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Blue Cheer

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Blue Cheer

Blue Cheer
Paul Whaley, Dickie Peterson, Leigh Stephens in 1968
Background information
Origin San Francisco, California, United States
Genres Acid rock, blues rock, heavy metal, hard rock, psychedelic rock, stoner rock, protopunk,[1] grunge
Years active 1967–1972, 1974–1975, 1978–1979, 1984–1994, 1999–2009
Labels Philips, Megaforce, Mercury, Akarma, Rainforce, Evangeline
Associated acts The Oxford Circle, The Other Half, Sopwith Camel, Silver Metre, Monsters, Raven, Pentagram, Mother Ocean
Past members Leigh Stephens
Eric Albronda
Paul Whaley
Jerre Peterson
Vale Hamanaka
Jere Whiting
Randy Holden
Mitch Mitchell
Tom Weisser
Bruce Stephens
Ralph Burns Kellogg
Norman Mayell
Gary Lee Yoder
Ruben de Fuentes
Terry Rae
Nick St. Nicholas
Tony Rainier
Mike Fleck
Brent Harknett
Billy Carmassi
Eric Davis
Andrew "Duck" MacDonald
David Salce
Dieter Saller
Gary Holland
Prairie Prince
Joe Hasselvander
Lewis Mastro

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 are also credited as being some of the earliest pioneers of heavy metal, with their cover of "Summertime Blues" sometimes cited as the first in the genre.[2] They have also been noted as influential in the development of genres as disparate as punk rock,[3] stoner rock,[4][5] doom metal,[5][6] experimental rock,[7] and grunge.[8]

"Blue Cheer" was the name of a variety of LSD made by chemist and Grateful Dead patron Owsley Stanley[9] and the band was probably named for that, although the name existed earlier, as the name of a laundry detergent[10] for which the LSD variety itself was named.


Golden years (1967–1969)

Blue Cheer came together in 1967. The formation of the band was organised by Dickie Peterson. Dickie Peterson lived at 369 Haight Street 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 & 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). Albronda continued his association with Blue Cheer as a member of Blue Cheer management, as well as being the producer or co-producer of five Blue Cheer albums.[11]

The band was managed by an inactive member of the Hells Angels named Gut.[2] Early on, it was decided that the lineup should be trimmed down. It was said that Blue Cheer decided to adopt a power trio configuration after seeing Jimi Hendrix perform at the Monterey Pop Festival,[12] but was later proven to be false.[13] Hamanaka and Whiting were asked to leave. Jerre Peterson didn't want to remain in the group without them, so he departed as well, leaving Dickie, Leigh and Paul as a trio. Their first hit was a cover version of Eddie Cochran's "Summertime Blues" from their debut album Vincebus Eruptum (1968). The single peaked at No. 14 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, their only such hit, and the album peaked at No. 11 on the Billboard 200 chart. In Canada, the song peaked at #3 on the RPM Magazine charts.

The "Summertime Blues" single was backed with Dickie Peterson's original song "Out Of Focus". Peterson also contributed to the album the eight-minute "Doctor Please" and "Second Time Around", which features Paul Whaley's frantic drum solo. Filling out the record, the band cranked out blues covers "Rock Me Baby" and Mose Allison's "Parchman Farm" (titled "Parchment Farm").

The group underwent several personnel changes, the first occurring after the 1968 release of Outsideinside after Leigh Stephens left the band due to musical differences or, as some report, deafness.[14] He was replaced by Randy Holden, formerly of Los Angeles garage rock band The Other Half. On 1969's New! Improved! Blue Cheer there were different guitarists on side 1 and side 2 (Randy Holden and Bruce Stephens) due to Holden's unanticipated departure from the band. Following Holden's departure the band's lineup initially consisted of Dickie Peterson (bass), Tom Weisser (guitar), and Mitch Mitchell (drums), before Whaley returned and Stephens joined the band. Later, Ralph Burns Kellogg also joined the band on keyboards.[15] Blue Cheer's style now changed to a more commercial hard rock sound à la Steppenwolf or Iron Butterfly. By the fourth album Blue Cheer Paul Whaley had left the band and had been replaced by Norman Mayell, and following the release of the fourth album Bruce Stephens also left the band[16] and was succeeded by Gary Lee Yoder who helped complete the album.

According to Dickie Peterson the group's lifestyle during this period caused problems with the music industry and press. Peterson said the group was outraged by the Vietnam War and society in general.[17]

Reconfigurations, inactivity and first extended hiatus (1970s)

The new line-up of Peterson, Kellogg, Mayell and Yoder in 1970 saw the release of The Original Human Being, followed by 1971's Oh! Pleasant Hope. When Oh! Pleasant Hope failed to dent the sales charts, Blue Cheer temporarily split up in 1972.

There was a temporary resumption in 1974 with Dickie Peterson being joined by brother Jerre, Ruben de Fuentes (guitar)[18] 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.

