Blue Cheer: “Louder than God?”
BUZZ Newspaper Article: Feb 2017 (#71-bC)
By: RLSchwinden aka MrZerr0
There were a a lot of odd-named bands in the mid-60s, ‘Strawberry Alarm Clock’ with the song “Incense & Peppermints” & ‘Blues Magoos’ with “We Ain’t Got Nothin Yet” & ‘Atomic Rooster’ with “Devil’s Answer” & ‘Chocolate Watchband’ with “Are You Gonna Be There” & ‘Electric Prunes’ with “Too Much To Dream” & ‘Soft Machine’ with “Love Makes Sweet Music” & ‘Iron Butterfly’ with “In A Gadda Da Vida” & ‘Moby Grape’ with “Omaha” & ‘Bubble Puppy’ with “Hot Smoke & Sassafras” & ‘Fever Tree’ with “San Francisco Girls” & ‘Electric Flag’ with “Flash, Bam, Pow”, however today we are going to cover the one band that got its start here in the upper-mid-west: ‘BLUE CHEER’ with the song “Summertime Blues”
> Grand Forks East: 1946 <
“Dickie” Peterson (Richard Allan: 12 Sep 1946; Grand Forks, ND – 12 Oct 2009; Erkelenz, Germany) though born in N. Dakota, he grew up in East Grand Forks, MN. (in ’83 the band I was with ‘HIGH FEVER’ played this town many times at a club called “Shenanigans” it was there I got my nickname “Ace” for being so clumsy) initially starting out on Drums & switching to Bass around age 13, he cited Otis Redding as his major musical influence. Dickie graduated from Grand Forks Central High in 1965, then moved to the Haight-Ashbury area of San Francisco, starting out in the band ‘Oxford Circle’ he came together with Leigh Stephens & Eric Albronda on Guitar & Drums respectively to form the “original” ‘BLUE CHEER’ thus began a revolving door of 10 other & different band members up to 1972 when the band split up for a time. For a very brief period of time in ’67 the band had 6 members with Dickie’s bother Jerre on Guitar, Vale Hamanaka on Keyboards & Jere Whiting on Harmonica, & the 2nd drummer (but 2nd longest member of the band) Paul Whaley: (14 Jan 1946; Davis CA) who played with Dickie in ‘Oxford Circle’ who released the 45 Single “Foolish Woman b/w Mind Destruction” in 1966. Neil Peart: RUSH has listed Whaley as one of the Top 3 drummers who influence him. It was about this time that the band appeared in the Jerry Abrams short film “Be-In” in Summer ’67.
> Out Of Focus: 1967 <
One thing I have learned in writing this article for almost 6 years & over 70 issues is that by-in -large, most bands have or had about 18 months of real success at their zenith, usually with a year or 2 to get to that point & several years on the downhill slide. The band was signed to Phillips Records for 6 LPs & the 1st album & by far most acclaimed, was recorded in late ’67 in N. Hollywood, by: Peterson, Stephens & Whaley, on quote “Large amounts of LSD”, ‘Vincebus Eruptum’ was released in Jan ’68 with the with the 45 Single “Summertime Blues b/w Out Of Focus” a #14 Billboard Hit on 4 May 1968. Ironically “Summertime Blues” was already a hit (#8 on 4 Oct ’58) by Minnesota native “Eddie” Cochran ( Edward Raymond; 3 Oct 1938; Albert Lea, MN.– 17 April 1960; Bath, Somerset, UK) Cochran also had these other hits; “Somthin Else” “C’mon Everybody” “Teenage Heaven” & “Twenty Flight Rock” & releasing 20 Single 45s from 1954- 1960 & releasing just 2 LPs, which were ‘Singin To My Baby’ in Nov 1957 & ‘Eddie Cochran Memorial Album’ in Jan 1960, before his untimely death on tour in the UK.
