In an effort to stump me, thee Ken Kurtz of Lexington asked for a Kentucky connection to `Taj Mahal (and I don`t mean Hal Rogers)â€â€”a reference to the Rogers-funded Center for Rural Development in Somerset, which is snidely known locally as the TajmaHal.
I assume Kurtz is referring to the mausoleum in Agra, India, built between 1632-1653 and visited by more than 3 million people annually, but the question could also refer to the Blues legend born in Harlem in 1942.
Before we get started, did you know that it took 22 years to build the Taj Mahal and when completed, the artisans and skilled workers had their hands removed to ensure that no other structure could be compared to the original. Even today, there are only five structures worldwide that attempt to draw such comparisons: the Taj Mahal Bangladesh; Bibi Ka Maqbara in Aurangaba, Maharashtra; the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower hotel in Mumbai, Maharashtra, India; the Tripoli Shrine Temple in Milwaukee, Wisc.; and the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic, N.J.
Well, the Trump Taj Mahal does have a remote parking lot located on Kentucky Avenue (best known for it`s connection to the game Monopoly) and the does host an annual Kentucky Derby every year with contests for best Derby-style garb, including best jockey outfit, biggest and best hat and best-dressed couple.
Vague connections can be made to Churchill Downs, which has been called the Taj Majal of Thoroughbred racing, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet building, which has been called Frankfort`s Taj Mahal and the Kentucky Lake Motor Speedway, `the Taj Mahal of Dirt Track Racing.â€ Both Louisville and Lexington have restaurants with Taj Mahal in their name.
Now for the other possibility, Owsley `The Bearâ€ Stanley (born Augustus Owsley Stanley III, Jan. 19, 1935) best known as the first person to produce large quantities of pure LSD.
The Bear is the son of former Kentucky governor, U.S. Senator and U.S. Rep. A. Owsley Stanley (1867-1958), who is best remembered for his anti-prohibition stance and his reform efforts.
It was after his father`s death that The Bear enrolled at the University of California at Berkeley and became involved in the drug scene, producing LSD, which was not illegal at the time. By 1965 he was the main supplier to the Merry Pranksters led by Ken Kesey (One Flew Over the Cuckoo`s Nest), which also included Kentucky author Ed McClanahan. `Owsley Acidâ€ is featured in Tom Wolfe`s book
The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.
It was through the Merry Pranksters that Stanley was introduced to the Grateful Dead and eventually, due to his brief stint in television, became the group`s soundman. He started recording the Dead while they rehearsed and performed. His initial motivation was to improve his ability to mix the sound, but the fortuitous result was an extensive trove of recordings from the heyday of the 1960s San Francisco concert/dance scene. Focusing on the clarity of sound, his tapes are touted as unrivaled among live recordings. In addition to his large archive of Dead performances, Stanley made numerous live recordings of other leading 1960s and `70s artists appearing in San Francisco, including the Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, Santana, Jimi Hendrix, Miles Davis and â€¦ drum roll, please â€¦ Taj Mahal.