Paul Whaley, drummer with influential rock trio Blue Cheer, dead at 72

Blue Cheer in 1970, with Paul Whaley, far left (Image credit: Michael Ochs Archives - Getty)

Paul Whaley, the drummer from influential San Francisco blues rock outfit Blue Cheer, has died at the age of 72.

The news was confirmed by the band’s co-founder and former manager Eric Albronda via the San Francisco Chronicle (opens in new tab), who report he died from heart failure at his home in Regensburg, Germany, on Monday.

Blue Cheer were formed as a six-piece in 1967 and were named after their favourite brand of LSD. After seeing Jimi Hendrix perform, the lineup was trimmed to the trio of Whaley, bassist and vocalist Dickie Peterson and guitarist Leigh Stephens.

Blue Cheer’s first album titled Vincebus Eruptum (opens in new tab) followed in 1968 and, thanks to its thunderous sound, furious solos, psychedelic vibe and their intense cover of Eddie Cochran's Summertime Blues, they were pioneers for what would become heavy metal.

Whaley walked away from the band in 1970, and, reflecting on the split, the drummer told Classic Rock (opens in new tab): “We started screwing around with drugs – and the wrong kind of drugs, too. 

“The money was going, there was conflict between me, Dickie, and our guitar player at the time, Randy Holden. The chemistry just wasn’t right. There were arguments, and we just didn’t want to be around each other. So we just decided to break it up.”

Whaley dropped out of the music scene for the next 10 years and attended rehab on several occasions.

However, he rejoined Blue Cheer in 1984, moved to Germany in 1992, and spent several stints in the group until the death of Peterson in 2009.

A memorial service is due to be held later today at the Holy Trinity Church in Regensburg.

Scott Munro
Louder e-commerce editor

Scott has spent more than 30 years in newspapers and magazines as an editor, production editor, sub-editor, designer, writer and reviewer. After initially joining our news desk in the summer of 2014, he moved to the e-commerce team full-time in 2020. He maintains Louder’s buyer’s guides, scouts out the best deals for music fans and reviews headphones, speakers, books and more. He's written more than 11,000 articles across Louder, Classic Rock, Metal Hammer and Prog and has previous written for publications including IGN, the Sunday Mirror, Daily Record and The Herald covering everything from daily news and weekly features, to video games, travel and whisky. Scott grew up listening to rock and prog, cutting his teeth on bands such as Marillion and Magnum before his focus shifted to alternative and post-punk in the late 80s. His favourite bands are Fields Of The Nephilim, The Cure, New Model Army, All About Eve, The Mission, Ned's Atomic Dustbin and Drab Majesty, but he also still has a deep love of Rush.