BLUE CHEER (1968–PRESENT). Classic lineup: Dickie Peterson (vocals/bass), Leigh Stephens (guitar), Paul Whaley (drums).
One of the seminal proto-metal groups that helped to give birth to the genre of heavy metal, Blue Cheer helped define the notion of a “power trio” as a threepiece band that made up for its lack of members with a loud and aggressive approach to the somewhat psychedelic heavy blues rock that they played. While the band is still remembered as being one of the very first to have what is now recognized as a heavy metal approach and are widely acknowledged as progenitors in the field, they never experienced much in the way of commercial success and are perhaps one of the most important one-hit-wonders, given the significance of that one hit, a cover of Eddie Cochran’s “Summertime Blues” that hit the charts in 1968. While the song was a bona fide hit, hitting number 14 on the Billboard charts, it would in fact be the band’s only such hit. Formed in the San Francisco Bay area, the band was originally comprised of bassist/vocalist Dickie Peterson, guitarist Leigh Stephens, and drummer Paul Whaley.
After the release of their 1968 Vincebus Eruptum album (which featured “Summertime Blues”), the band released four more albums, none of which made much commercial impact, and after a variety of personnel changes, the band broke up in 1971. In the years following their split, the band was increasingly recognized for their innovations in heavy rock. In the late 1980s Peterson put together a new lineup, mainly for the purposes of touring in Europe. In 1989 Blue Cheer released the live album Blitzkrieg over Nüremberg, on which Peterson was accompanied by guitarist Duck McDonald and drummer Dave Salce. In 1990, the band—now with original drummer Paul Whaley back in the fold—released Highlights & Lowlives, their first studio album in almost twenty years. Another studio album, Dining with Sharks, followed in 1991, and saw McDonald replaced by Dieter Saller on guitar. In 2007, the band released yet another studio album, Whatever Doesn’t Kill You… which featured Duck McDonald back on guitar duties.
Discography: Vincebus Eruptum (Polygram, 1968); Outsideinside (Polygram, 1968); New! Improved! Blue Cheer (Philips, 1969); Blue Cheer (Philips, 1969); The Original Human Being (Philips, 1970); Oh! Pleasant Hope (Philips, 1971); Blitzkrieg Over Nüremberg (Magnum, 1989); Dining with the Sharks (Nibelung, 1991); Highlights & Low Lives (Thunderbolt, 1996); Live in Japan (Track, 2003); Live Bootleg: London (Hamburg Rockview, 2005); What Doesn’t Kill You… (Rainman, 2007); Hello Tokyo Bye Bye Osaka (Blue Cheer, 2007).