Wavy Gravy, psychedelic prankster, activist and, of course, clown, was born May 15, 1936 (as Hugh Romney). Today he turns 76-years-old.
Wavy crossed paths with many of the luminaries of the 1960s counterculture – including Bob Dylan, the Grateful Dead (he was the band's official clown), Ken Kesey, and, early on, Lenny Bruce. Wavy even Emceed Woodstock. Eventually he would lend his name to a Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavor. Wavy was also the subject of a full-length documentary – Saint Misbehavin’: The Wavy Gravy Story – released in 2010.
But how did he get that famous name? It all went down in 1969 at the Texas International Pop Festival. Here’s the explanation in Wavy’s own words (excerpted from The Hog Farm & Friends, 1974).
“I am really ripped and I do not really know why I did it but I grabbed a live mike with a long chord and laid down in the middle of the stage, like a mad moth. ‘This is wavy gravy on the floor, please don’t dance on the wavy gravy.’ And the people who surround me figure I had a seizure or something but somehow I don’t seem to get stomped on … And somebody whispered, ‘B.B. King is here with his bus and he’s gonna play for free. Let’s clear the stage.’ And everybody just split like they were never there, except me. I am superstoned. Slowly I get it together to achieve a sitting position when I bump into B.B. King, who says, ‘Hold it, Wavy Gravy, you stay right where you are and we can work around you.’
After this experience, Hugh Romney legally changed his name to Wavy Gravy.
Wavy has appeared several times over the years in HIGH TIMES Magazine – most notably in a 1979 interview with Ron Rosenbaum and, later, on the cover of HT in 1993.
As Rosenbaum put it in 1979: “Wavy Gravy is one of the key figures in the evolution of the contemporary culture of getting high and getting together. He and his traveling commune, the Hog Farm, are perhaps best known to masses of Americans for their service at the “bad-trip freak-out tent” that was captured in the movie Woodstock. But there is a smaller, more passionate group of Wavy Gravy fans across the country and the world who value him for a whole range of good highs and good deeds he’s inspired in his many guises and disguises over the years.”
In celebration of his 76th birthday, here’s a look back at Wavy from HT’s June 1979 and June 1993 issues.
The Whole Earth Festival, Davis CA, 1988 - photo by Lisa Law
The Nobody For President Rally in Santa Fe, NM, 1980 - Lisa Law
The Nobody For President Rally, 1988 - Lisa Law
Cowboys For Indians concert, Austin, TX, 1987 - Lisa Law
Wavy with Ben and Jerry
"Each day we move a little closer to legalization. I can just feel it in my bones." - photo from Carlson Kane Studios
Cover shot from the June 1993 issue of HIGH TIMES - photo by Kent Sea
Opener to Wavy's 1979 interview with HT - photo by Jeffrey Dooley
Wavy performing - Jeffrey Dooley
Wavy's reputation evolved through outdoor festivals in the 60s and 70s - photo by Carol Scott