Dickie Peterson (Blue Cheer) was born on Sept. 12, 1946, and grew up in Grand Forks, N.D. He started playing bass guitar at 13, influenced by his brother, Jerre, who played guitar in an early, six-member version of Blue Cheer. He came from a musical family: his father played trombone, his mother played piano and his brother, Jerre Peterson, initially played flute and later lead guitar. Drums were Peterson’s first instrument, before he took up bass.
He attended Grand Forks Central High School from grade 10 through grade 12. His parents died when he was young, resulting in his living with his aunt and uncle on a farm in North Dakota, for part of his youth.
Peterson cited Otis Redding as a significant influence. He credited his brother, the late Jerre Peterson, as being his lifelong musical influence. Jerre was one of the lead guitarists in the initial lineup of Blue Cheer (the other being Leigh Stephens) and played with various formations of the band in later years.
Peterson moved to San Francisco in the mid-1960s and, with his brother, began playing with Group B. He was thrown out of the band for insisting on a hard-rock style, which he indulged to the fullest with Blue Cheer.
Blue Cheer’s six-member configuration was quickly reduced to three to achieve a heavier sound, Mr. Peterson told Rocktober Magazine in 2007. In 1968, the group released the album “Vincebus Eruptum,” generally regarded as its best. It included the band’s cover version of the Eddie Cochran hit “Summertime Blues,” which reached No. 14 on the Billboard charts. The album rose to No. 11.
The group released several more albums in quick succession, notably “Outsideinside” (1968), “New! Improved! Blue Cheer” (1969) and “Blue Cheer” (1969), before breaking up in 1972.
Throughout his life, Peterson’s relationship to music had been all-consuming. Peterson provided the following self-description: “I’ve been married twice, I’ve had numerous girlfriends, and they’ll all tell you that if I’m not playing music I am an animal to live with. … Music is a place where I get to deal with a lot of my emotion and displaced energy. I always only wanted to play music, and that’s all I still want to do.”
In various configurations, but always with Peterson, new versions of Blue Cheer recorded many studio and live albums over the years. Mr. Peterson recorded two solo albums in the 1990s, “Child of the Darkness” and “Tramp,” and toured frequently with Blue Cheer in the United States and Europe.
In his early life, Peterson was a user of various drugs and was a heroin addict for a number of years. In 2007, Peterson said he believed LSD and other similar drugs can have positive effects, but that he and other members of Blue Cheer “took it over the top.” He had ceased much of his drug use by the mid-1970s, and stopped drinking a decade before his death.
Blue Cheer has been considered a pioneering band in many genres. Peterson did not consider that the band belonged to any particular genre: “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.”
Peterson spent much of the past two decades preceding his death based in Germany, playing with Blue Cheer and other groups on occasion. In 1998 and 1999, he played various dates in Germany with the Hank Davison Band and as an acoustic duo with Hank Davison under the name “Dos Hombres.” He appeared on the album, Hank Davison and Friends – Real Live. In 2001 and 2002, Peterson played, principally in Germany, with Mother Ocean, a group he formed that included former Blue Cheer guitarist Tony Rainier, as well as brother Jerre Peterson.
On October 12, 2009, Peterson died in Erkelenz, Germany, at the age of 63 from liver cancer, after prostate cancer spread throughout his body.
Neil Peart, the drummer for Rush, said in tribute to Peterson:
Dickie Peterson was present at the creation — stood at the roaring heart of the creation, a primal scream through wild hair, bass hung low, in an aural apocalypse of defiant energy. His music left deafening echoes in a thousand other bands in the following decades, thrilling some, angering others, and disturbing everything — like art is supposed to do.