Where Are They Now: Blue Cheer - Rolling Stone
Home Music Music News

Where Are They Now: Blue Cheer

This hard-rocking power trio played heavy metal before there was a name for it

Blue CheerBlue Cheer

Members of the rock band 'Blue Cheer'. Circa 1970

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

With its great wall of Marshall amps and its corrosive fuzz guitars, the San Francisco power trio Blue Cheer played heavy metal before there was a name for it. The band went Top Twenty in 1968 with a death-rock version of ”Summertime Blues.” But the original trio–singer-bassist Dickie Peterson, guitarist Leigh Stephens and drummer Paul Whaley–broke up soon after, with Peterson leading a series of new, quieter Blue Cheers into the Seventies to fulfill contractual obligations.

While Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple were cashing in on the Cheer’s white-noise breakthrough, Stephens retired to Northern California (where he now raises thoroughbred horses), Whaley worked in a bakery in Cornwall, England, and Peterson fell on hard drug times. He spent most of 1975 and 1976 in a drug-treatment program at Walden House in San Francisco. ”I had linked chemical abuse so heavily to my music,” he says. ”I had to separate it.”

Peterson, 38, is divorced, has a 12-year-old daughter and lives on a farm in Cotati, California, with his girlfriend, Tonka Belle. Encouraged by the heavy-metal revival, he re-formed Blue Cheer again last year with Whaley and guitarist Tony Rainier (the younger brother of an original Cheer roadie). The group released a new album, The Beast Is Back. (Whaley has since quit again; he now makes pizza in San Francisco.)

But the original Cheer is still much on Peterson’s mind. He hasn’t received a royalty check in 12 years and he claims that $80,000 in foreign royalties alone is unaccounted for. Of the good times, he cites the Golden Gate Park Be-Ins as the band’s best gigs. ”We were a much better band outdoors, because of the sheer power we used.”

In This Article: Blue Cheer, Coverwall, Heavy Metal


Powered by
Arrow Created with Sketch. Calendar Created with Sketch. Path Created with Sketch. Shape Created with Sketch. Plus Created with Sketch. minus Created with Sketch.