NEW YORK: A Tribute to Dickie Peterson - by J. Blake

Posted on 10/20/2009 by J. Blake

On Monday October 12th the world lost a unsung musical hero and a pioneer. Dickie Peterson succumbed to a long battle with liver cancer at the age of 61 (or 63 depending on which obituary you read) in Erkelenz Germany; the place where he had most recently been calling home.

I can already hear at least some of you saying to yourselves “Who is Dickie Peterson?” Well, Peterson was one of the founding members, as well as the vocalist/bassist of the late-1960s San Francisco-based power trio known as Blue Cheer. The band made their mark on music history in 1968 with their debut LP VINCEBUS ERUPTUM and its hit single, a high-voltage rendition of Eddie Cochran’s classic ballad of teen-angst, Summertime Blues.

Unfortunately the group’s success did not last long. Shortly after its initial breakthrough on the Billboard Charts, Blue Cheer went through several personnel changes that eventually led to their breakup in 1972. Peterson revived the Blue Cheer name several times throughout the 40 years since their chart topping debut, but unfortunately was never able to reach the amount of success or impact that the group’s original run had.

The guitar/bass/drum band formation known as the “power trio” rose to popularity in the late-1960s with the success of Cream and The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Though the heavily distorted & highly amplified style of “rock” these bands were playing was considered psychedelic in nature and a perfect expression of their time; considering that the inspiration for these young guitar prodigies to form their now legendary three-piece lineups was Chicago blues veteran Buddy Guy’s electric trio, it is no surprise that historically the music produced by power trios (even today) has almost always been heavily rooted in the blues. Blue Cheer was certainly no exception. Even with their own catalogue of “ballzy” original material that more often than not straddled a line between dark psychedelic rock and bass driven funk, the group is without question best known for their thunderous arrangements of classic blues standards like B.B. King’s Rock Me Baby and Albert King’s The Hunter.

Skill-wise it can certainly be argued that Blue Cheer was no competition for their power trio predecessors (or even their successors for that matter), but they brought a specific “notion” to rock music that seemed to be lacking at the time. They knew that “attitude” was absolutely as important to their music as musicianship or skill. It is a notion that can be directly traced back to the blues and in the hands of Dickie Peterson and Blue Cheer it was a notion that changed the direction of music forever.

The idea of “who was the first” is something that is frequently debated when fans discuss a specific genre of music. For example, when musicphiles debate the origins of heavy metal, some people point to Cream, others to Hendrix or Led Zeppelin. Yet others point to Deep Purple and Black Sabbath. It is a question that will never be answered unequivocally, but one thing is undeniable, heavy metal is a genre that stands apart because of its specific attitude. It is this idea of “attitude” that makes Blue Cheer probably the most cited “originators” for every brand of angst-driven youth rock since the 1960s. They are credited by many as pioneering heavy metal, punk and grunge…among others and for that reason alone, could be considered one of the most influential bands in popular music in the last 40 years.

Dickie Peterson was one of the founding members of Blue Cheer as well as the lead composer of their original material, the voice behind the band’s lyrics and the bass that laid down the rhythm of their influential brand of blues-driven rock. He also happened to be the lone driving force and only constant member of the group throughout its “on-again-off-again” history. He was a true music pioneer and he will be missed.

At this point you may be asking why this is important to a website dedicated to the blues.

There has been a lot of behind-the-scenes debating going on here among the writers of the American Blues News about what constitutes “the blues”. Some of the team believes that blues-rockers like Clapton, Hendrix or the Allman Brothers Band (among many others) are not “blues artists” and should not be covered by the site; we should only be covering “real blues”, but unfortunately nobody seems to be able to define what that means.

I personally believe that blues is a state of mind and an “attitude”. I think that in some cases we need to turn to the artists themselves and define them by what they feel in their hearts and I also believe that an artist can be defined by more than one genre. It does not have to be one or the other.

So I end this article with a quote from the late Dicky Peterson:

“People keep trying to say that we’re heavy metal or grunge or punk, or we’re this or that. The reality is, we’re just a power trio, and we play ultra blues, and it’s rock ‘n’ roll. It’s really simple what we do.” (Taken from an interview conducted by Ken Schneider for

*If you enjoyed this article, you may also enjoy our tribute to Les Paul.

Copyright © 2009 - J. Blake. All Rights Reserved.

American Blues News Staff

What makes American Blues News unique is our coverage across America. Here is our lineup:

Mon: Memphis Correspondent - Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms
Nighthawk is our resident globetrotter and man behind the scenes, as he tours with the Reba Russell Band.

Tues: New York Correspondent - J. Blake
Blake is the American Blues News review and interview guru. You may catch him out and about in NY playing the blues.

Wed: National Correspondent - Monica Yasher
Monica is our executive director and artist interview specialist. You can catch Monica singing the blues around Pittsburgh or working on some country music songs in Nashville.

Thurs: Washington, DC Correspondent - Virginiabluesman
Geraldo offers inteviews and reviews. You may have seen him at an Ana Popovic concert or conversed with him on her websites, as he offers administrative support with her music.

Fri: Northeast Photographer - Nelson Onofre
Nelson offers a Friday column of blues photography and pictorial support for the interviews covered by the team.

Jim Stick in Colorado
Jim will be focusing on the Blues Festivals in the beautiful state of Colorado, and the artists that live and visit there.

Maureen Elizabeth, our resident art correspondent, will be focusing on blues art as she explores the creation of CD covers, or speaking with artists who also have a love of creating pictorial art in addition to their music! She may also feature some of her good friends in the Pittsburgh area. In her love of art, you may find Maureen's photography accompanying writer's articles on our pages. Maureen is also our marketing director.

Pittsburgh correspondent and photographer, CR Bennett, will share the Pittsburgh scene with all of you. You may also see CR's pictures accompanying other writer's articles.

We head to the big state of Texas! Abby Owen, our Texas correspondent.

Another big area to cover, the West Coast with Casey Reagan, Casey will feature many artists and events on this ocean's shores.

Lastly, we have our roving blues entertainment writer,
Chef Jimi.

And of course, we will surprise you sometimes!

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