Dickie returned in 1978–79 with a fresh line-up of Tony Rainier on guitar and Mike Fleck on drums. This version of the group went out on an American tour in 1979, primarily playing nightclubs. They played only material from the first two "heavy" Blue Cheer albums, opening their shows with "Summertime Blues".

Further reconfigurations, relocation to Germany, second and third extended hiatus (1980s–1998)

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).

From 1989 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, Mucky Pup, Biohazard and others.

1989 saw the release of Blue Cheer's first official live album, Blitzkrieg over Nüremberg. This album was recorded during Blue Cheer's first European tour in decades.

1990 saw the release of the Highlights and Lowlives studio album, composed of blues-based heavy metal and one ballad. The album was co-produced by notable grunge producer Jack Endino and producer Roland Hofmann. The line-up was Peterson, Whaley on drums and MacDonald on guitars.[19]

Blue Cheer followed up "Highlights" with the much heavier Dining with the Sharks. Duck MacDonald was replaced by German ex-Monsters[20] guitar player Dieter Saller in 1990. Also featured is a special guest appearance by Groundhogs guitarist Tony McPhee. The album was co-produced by Roland Hofmann and Blue Cheer.[21] Gary Holland (ex-Dokken/Great White/Britton) replaced Whaley on drums in 1993.

In the early 1990s, Peterson and Whaley re-located to Germany. In 1992 Peterson recorded his first solo album "child of the darkness" in Cologne with a band named "The Scrap Yard". The album appeared five years later in Japan on Captain Trip Records. After Peterson came back to the U.S. (1994), Blue Cheer was dormant from 1994 to 1999.

The return of Blue Cheer (1999–2009)

In 1999, Peterson & Whaley got together with guitarist MacDonald, to resume touring as Blue Cheer. This band configuration remained largely constant from 1999 until Peterson's death in 2009.

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.

Peterson and Leigh Stephens were together once again in Blue Cheer with drummer Prairie Prince at the Chet Helms Memorial Tribal Stomp in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park on October 29, 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, due to Paul Whaley choosing to remain in Germany. While Hasselvander played on the entire album, his contribution was reduced to drums on five songs, with Paul Whaley re-recording the drum parts on the balance of the album. This was because Whaley was set to rejoin the band and it was felt that he should contribute to the album, prior to touring. The resulting CD, What Doesn't Kill You..., released in 2007, features contributions from both Whaley and Hasselvander as a consequence.[22]

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.

Death of Peterson and disbandment (2009)

On October 12, 2009, Peterson died[23] in Germany after development and spread of prostate cancer.[17] 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."

Dispute over ownership of band name

In recent years, a dispute has arisen as to ownership of the Blue Cheer band name. It was reported that, as of the early 2000s (decade), former Blue Cheer guitarist Randy Holden, assisted by Randy Pratt of The Lizards band, had 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.[24] The matter had upset Dickie Peterson, given his position as a co-founder of the band and the only continuing member since its inception, but does not appear to have been resolved.[25]

According to Randy Pratt, this report is not entirely accurate. Pratt provides uncited commentary[26] as follows:

The Blue Cheer band name was trademarked in 2000 by fan and professional musician Randy Pratt. Pratt put the trademark in former Blue Cheer guitarist Randy Holden's possession after Dickie Peterson said he was finished with Blue Cheer and wanted nothing to do with it ever again, with his sole future interest in his new band, 'Mother Ocean'".[27][28]


Blue Cheer is often credited as one of the very earliest pioneers of heavy metal and their version of "Summertime Blues" has been cited as the first heavy metal song.[2] According to Tim Hills in his book, The Many Lives of the Crystal Ballroom,[29] "Blue Cheer was the epitome of San Francisco psychedelia." Jim Morrison of The Doors called the group "The single most powerful band I've ever seen"[30] and Eric Clapton defined them as "probably the originators of heavy metal".[31] Blue Cheer influenced such bands in late 70's like East-European psychedelic hardcore band Galloping Coroners.[32]



  • Troy Spence Jr.- guitar (1972-1974)
  • James L. Curry- drums (1972-1974)





Year Album US Top 200
1968 Vincebus Eruptum 11
1968 Outsideinside 90
1969 New! Improved! 84
1969 Blue Cheer
1970 The Original Human Being 188
1971 Oh! Pleasant Hope
1984 The Beast Is Back
1990 Highlights and Lowlives
1991 Dining with the Sharks
2007 What Doesn't Kill You...


Year Title Peak chart positions Album
1968 "Summertime Blues" 3 14 Vincebus Eruptum
"Just a Little Bit" 92 Outsideinside
"Feathers From Your Tree"
1969 "The Hunter"
"West Coast Child of Sunshine" New! Improved! Blue Cheer
"—" denotes releases that did not chart or were not released in that country.