> Rock Me Baby: 1968 <
Blue Cheer were lucky enough & probably different enough to land a few TV appearances, on “American Bandstand” on 10 Feb 1968, followed by the “Steve Allen Show” on 19 Mar ’68 performing a whopping 3 songs live on TV, back then the talk shows were about 1 & 1/2 hours & the bands got to play more than 1 song per appearance. & here’s what Steve Allen had to say about the band on his show. “The name is Blue Cheer, you put that in your underwear, your unmentionables as we say, well these guys are stronger than dirt” Their Band Manager Gut Turk once said about their performances “They turn the air into cottage-cheese” here is the set list from their 1st Twin Cities concert
Wed. 17 April 1968 in Minneapolis, MN. @ The Armory
Summertime Blues (4min)
Parchment Farm (7min)
Rock Me Baby (5min)
Out Of Focus (4min)
Doctor Please (9min)
The average BEATLES Concert was 22min. so playing over a half hour was a long show (my band “KISSin Time”, (find US on ‘fb’) prefers to play 75min as to not overdose the audience)
The band’s 2nd album ‘Outsideinside’ was released in Aug 1968, the cover was designed by their manager “Gut” the single “Just A Little Bit b/w Gypsy Ball” hit #92 on the charts on 20 July ’68, then 2 other 45 singles were released from this album including “Feathers From Your Tree b/w Sun Cycle” “The Hunter b/w Come And Get It” (many current music fans simply do not realize what a driving force the 45 single was until 1988). The band appeared on WHC-17 performing “Feathers From Your Tree” the host’s introduction was “This band is so loud went to New York to record their new album they went to the pier, because the acoustics were better” referring to the fact the band was kicked out of the studio for being too loud so the 2nd half of the album was recorded outside.
> Aces N’ Eights: 1969 <
The band’s 3rd album ‘New! Improved!’ was released in Apr ’69 & rose to #84 on the charts, with the 45 single “West Coast Child Of Sunshine b/w When It All Gets Old” on this LP; Randy Holden (2 Jul 1945 Penn.) replaces Leigh Stephens on guitar as Leigh leaves the band due to its musical direction & then Bruce Stephens & Ralph Burns Kellogg (2 Aug 1945- 19 Jun 2003: from the ‘Emeralds’ on Guitar & Keyboards respectively join the band making it a 4 piece. This LP marks the beginning of the band’s Psychedelic era & the end of the “Power Trio” era. Between the 2 albums released in 1969, the Non-LP 45 Single” All Night Long b/w Fortunes” was released Summer of ’69. (once again confirming the strength of the 45 Single in the 1960s). The band plays St. Paul in Early Nov ’69 with ‘King Crimson’ for the tour of “In The Court Of The Crimson King”.
The band releases its 4th album titled ‘Blue Cheer’ in Dec ’69 with the 45 Singles “Hello L.A. Bye, Bye Birmingham b/w Natural Man” & “Fool b/w Ain’t That The Way” long time drummer Paul Whaley leaves the band & is replaced with Norman Mayell, while Bruce Stephens ends up singing Lead on 4 of the 10 tracks & Gary Lee Yoder contributes Guitar on 2 of the tracks.
> Ecological Blues: 1970s <
As the 60s turned into 1970 many of the 60s bands began to break up or start off the year with some major changes, Blue Cheer now has its final line-up of: Peterson, Kellogg, Mayell & Yoder, as Bruce Stephens has left the band, their 5th LP ‘The Original Human Being’ is released in Sep ’70 & only climbs to #188 on the charts, the single from this album is “Pilot b/w Babaji (Twilight Raga)” on this LP Yoder sings all but 3 of the 11 tracks a trend that had been starting on their last LP.
The band’s 6th & final LP for Phillips is ‘Oh! Pleasant Hope’ released in Apr ’71 amazingly or not, there are no singles for this album, & once again Yoder sings 6 of the 9 tracks leaving founder Peterson with only 3 lead vocals, just like the last LP, this final album is a far cry from the ’68 “Summertime Blues” that the band began with, this one is consider to be more of a Yoder based Folk album. All good things must come to an end, it seems the band was too outspoken about the Viet-Nam War & living an excessive lifestyle including drugs, & in a dispute over their record contact, Phillips dropped them & the band broke up in 1972.
Perhaps you are old enough to remember the old TV Commercial “All Temp O’ Cheer” I know I am … Until next moth …RLS
Mr. Zero’s *Est. 2009
1744 Lexington Ave. N.
Roseville, MN. 55113