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Blue Cheer is a San Francisco-based rock group that initially performed and recorded in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and again from the mid-1980s to the present. They are credited as being pioneers of heavy metal music. According to Tim Hills in his book, The Many Lives of the Crystal Ballroom, "Blue Cheer was the epitome of San Francisco psychedelia. The band was rumored to have been named for a brand of LSD and promoted by renowned LSD chemist and former Grateful Dead patron, Owsley Stanley.
The band's sound was something of a departure from the music that had been coming out of the Bay Area: Blue Cheer's three musicians played heavy blues-rock, and played it very loud.
Original personnel were singer/bassist Dickie Peterson, guitarist Leigh Stephens, and drummer Paul Whaley. Their first hit was a cover version of Eddie Cochran's "Summertime Blues" from their debut album Vincebus Eruptum (1968). The single peaked at #14 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, their only such hit, and the album peaked at #11 on the Billboard 200 chart.
The group's sound was hard to categorise, but was definitely blues-based, psychedelic, and loud.
Summertime Blues was backed with Dickie Petersen's original song Out Of Focus. Petersen also contributed the eight-minute Doctor Please and Second Time Around, which features Paul Whaley's frantic drum solo. Filling out the album, the band cranks out blues covers Rock Me Baby and Mose Allison's Parchement Farm.
The group underwent several personnel changes after the 1968 release of Outsideinside, and then yet more changes during and after 1969's New! Improved! Blue Cheer(different guitarists on side 1 and 2). After Leigh Stephens left the band due to musical differences or, as some report, deafness, he was replaced by Randy Holden, formerly of Los Angeles garage rock band The Other Half, in 1968, Blue Cheer's style changed to a more commercial hard rock sound à la Steppenwolf or Iron Butterfly. For the fourth album Blue Cheer, Holden, who had left during the third album, was subsequently replaced by Bruce Stephens. Stephens later quit and was replaced by Gary Lee Yoder, who helped complete the album.
The new line up of Peterson, Ralph Burn Kellogg, Norman Mayell, and Yoder in 1970 saw the release of The Original Human Being and then 1971's Oh! Pleasant Hope. When Oh! Pleasant Hope failed to dent the sales charts, Blue Cheer temporarily split up.
From 1988 to 1993, Blue Cheer toured mainly in Europe. During this time, they played with classic rock acts as well as then-up-and-coming bands: Mountain, Outlaws, Thunder, The Groundhogs, Ten Years After, The Yardbirds, Danzig, Mucky Pup and others.
On the Nibelung Records label they released several albums. 1989 saw the release of Blue Cheer's first official live album, Blitzkrieg over Nüremberg. This album was recorded on Blue Cheer's first European tour in decades. The drum chair was then taken by Dave Salce; bass by Dickie Peterson; guitar by Duck McDonald.
1990 saw the release of the Highlights & Lowlives studio album, composed of blues-based hard rock, sometimes reminiscent of Aerosmith and the Rolling Stones, and several ballads. The album was produced by notable grunge producer Jack Endino. The line-up was Peterson on bass and vocals, Paul Whaley on drums, and Duck McDonald on guitars.
Blue Cheer followed up "Highlights" with the much heavier Dining with the Sharks. McDonald was replaced by German ex-Monsters guitar player Dieter Saller. Peterson was on bass and vocals again, and Paul Whaley was again on drums. Also featured is a special guest appearance by Groundhogs guitarist Tony McPhee. The album was produced by Roland Hofmann.
In the early 1990s, Peterson and Whaley re-located to Germany. Whaley still lives there while Peterson has since moved back to California. Guitar work has been handled by Duck MacDonald since that time.
In 2000, Blue Cheer was the subject of a tribute album, Blue Explosion - A Tribute to Blue Cheer, featuring such bands as Pentagram, Internal Void, Hogwash and Thumlock.
Blue Cheer are still active as of 2008. Peterson reunited with Leigh Stephens and performed with drummer Prairie Prince at the Chet Helms Memorial Tribal Stomp in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park in Fall of 2005, and their lively performance drew old rockers like Paul Kantner and others from backstage to observe. They did some recordings in Virginia in Winter 2005 with Joe Hasselvander of Raven and Pentagram on drums. Paul Whaley has since returned to the band as drummer. The group's 2007 CD, What Doesn't Kill You..., features contributions from both Whaley and Hasselvander.
Blue Cheer's video for Summertime Blues made an appearance in 2005 documentary Metal: A Headbanger's Journey, where Geddy Lee of Rush referred to the group as one of the first heavy metal bands.
The band have also been regarded as the godfathers of stoner rock bands like Kyuss, Fu Manchu, Nebula and Monster Magnet have cited their "heavy-fuzz rock" as a massive influence on them.
In recent years, a surprising dispute has arisen as to ownership of the Blue Cheer band name. In the early 2000s, with the help of Randy Pratt of The Lizards, former Blue Cheer guitarist Randy Holden trademarked the Blue Cheer band name. Holden's association with Blue Cheer was quite brief; his only recorded output with the band is three tracks on New! Improved! Blue Cheer in 1969. Dickie Peterson's response is that "(t)hey were attempting to do this, and I talked to Randy about this. I let him know that it just wouldn't be dealt with in court. That I'd deal with it, but it wouldn't be in any court, and he'd better back the F*CK off my band. Common sense will tell you that he doesn't stand a chance. I started this band, and...I'm the only one who's been in it all along. I'll be in Blue Cheer until I die."
Dickie Peterson - lead vocalist, bassist and only continuous member of Blue Cheer died in 2009. Wikipedia
On October 12, 2009, Peterson died in Germany after development and spread of prostate cancer. After Peterson's death, longtime Blue Cheer guitarist Andrew MacDonald wrote on the group's website that "Blue Cheer is done. Out of respect for Dickie, Blue Cheer (will) never become a viable touring band again."
the following content from this article titled:
Dickie Peterson dies at 63; bassist and lead singer for the power trio Blue Cheer
""Primarily, we were a loud, straight-into-you rock 'n' roll band, man," Peterson told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2007. "Our whole goal was to make music a physical experience as well as an audio experience."
The heavily amped Blue Cheer was a musical sign of the times.
They were not only outraged over the Vietnam War, Peterson said in a 2008 interview with the Albuquerque Journal, "we were outraged at society in general and we were expressing it in a way that had never been done."
When Blue Cheer first came together in 1966, the San Francisco music scene included bands such as the Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service and Big Brother and the Holding Company.
"The point being," Peterson said, "is that the S.F. music scene itself was really wide open. That's the only way a band like ours could have been created.""