Blue Cheer emerged in 1967 under the cover of the San Francisco psychedelic scene, but there was nothing remotely lyrical about the three-piece from North Dakota who were laying the foundations for heavy metal in the USA at the same time as Black Sabbath were doing the same in the UK.
Named after a type of LSD that was itself christened after a washing powder, they had an enormous Top 20 hit in the shape of a bludgeoning cover of Eddie Cochran‘s Summertime Blues from their debut album Vincebus Eruptum (1968).
With their great wall of Marshall amps and their corrosive fuzz guitar, Blue Cheer was considered the loudest band in the world in the late 60s.
The first time they tried to record Vincebus Eruptum they blew up the soundboard. But with appropriate precautions in place, they laid down the LP that was the best of their career by far.
It consists of four originals and two covers: the aforementioned Summertime Blues (outdoing The Who‘s mighty and meaty version by some way) and blues standard Rock Me Baby.
They were hardly the sharpest players around, but there is something admirable and hypnotic in the clearly ad-libbed squall of solos and barely controlled all-out noise, or in Dickie Peterson’s hot-headed hollering as the band literally rattle through Parchment Farm.
The group changed line-up constantly through a series of albums and eventually broke up in 1972. Various versions of Blue Cheer played intermittently over the years, particularly in Germany where singer/bassist Dickie Peterson subsequently lived.
Peterson spent most of 1975 and 1976 in a drug treatment program at Walden House in San Francisco and retired to Northern California (where he raised thoroughbred horses).
He died on 12 October 2009, aged 61. He had been battling prostate cancer and succumbed to a fatal infection developed after surgery.
Richard ‘Dickie’ Peterson
Gary L Yoder
Ralph Burns Kellogg