowingly, through the skin of his fingers. This was the result of analyzes by three different laboratories. A punch line that is almost too simple:

The crystalline crust on the hippie synthesizer was LSD.

Since the Buchla Model 100 had been stored in a dark, cold room, it was possible the drug would retain its effectiveness over the decades. How exactly she landed on the synthesizer, we do not know. The research of San Francisco KPIX 5, however, provide a conceivable explanation.

Some copies of the sound machine had been bought in 1966 by Ken Kesey. Kesey was – of course – LSD advocate and rebuilt, inter alia, an old school bus, in order to promote the legal use of the drug. In the bus he also built the Buchla Model 100 …

Leave a Reply