Blue Cheer Biography

San Francisco’s Blue Cheer, originally comprising Dickie Peterson (Grand Forks, North Dakota, USA; vocals/bass), Leigh Stephens (guitar) and Paul Whaley (drums), harboured dreams of a more conventional direction until seeing Jimi Hendrix perform at the celebrated Monterey Pop Festival. Taking their name from a potent brand of LSD, they made an immediate impact with 1967’s uncompromising debut album, Vincebus Eruptum, which featured cacophonous interpretations of Eddie Cochran’s ‘Summertime Blues’ (US number 14) and Mose Allison’s ‘Parchman(t) Farm’. A second set, OutsideInside, was completed in the open air when the trio’s high volume levels destroyed the studio monitors.

Stephens left the band during the sessions for 1969’s New! Improved!, and his place was taken by former Other Half guitarist Randy Holden (b. 2 July 1945, USA). Bruce Stephens (bass, ex-Mint Tattoo) and Ralph Burns Kellogg (ex-Mint Tattoo) were added to the line-up when Holden also departed during the protracted recording sessions. Blue Cheer then unveiled a reconstituted line-up of Peterson, Kellogg, and Norman Mayell (drums/guitar), who replaced Whaley. Bruce Stephens was then replaced by former Kak guitarist Gary Yoder, for The Original Human Being. It featured the atmospheric, raga-influenced ‘Babaji (Twilight Raga)’, and is widely acclaimed as the band’s most cohesive work.

Blue Cheer was dissolved in 1971 but re-formed in 1979 following an emotional reunion between Peterson and Whaley. This line-up made The Beast Is Back in 1984 with the addition of guitarist Tony Rainier. Peterson and Whaley have continued to pursue the band’s original bombastic vision on subsequent recordings, with guitarist Duck MacDonald (b. Andrew MacDonald, USA) firmly established as the third member. In the early 90s the band was reappraised, with many of the Seattle grunge rock bands admitting a strong affection for Blue Cheer’s groundbreaking work.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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