  • Blitzkrieg Over Nüremberg (1989; Nibelung Records)
  • Live & Unreleased, Vol. 1: '68/'74 (1996)
  • Live & Unreleased, Vol. 2: Live at San Jose Civic Centre, 1968 & More (1998)
  • Hello Tokyo, Bye Bye Osaka – Live in Japan 1999 (1999)
  • Live Bootleg: London – Hamburg (2005)
  • Rocks Europe (2009)
  • Live at Anti WAA Festival 1989 (CD, 2014; Nibelung Records)
  • Live at Anti WAA Festival 1989 (DVD, 2014; Nibelung Records)

See also

Book references

Other references

  1. ^ Blue Cheer. AllMusic
  2. ^ a b c
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ a b
  6. ^
  7. ^ Dimery 2006 pg 140, "paving the way for everything from the Stooges to Zeppelin, from heavy metal to experimental rock."
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ Outsideinside, Blue Cheer, The Original Human Being, OH! Pleasant Hope and The Beast Is Back. See Profile of Eric Albronda;
  12. ^ See Portrait of Vale Hamanaka/V. Vale;
  13. ^
  14. ^ Blue Cheer Biography, Rockdetector.
  15. ^ Both Stephens and Kellogg had previously worked together in The Emeralds, a well-known northern California backing band in the 1960s. The Emeralds had also toured with The Coasters, The Olympics, The Larks, Bob & Earl, Chuck Berry, Junior Walker, Ray Peterson, and also opened shows for The Kinks, The Beach Boys, The Animals, Chad & Jeremy and Paul Revere & the Raiders, among others. By the time Stephens and Kellogg were asked to join Blue Cheer, both had co-founded Mint Tattoo, which had recorded one album engineered by Phil Ramone and produced by James William Guercio. While in Mint Tattoo, Stephens and Kellogg had opened shows for Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Ten Years After, James Cotton and Janis Joplin. Bruce Stephens later played with Pilot (not the same band that had a hit with "It's Magic"), one of Leigh Stephen's (no relation) post-Blue Cheer projects. One song from this period, "Fillmore Shuffle" was later recorded by Sammy Hagar on his second solo album, Sammy Hagar (1977). See Profile of Bruce Stephens;, via
  16. ^ Bruce Stephens continued in music, but with a much lower profile. In early 2009, he released Saturday Freedom (Rear Window Records), being a compilation of his compositions over the past three decades. "Rendezvous", a song co-written by Stephens, was included in The Cage, the 1982 album by Tygers of Pan Tang. Also in 1982, Stephens had released his first solo album, Watch That First Step, which featured supporting performances by Lonnie Turner, B.J. Wilson and Norton Buffalo, among others. Stephens has the distinction of being, at the age of sixteen, the youngest member in the history of the Musicians' Union of Sacramento, California. See Profile of Bruce Stephens;, via
  17. ^ a b Dickie Peterson dies at 63; bassist and lead singer for the power trio Blue Cheer Los Angeles Times, October 17, 2009;
  18. ^ De Fuentes was also in a 1979–1980 version of Steppenwolf that included Nick St. Nicholas as the only original member, and which resulted in litigation from John Kay; see Ruben De Fuentes website;
  19. ^ Highlights and LowlivesCredits: ;
  20. ^ A band that continues to remain active. See Monsters website.
  21. ^ Dining With The SharksCredits: ;
  22. ^ Interview with Joe Hasselvander by Metal Mark, March, 2008; "Heavy Metal Time Machine". See also Duck MacDonald Autobiography at
  23. ^ R.I.P. Richard ‘Dickie’ Peterson (Blue Cheer) (1948–2009); Peterson was actually 63 at the time of his death, despite some initial confusion, as exemplified here, immediately following the announcement of his death.
  24. ^ Though Paul Whaley played drums on Holden's 1996 release (recorded in 1993), Guitar God. The album was originally on Captain Trip Records, a Japanese label which has also released Dickie Peterson's two solo records.
  25. ^ Interview with Dickie Peterson by Nightwatcher for Rock N Roll Universe, February, 2008.
  26. ^ By way of edits to the Blue Cheer WorldHeritage page as "Whistleinthewind".
  27. ^ Dickie Peterson and Mother Ocean, which included former Blue Cheer guitarist Tony Rainier, along with Peterson's brother Jerre, were playing in Germany in 2001 and 2002. See Notice of 2001 performance and Notice of 2002 performance; It is unclear whether this was a side project or principal activity of Peterson, particularly since there were no Blue Cheer recordings released during this period and the extent of Blue Cheer's touring activity is uncertain. The 2002 German performances were in March; Jerre Peterson died in August of that same year. See Blue Cheer News
  28. ^ Neither Pratt nor Holden has given any public commentary as to reasons or motivations for trademarking the band name. Pratt's views have instead been incorporated as edits to the Blue Cheer WorldHeritage page, without separate public sourcing of same. No separately sourced comments of Holden have been incorporated.
  29. ^ McMenamins, 1997. McMenamins now owns the Crystal Ballroom.
  30. ^
  31. ^
  32. ^

External links

  • 2007 Concert Video
  • Leigh Stephens Official Website
  • Video Interview of Blue Cheer by Serene Dominic
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