Lost or Forgotten Oldie of the Day 07/30/2019

Dickie Peterson was a vocalist and bass player in San Francisco in 1967. He recruited a drummer and guitar player and formed a group that was named after a brand of LSD: Blue Cheer.

A few personnel changes took place that year, but the group quickly cut their first album, Vincebus Eruptum. The album was released in January 1968 and the first single from the album was Summertime Blues. By May the single reached #14.

Eddie Cochran wrote and recorded the original version of the song in 1958. He had one successful single in 1957 (Sittin’ in the Balcony) followed by two unsuccessful singles. His record company selected his next single in an attempt to get away from his rockabilly roots. The single was the ballad Love Again, but his version of Summertime Blues was on the flip side of the single and radio stations lost no time turning the record over and playing the hit. That version was a top ten hit and influenced rock and roll for years.

Blue Cheer showed up to lip-sync their record and talk with Dick Clark on American Bandstand in 1968, giving viewers perhaps their first taste of heavy metal music before the term was even coined. Two years later the Who would cover the song and push into the top thirty, and in 1994 Country singer Alan Jackson would almost have a hit with it as well.

At least thirty musicians have been members of Blue Cheer as the group broke up and reformed a few times. Two of the three members who played on Summertime Blues (Dickie and Paul Whaley) have both died, and the third (guitar player Leigh Stephens) produced several solo albums, including one as recently as 2013.

Ownership of the group’s name is not well-defined. It appears to have been trademarked by the early 2000s by a fan who passed the trademark along to one of a dozen guitarists who had played in the group in the past. Nobody appears to be using the name at the present time, so at least we don’t have multiple Blue Cheer bands touring simultaneously.

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