One Hit Wonders #10: “Summertime Blues” by Blue Cheer (Philips Records 1968)

Direct from Haight-Ashbury, psychedelic hard rockers Blue Cheer ushered in the Age of Heavy Metal with “Summertime Blues”, reaching #14 on the Billboard charts in 1968 (Crank It Up LOUD!):

Singer/bassist Dickie Peterson, who lived on San Francisco’s Haight Street during the “Summer of Love” days, originally formed the band as a five-piece group, but stripped down to the power trio model popularized by Cream and The Jimi Hendrix Experience, with Leigh Stephens on guitar and Paul Whaley on drums. Blue Cheer’s hair was longer, and their sound more ear-splitting, than anyone around, and the band’s thundering heavy metal noise made both the single and their debut album “Vincebus Eruptum” into classics of early metal then and collector’s items today.

Blue Cheer’s classic lineup: Dickie Peterson, Leigh Stephens, and Paul Whaley

The band went through numerous personnel changes before breaking up in 1970. Peterson reformed the group in the 80’s and toured Europe, bringing their “cranked up to 11” barrage of sound to a new generation of metal maniacs, who worshipped these hard rock pioneers. Peterson died in 2009 from prostate cancer, bringing an end to what many call the Founding Fathers of Heavy Metal. Any act calling themselves Blue Cheer today simply ISN’T – BC without Peterson is like The Stones without Mick Jagger!

50’s rocker Eddie Cochran

As for “Summertime Blues” itself, the song was first written and recorded by 50’s rocker Eddie Cochran, whose original version hit #8 on the charts. The tune became a staple for every bar band in the land, and has been covered by artists as diverse as The Beach Boys, Dick Dale, Alan Jackson (who hit #1 on the Country charts with it in 1994), Joan Jett, The MC5, Olivia Newton-John, Buck Owens, Rush, James Taylor, T. Rex, The Who (on their seminal “Live at Leeds” LP), and The Ventures. But nobody, not even Cochran himself, rocked “Summertime Blues” as hard as Blue Cheer did fifty years ago!

More “One Hit Wonders” to see and hear:

“The Night Chicago Died” by Paper Lace

“One Tin Soldier (Theme from BILLY JACK)” by Coven

“Long Lonesome Highway” by Michael Parks

“Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” by Steam

“DOA” by Bloodrock

“Are You a Boy Or Are You a Girl” by The Barbarians

“Why Can’t We Live Together” by Timmy Thomas

“They’re Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Ha” by Napoleon XIV

“In the Year 2525” by Zager & Evans

4 Replies to “One Hit Wonders #10: “Summertime Blues” by Blue Cheer (Philips Records 1968)”

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