Born Hugh Romney, this poet, clown, activist and philanthropist changed his name to Wavy Gravy at the Texas Pop Festival in 1969, with a little help from B.B. King.
Wavy was a part of the Beat movement in the late 1950s, hanging out in Greenwich Village with hipsters and folk singers like Paul Krassner, Lenny Bruce, and Bob Dylan. He was a comedian and a comic actor, working for a time at the Committee (San Francisco’s equivalent to Chicago’s famed Second City troupe). By 1966, he was one of Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters and living on a mountain top commune near L.A. called the Hog Farm. After a time, the Hog Farm took to the road with its members living in a fleet of converted school buses and traveling the country protesting the Vietnam War. Wavy Gravy achieved his first 15 minutes of fame when he declared from the stage at Woodstock, “What we have in mind is breakfast in bed for 400,000.”
After Woodstock, the Hog Farm collective journeyed to Europe and eventually ended up in Nepal, distributing medical supplies to Pakistani flood victims. Disturbed by the countless numbers of people suffering from unnecessary blindness (due to easily operable cataracts or severe vitamin deficiencies), Gravy and his fellow Farmers joined forces with the World Health Organization to form Seva, an international medical aid organization.
Seva (named after a Sanskrit word meaning “service”) has since expanded its base of services to include many projects where compassionate action can make a difference, including supporting refugees of violence in Guatemala, Native Americans caught in an ongoing health crises, and America’s homeless population.
Another more recent Wavy Gravy project is Camp Winnarainbow, a performing arts summer camp located near Laytonville, California. Run by Wavy and his wife, Jahanara, Camp Winnarainbow teaches performance and circus skills to kids of all ages and from all economic backgrounds in an easygoing, everyone-has-a- talent atmosphere.
In addition to his Hog Farm undertakings, Wavy has filled his days with an endless list of benefits and worthy causes. There was Home Aid (for the homeless), Cowboys for Indians (for Native Americans), Blues Against Blindness (for SEVA), countless hours spent in children’s hospital wards, and much, much more. He’s addicted to helping people, and his enthusiasm is contagious.
In 1995, Wavy Gravy’s comedy album Old Feathers—New Bird (Relix Records) was named Best Comedy Album of the Year by the National Association of Independent Record Distributors.
Master of Ceremonies at both Woodstocks (1969 & 1994), author of Something Good for a Change, mastermind of the campaign of Nobody for President (“Who’s going to lower your taxes? Nobody!”), and inspiration for the delicious Ben & Jerry ice cream flavor that bears his name, Wavy Gravy keeps the Sixties alive with his comedy, his wisdom, and his deep love of the earth and its inhabitants.