I find myself up at 2:57 am after a restless sleep in my home in western Massachusetts. Only two weeks ago I was in Germany playing the "Hammer Of Doom Festival" with my old band, Death Row. It already seems like that was months ago. Just a week before I was en route to Tennessee for rehearsals when I was informed by my girlfriend that Dickie Peterson bassist and vocalist for Blue Cheer had passed away from a long battle with liver cancer. I had spoken with Blue Cheer's guitarist Duck MacDonald only a month before on the phone and he had told me that Dickie had fallen ill and that he would be receiving treatment for his condition and that hopefully he would regain his health and be able to resume performing as there were still tour plans in the works for Blue Cheer. It was not until the day before Dickie died that I had an inkling that things had turned for the worst and that Dickie was on his death bed. I had a terrible feeling that I would be hearing even worse news very soon and I was right. The next day my childhood rock and roll idol, mentor, band mate and very close friend Dickie Peterson passed away around 5:am Monday morning on Oct. 12, 2009.
I'm writing this now because I just woke up from a very vivid dream about Dickie and Blue Cheer and I felt compelled to write this.
The dream was kind of an official goodbye from Dickie and to my time with Blue Cheer as their drummer. In the dream they were back at my home rehearsing like it was 2004 all over again, when suddenly the band starts packing up their gear as if they were loading up for the next gig when Dickie says in his gruff voice, "Well Joey, It's time for us to leave and it's been real but we have to get a move on to the next gig. You've got a wonderful place here and you've got a lot of people around you now who love you! Be a good steward of all these things Joey!" He then walked down the stairs and headed for the door to an awaiting truck with his bass in hand. As he walked out the door I ran after him to say my last goodbye and to tell him what it really meant to me to be his friend and that I had appreciated all the down and serious heartfelt talks we had about life, love and the universe and that all of that was more important to me than playing drums for him. I suddenly woke up! It was a dream, or was it?
I will never forget Dickie and the kindness he showed me. He knew that I was his biggest fan and that he had probably been the catalyst for me choosing the fucked up path of a career in rock and roll. He saw the poverty that my son and I were living in at the time and he knew why it had happened to us.
You see , he was living the same reality himself after a lifetime of mismanagement, shady deals and squandered savings. The music industry didn't care about his talent or what he meant to young kids like me or that he was a pioneer of heavy rock that gave us everything we know today as heavy metal. He was swept under the carpet but managed to stay alive and gigging despite it all!
I remember during his stay at my place , my then twelve year old son Joe Jr. was giving me a real hard time about a Play Station game that he wanted but that I couldn't afford. My son called me a loser and asked me why I couldn't have a regular job like normal fathers and make regular pay checks? I was embarrassed mostly because my son had a right to ask that question no matter how much it would hurt. Dickie sat him down and said,"Joseph, You should never talk to your dad like that! Don't you know that your the luckiest kid in the world to have a dad like him? One day you'll realize what a cool dad you have! Most fathers don't have time to hang out with their kids or worse yet, they don't even notice that they are there!" He loves you man!"
I spoke to Dickie a few more times over the years by phone and he always wanted to talk to Joe Jr. or at least ask about him before we would start our discussions. It always blew my mind watching him hang out with my kid or arguing with him about something and knowing that when I was my son's age I was up in my room every day standing in front of my mirror playing air guitar to Dickie's records and pretending I was him!
Joseph Hasselvander Jr., Paul Whaley, Duck MacDonald and (Uncle) Dickie Petersonbackstage at Pearl Street Northampton, Ma. 2005
I feel very fortunate to have shared the stage with Dickie and in what would have been considered grueling endless rehearsals to most were to me to an opportunity for me to play my favorite Blue Cheer hits with the man that wrote them as many times as I liked! For me it was more than a dream come true , it was a miracle from God that I got play with the man!
Now I've said it! I can finally drift back to sleep as my conscience is now clear.
God bless you Dickie and thanks for the visit!
God's got you in his band now!