Cronies, A Burlesque


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About the Author

Ken Babbs, Ohio-bred and Ohio-born, is a graduate of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and a member of two NCAA tournament basketball teams. He was turned on to writing at Miami by Walter Havighurst, a fine scholar and scribe.

He attended graduate school at Stanford University, where he met Ken Kesey, Wendell Berry and other luminaries in Wallace Stegner’s writing class. Five years in the Marine Corps followed, serving as a helicopter pilot, with his final tour of duty in Vietnam. He got off the chopper and onto the bus, Further, for the famous trip to Madhattan in 1964, chronicled in print by Tom Wolfe and filmed and taped by the Merry Pranksters.

He shared forty-three years of collaboration and shenanigans with Kesey—doing shows, speaking engagements and musical catastrophes—plus writing books, magazine articles, and co-editing six issues of Spit in the Ocean. Babbs co-wrote Last Go Round with Kesey, and went on to publish a novel based on his experiences in Vietnam, Who Shot the Water Buffalo?

Married to a retired high school English teacher, he lives on a six-acre farm in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains in Oregon.


Review Quotes: "Babbs’s vivid storytelling ... invites us to connect to the Pranksters’ moment and the spirit of restive questioning that powered it and so many other countercultural eruptions. ... Babbs’s memories prove arresting, and his reconstructed conversations pulse with energy, wit, and a persuasive sense of truth, especially as Pranksters jape, improvise road poems, and build on each other’s mad thoughts with thoughts madder still."
—Publishers Weekly
  "...[A] wondrous record: a lengthy memoir by a man who witnessed a great deal and brings it to life in vivid detail. But it’s also a tremendous act of friendship, capturing the visionary Kesey in a way that gives him depth without demystifying his art. A freewheeling, candy-colored journey of comradeship, drugs, art, and 1960s hijinks."
—Kirkus Reviews
  "...[A] must-read for aging hippies, admirers of Kesey and anyone who wondered whatever happened to that group calling itself the Merry Pranksters. ... [An] affectionate remembrance of years spent raising hell with his best friend and taking others along for the ride."
—Associated Press, John Rogers
  "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."
4.5/5 stars
—San Francisco Book Review, Eric Smith
  "While previous writers have created caricatures of Kesey, Babbs presents Kesey in a much more personal way, as a friend and pal. The book is an excellent read for anyone interested in learning more about the overlapping circles of the Merry Pranksters and the Grateful Dead."
4/5 stars
—City Book Review, Seattle, David Keenan
  "...[A] rip-snorting tale tempered by the wisdom of time and informed by the psychedelic enthusiasm of a culture founded in youth but defined by eternity."
—CounterPunch, Ron Jacobs
  "At its heart, Cronies is a buddy picture. ... Ken Babbs carries on the Prankster spirit into the 2020s, acting as an anthropologist and living historical record, still on the search for a Kool Place."
—Live For Live Music, Michael Broerman

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