Further, also known as Furthur, was a school bus purchased by author Ken Kesey in 1964 to carry his “Merry Band of Pranksters” cross-country from La Honda, California to New York for the publication of his novel Sometimes a Great Notion. They filmed their counterculture adventures as they went with beat legend Neal Cassady as the driver on their maiden voyage, but the footage wasn’t released as a movie until 45 years later in the 2011 documentary film Magic Trip.
Ken Kesey had visited New York in November 1963 with his wife and Prankster George Walker to attend the Broadway opening of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and to see the 1964 New York World’s Fair site under construction. His plan to drive back cross-country the following year to see the Fair gradually grew into an ambitious scheme to bring along a group of friends and turn their adventures into a movie.
The bus was named by artist Roy Sebern, who first painted the word “Furthur”. The Furthur Bus and its passengers’ adventures were fueled by prolific psychedelic drug use. The bus is also featured prominently in Tom Wolfe’s book The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. The original bus’s last journey was a trip to the Woodstock Festival in 1969.
Kesey had visited New York in November 1963 with his wife and Prankster George Walker to attend the Broadway opening of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and to see the 1964 New York World’s Fair site under construction. His plan to drive back cross-country the following year to see the Fair gradually grew into an ambitious scheme to bring along a group of friends and turn their adventures into a movie. As more Pranksters volunteered, they realized they needed a bus, so Kesey bought a yellow 1939 International Harvester school bus for $1,250 from Andre Hobson of Atherton, California.
Kesey and Babbs took on the frustrating challenge of editing dozens of hours of film, and separate audio tapes. They previewed their progress at regular, open parties every weekend at Kesey’s place. These evolved into ‘Acid Tests’ with live music from good friends, the Grateful Dead (known first as the Warlocks). Tom Wolfe used the film and tapes as the basis of his book, but Kesey’s edit was never released. A major new edit was finally released in 2011 as “Magic Trip”.The activities of the Merry Pranksters, the Furthur Bus, and the success of Wolfe’s book led to a number of psychedelic busses appearing in popular media over the next few years, including in the Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour and the Partridge Family TV show. In the 2007 film Across the Universe, a fictionalized version of the bus appears, this one a Chevrolet bearing the name “Beyond” in place of “Further”. It is the magic bus talked about in the song “Magic Bus” by The Who. The G4 original television show Code Monkeys also references the bus, in the first episode of the second season where a character voiced by Tommy Chong tells the legend of Chester Hopperpot, a psychedelic pioneer who toured the country in a magical hippie bus called “Farther”.
They left for the original trip on June 17, 1964 but because of various vehicle problems on the Furthur Bus, it took them 24 hours to go the first 40 miles. Their route took them first from La Honda to San Jose to Los Angeles. Chloe Scott bailed out in San Jose, but Cathy Casamo joined them there. They spent two days at Ken Babbs’ home in San Juan Capistrano, painting his swimming pool. Outside Wikieup, Arizona they got stuck in the sand by a pond, and had an intense LSD party while they waited for a tractor to pull them out. In Phoenix they confounded the Goldwater presidential headquarters by painting “A VOTE FOR BARRY IS A VOTE FOR FUN!” above the bus windows on the left side, and driving backwards through the downtown. In Houston, they visited the Zoo, and then author Larry McMurtry’s suburban home. Casamo’s antics led to her being briefly institutionalized, so the Pranksters left her behind, and another friend had to pick her up and drive her back home.
Once its historic trips had come to an end it was parked on Kesey’s Farm in Oregon where it deteriorated over the decades. Kesey’s family is now in the process of restoring/raising money to restore the original bus.
Ken created a second Further/Furthur in 1990 with a 1947 International Harvester and continued to take it on adventures with the Merry Pranksters around America and even to the UK.
50 years after the original trip, Ken Kesey’s son Zane took the Furthur bus on an Anniversary Tour across the United States exploring how far the culture had evolved in America since they planted those seeds way back in 1964. The Going Furthur Documentary was produced on this tour with Zane at the wheel, taking the Furthur bus over 15,000 miles for 75 days.