Dickie Peterson: Front man for the influential American power trio Blue Cheer

The original anthem of teenage frustration, "Summertime Blues" has proved one of the most enduring songs of the rock era, and has been covered by many acts over the five decades since its creator Eddie Cochran took it into the charts in 1958. It featured in The Who's repertoire from 1967, and their heavy version from the Live At Leeds album made the Top 40 on both sides of the Atlantic in 1970.

However, the US power trio Blue Cheer outdid The Who in the loudness stakes with an even heavier rendition of "Summertime Blues" which reached No 14 in the US singles charts in 1968. Fittingly enough for a group who took their name from a potent brand of LSD, Blue Cheer bassist and lead singer Dickie Peterson admitted that their psyched-up – rather than psychedelic – take on 'Summertime Blues' had "to do with large doses of LSD. We kept changing the song around and adding and taking bits away," he told the getreadytorock.com website in 2003. "Don't get me wrong, I am against drugs and don't condone their use at all now. But at the time LSD opened channels in my head. It did change my life. When you took LSD, the music took on a whole new perspective and the whole sound changed.

"That's part of the reason why it became so big as it did. We were teenagers, we were outraged at society in general, and that anger had to come out. In our case, it came out through our music. We added more and more amps. Our whole goal was to make music a physical experience as well as an audio experience."

Though Blue Cheer never replicated the success of their big hit and Vincebus Eruptum, their debut album recorded in three days, they helped define the heavy metal genre, influenced bands like Grand Funk Railroad, and anticipated grunge and stoner rock by a couple of decades.

Dickie Peterson was born into a musical family, and started on drums before switching to bass in his teens, and playing alongside his brother Jerre, a flautist-turned-guitarist. After the death of their parents, they both moved to San Francisco and formed a band called Group B in 1966, and then featured in an early six-piece line-up of Blue Cheer. By the following year, this had slimmed down to a trio of drummer Paul Whaley and guitarist Leigh Stephens alongside Dickie Peterson. They were managed by "Gut" Terkl, a former Hell's Angel, and gigged alongside the Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin.

Blue Cheer owed much of their popularity to their extreme loudness and their blistering, brutal covers of rock, blues and jazz standards, in particular B.B. King's "Rock Me Baby" and the Mose Allison composition "Parchment Farm". But Peterson wrote also half the tracks on their debut album, including "Doctor Please", "a glorification of drugs" which proved oddly prescient as he became addicted to heroin. "It all happened very quickly for us. Too quickly. 'Summertime Blues' really took off, so did the album. Suddenly, I had all this money. But it ended just as quickly as it began," he recalled.

Stephens left after Outsideinside, the band's second album, and Whaley after New! Improved! Blue Cheer, their fourth album and their last US Top 100 entry, in 1969. Peterson soldiered on until 1972, and after a hiatus, fronted several more line-ups of the group and later reunited with Whaley. In the late 1980s, they relocated to Germany where Blue Cheer had a big following since their appearance on the Beat Club TV show in 1969, and toured throughout Europe and lately the US as well.

Peterson released a couple of solo albums in the late 1990s and also formed a duo called Dos Hombres with Hank Davison. He died of prostate cancer. When asked to define Blue Cheer's music in 2007, the frontman called it "ultra blues, rock'n'roll. It's really simple. Primarily, we were a loud, straight-into-you rock'n'roll band, man."

Pierre Perrone



Richard Allan Peterson, bassist, singer, songwriter: born Grand Forks, North Dakota 12 September 1946; twice married (one daughter); died Erkelenz, Germany 12 October 2009.

Suggested Topics
Sport
sportGareth Bale, Carl Froch and Kelly Gallagher also in the mix for award
News
Japan's Suntory Beverage & Food has bought GlaxoSmithKline's Lucozade and Ribena
news
News
A tongue-eating louse (not the one Mr Poli found)
newsParasitic louse appeared inside unfilleted sea bass
News
The illusionist believes hypnotism helped him to deal with the lack of control he felt growing up
people'It’s not that people react badly to it – they really don't care'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
peopleJack Monroe accuses David Cameron of 'misty-eyed rhetoric'
News
Tana Ramsay gave evidence in a legal action in which her husband, Gordon, is accusing her father, Christopher Hutcheson, of using a ghost writer machine to “forge” his signature
peopleTana Ramsay said alleged discovery was 'extremely distressing'
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Windsor and Aljaz Skorjanec rehearse their same-sex dance together on Strictly Come Dancing
TV
Money
Anyone over the age of 40 seeking a loan with a standard term of 25 years will be borrowing beyond a normal retirement age of 65, and is liable to find their options restricted
propertyAnd it's even worse if you're 40
Arts and Entertainment
Perhaps longest awaited is the adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road with Brazil’s Walter Salles directing and Sam Riley, Kristen Stewart and Viggo Mortensen as the Beat-era outsiders
books
Arts and Entertainment
theatreSinger to join cast of his Broadway show after The Last Ship flounders at the box office
Life and Style
fashion'To start singing with Pharrell is not that bad, no?'
News
news
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Employment Solicitor

£30000 - £60000 per annum + Excellent: Austen Lloyd: Employment Solicitor - Ke...

Argyll Scott International: Risk Assurance Manager

Negotiable: Argyll Scott International: Hi All, I'm currently recruiting for t...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: HAMPSHIRE MARKET TOWN - A highly attr...

Ashdown Group: IT Systems Analyst / Application Support Engineer (ERP / SSRS)

£23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

Day In a Page

In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible