Aidin Vaziri | Allan “Gut” Terk was a key figure on the California counterculture scene in the 1960s. He rode with the Hells Angels. He made album covers, T-shirts and posters for psychedelic rock bands like Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead. And he provided the retina-searing paint job for Ken Kesey’s Furthur bus, an acid lab on wheels that carried the Merry Pranksters across the country spreading the gospel of LSD.
His head shop in San Francisco’s Mission District, Joynt Ventures, doubled as a rehearsal studio for local bands. In a brief attempt to go legitimate in 1968, Terk took on a gig managing one of them, the proto-heavy-metal outfit Blue Cheer. During his tenure with the group, Terk helped navigate the band’s debut album, “Vincebus Eruptum,” into the upper reaches of the Billboard album chart (it peaked at No. 11).
In the post-Summer of Love era, when cultural divides were clearly cast, the charming 6-foot-something Terk easily straddled scenes and classifications, befriending outlaws, icons and weirdos.
Terk died on Jan. 18, from organ failure caused by cancer, at his home outside of Reno, his daughter Aura Winarick, said. He was 78.
“He hit that whole scene full on,” said Winarick. “Everywhere he went, he was the center of attention. He was this big person with a big personality.”
But Terk’s creative potential was inevitably sidelined by his dependence on opiates. Shortly after he burst on the scene, bridging the vast chasm between bikers and beatniks, he all but disappeared.
“There’s a whole missing decade or two in there,” Winarick said.
He spent much of the 1970s and ’80s directionless, living on the streets of San Francisco, out of touch with his old friends and family. Winarick, 48, lost contact with her dad throughout her teenage years until he landed on her doorstep in New York in the late ’80s.
“He was strung out and looking for help,” she said. “But in a very charming sort of way.”
Winarick checked her father into a Veterans Affairs hospital in New York, where he detoxed. He lived for a while in a men’s shelter in the Bowery, running an art program, before he relapsed and made his way back to San Francisco.
Through the assistance of the Rev. Cecil Williams’ Glide Memorial Church, Terk cleaned up again and, in 1992, reinvented himself as a ranch hand, vowing to make a break from his past life.
Famous for designing coveted psychedelic rock posters for Big Brother and the Holding Company at Sokol Hall and the Trips Festival at Longshoreman’s Hall, he applied his creative skills to crafting ranch tools like knives, belt buckles and sheaths.
Terk was born in Concord on Aug. 1, 1939. His mother was Elma Kirschhofer and his father, Allan Carson Terk, was a descendant of the American frontiersman Kit Carson.
Out of high school, Terk served in the Navy as a submarine sonar specialist. He also joined the Hell Bent for Glory Motorcycle Club, which included several future members of the Hells Angels. He earned the nickname “Gut” due to his insatiable appetite.
Terk married his first wife, Jan Codorniz-Fridrich, at 18. They separated a year later.
Terk followed the Hells Angels from Sacramento to San Bernardino (where he served as the club’s president), before settling in with the Oakland chapter. There he formed a relationship with author Ken Kesey, who had scored big with his 1962 novel “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” Terk joined him at his ranch in La Honda for parties where a group of Kesey’s friends, known as the Merry Pranksters, would experiment with psychedelic drugs such as LSD, which was legal at the time.
In 1964, to celebrate the publication of Kesey’s second novel, “Sometimes a Great Notion,” the Pranksters set off on a road trip to New York using a 25-year-old International Harvester school bus, which had been converted into a camper. Terk painted the psychedelic bus, and it was christened Furthur (sometimes Further).
Over the years, it became one of the prime symbols of the acid-laced ’60s in Northern California. The bus was immortalized in Tom Wolfe’s 1968 best-seller “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test,” described as “glowing orange, green, magenta, lavender, chlorine blue, every fluorescent pastel imaginable in thousands of designs, large and small, like a cross between Fernand Léger and Dr. Strange, roaring together and vibrating off each other as if somebody had given Hieronymus Bosch 50 buckets of Day-Glo paint and a 1939 International Harvester school bus and told him to go to it.”
Terk also worked as a graphic artist, creating the original lettering and T-shirt designs for the Grateful Dead, as well as the group’s first bumper sticker. He created the album art for Jefferson Airplane’s 1969 album “Volunteers,” released the year Winarick was born.
He was married to Winarick’s mother and his second wife, Nancy Winarick, for five years, although no one can remember the exact dates.
“He cut ties with everything and everybody, including his family. He was no longer Gut,” said his daugther. “He literally picked up a phonebook, flipped to the page that said ‘horses’ and pointed at some ad, called them up and said, ‘I need a job and someplace to live.’”
Terk eventually found work at a ranch in Richmond in 1992; and followed the same family to another ranch in Antelope Valley in 2002, where he settled in an RV.
It wasn’t until 2015, when he was first diagnosed with cancer, that Terk reconnected with his daughter and past life.
At the urging of the Outlaw Archive curator Bo Bushnell, Terk made a return to graphic arts the same year to design the cover art for the book “Halfway to Berdoo,” a chronicle of the early days of motorcycle clubs by Marilyn Ruthe Foster.
Before his death, Terk donated his Acid Test Diploma, along with a few of his other personal items from the Summer of Love era, to the Oakland Museum of California.
As well as Aura Winarick, his survivors include his granddaughter, Ruby Yassen, brothers, Ray Terk and Bill Irvin, and sister Susan Irvin.