Blue Cheer was an American rock band that initially performed and recorded in the late 1960s and early 1970s and was sporadically active until 2009.
Based in San Francisco, Blue Cheer played in a psychedelic blues-rock style, and is also credited as being pioneers of heavy metal (their cover of “Summertime Blues” is sometimes cited as the first in the genre), punk rock, stoner rock, doom metal, experimental rock, and grunge.
The formation of the band was organised by Dickie Peterson. Dickie Peterson lived in San Francisco where the sixties music scene was starting to hit the high note.
Peterson had previously been with the Davis-based band Andrew Staples and The Oxford Circle, as well as future Blue Cheer members Paul Whaley and Gary Lee Yoder. The original Blue Cheer personnel were singer/bassist Dickie Peterson, guitarist Leigh Stephens and Eric Albronda as drummer.
Albronda was later replaced by Paul Whaley, who was joined by Dickie’s brother Jerre Peterson (guitar), Vale Hamanaka (keyboards), and Jere Whiting (vocals, harmonica).
There was a temporary resumption in 1974 with Dickie Peterson being joined by brother Jerre, Ruben de Fuentes (guitar) and Terry Rae (drums) for some tour dates.
This grouping continued on briefly in 1975 with former Steppenwolf bassist Nick St. Nicholas replacing Dickie. The group was then largely inactive for nearly three years, until 1978.
Blue Cheer was once again inactive in the early 1980s. There was another attempt to reunite in 1983, but that fell through. In 1984, Peterson had better luck when he returned with Whaley and Rainier as Blue Cheer and a brand new album The Beast Is Back, which was released on the New York label Megaforce Records.
Whaley left again in 1985 as drummer Brent Harknett took over, only to be succeeded by Billy Carmassi in 1987. That same year, Dickie led yet another new lineup of the Cheer that had Ruben de Fuentes back on guitar and Eric Davis on drums.
In 1988, the line-up changed once again, being now composed of Dickie Peterson (bass), with Andrew “Duck” MacDonald (guitar) and Dave Salce (drums).
The band managed to have a hit single amidst all the heavy fuzz going on. Their cover of Eddie Cochran’s classic ‘Summertime Blues‘ lit up AM radio in 1968 and climbed the Billboard charts to No. 14.
It would be the band’s sole hit single. It is the definitive Blue Cheer song in so many ways. They capture the angst and raw teen emotion of the Cochran original, but, like some crazy Ed ‘Big Daddy’ Roth vehicle, it’s all souped up and driving way out of control.
It certainly didn’t sound like a lot of what was on the top of the charts, but in those times, it really was a stylistic free for all that somehow made sense.
In a 2009 essay in Rolling Stone, lifelong Blue Cheer fan and Rush drummer Neil Peart remembered seeing his heroes on television. “I had our family TV turned down low, trying not to disturb Mom and Dad, but the speaker was still overwhelmed with static and distortion,” he recalled.
“Drummer Paul Whaley thrashed at the cymbals with both arms, Leigh Stephens was a dark-haired menace grinding out thick guitar riffs, and Dickie Peterson wailed through a pyramid of blond hair with his bass guitar hanging low.”