A lot can change in forty years … but some things never do. Forty years ago I was able to meet Cheap Trick. The band was extremely nice. They didn’t have to hang out and talk, take pictures and sign autographs… but they did. Later in life, I came to realize what I know now. Cheap Trick is an amazing band. And more importantly to me, they down-to-earth and great guys. Cheap Trick will be back in Green Bay, along with Bad Company and the Femmes of Rock, on October 27th at the Resch Center. Forty years after my first conversation with him, I was again able to chat with Cheap Trick bass guitarist Tom Petersson.
WM: You were the first rock star I ever met!
TP: Is that right?
WM: It was in 1988 on the Lap Of Luxury tour. I had a teacher that also ran a high school radio station that I was a part of. She scored tickets and passes, and I was one of the lucky ones to go.
TP: We have lots of history there. When we first started we would play Green Bay … once a month for six nights straight. Five sets a night at the Pack and the Hounds. There were about five people that would come to see us. I was just talking the other day about how great it would be to talk to one of those original fans that would see us, as it’s such a small group to choose from. But if she was one of the five, it would be interesting. Our friend Daryl was in a Led Zeppelin cover band and they would all come and watch us. So I take that back, maybe there was ten people there total. (laughs)
WM: What year was that?
TP: That would have been either 1973 or 1974.
WM: So before those club days you were in another band with Rick Nielsen called Fuse?
TP: Yeah, and we had a record deal with Epic Records in 1969. We did one album that didn’t turn out so great, and we were dropped.
It was disappointing because we were a great live group. We went into the studio with the wrong producer and it did not translate well. It didn’t sound like us at all.
WM: So then you formed Cheap Trick and started playing the club circuit until you were discovered in Waukesha at a bowling alley?
TP: It was at the Sunset Bowl. There was another room that was a bar with a stage attached to the bowling alley. Jack Douglas, who was a successful producer for Aerosmith at that point, was in Waukesha with his wife because her relatives were from there. He saw us at the bowling alley and told us that he would love to produce a record for us. Once the record labels heard that he wanted to produce us, it was all over. We weren’t good enough before that, but once Jack expressed interest there was a bidding war! We’d been turned down by everybody before that. But now we’re suddenly brilliant! (laughs) Thanks Jack!
WM: Any other Wisconsin memories?
TP: Oh yeah. I basically grew up in Wisconsin — half of my relatives are from Milwaukee. Much of our early career was in Wisconsin because our manager was based out of Madison. We grew up ten miles from the Wisconsin border right below Beloit. But as a band we played everywhere in your state: Appleton, Green Bay, Ripon, Janesville, Beloit, *Lake Geneva, Madison, and Milwaukee.
We really started to do well in Milwaukee. At that point we hadn’t even played Chicago at all. The band started to build a following before we even started playing in Chicago. Then we slowly got a following.
We saved up all our money to drive across the country to play three nights at the Starwood in LA to ten people. But ten different people than the ones in Green Bay! (laughs) We didn’t get any interest there, so it was back to the Wisconsin clubs. We just couldn’t secure a record deal until Jack Douglas saw us.
WM: I read that in 1976 you played Summerfest and the fans confused you with Peter Frampton?
TP: Yes, from a great distance. Apparently back then anyone with somewhat long, curly hair can pass for Peter Frampton! (more laughs) I’ve never gotten that before, or since! We were standing backstage and the fans were about a hundred yards back behind a chain-link fence. I unwisely jumped up on top of a limo and started waving at the fans, and they thought it was Frampton. On the stage playing was Bachman Turner Overdrive (BTO) and I totally distracted the crowd from their show, which I did not mean to do. Their manager came over yelling, he wasn’t too happy with me.
WM: Earlier this year Cheap Trick released a new song called “Summer Looks Good On You.” Will you be playing that at the Green Bay show?
TP: Well now we’re used to doing it, so yes we’ll play it. I keep thinking when would be a good time to stop playing it, as it’s not really summer anymore. We have a Christmas record full of material we can start leaning on…
WM: Whoa… slow down. Let’s get through fall first! (laughs) Are you still working on your new album?
TP: It’s almost done. We just tied up a few loose ends with it yesterday when Robin was in town.
WM: Any release date on it yet?
TP: No, not yet. But now we can start all over on a new one! (laughs)
WM: So other than “Summer Looks Good On You”, any other new material you might play at the Resch Center?
TP: I don’t know yet. We really change things up on the spur of the moment. It drives our crew crazy. Sometimes we change things last minute and then go through it at sound check or we might have some instruments backstage. It’s impossible to remember all our material, especially the newer stuff.
WM: When I think of Tom Petersson, I think of you on stand-up bass playing ‘Don’t Be Cruel’ back in 1988. How did you playing that come about?
TP: Well, it really wasn’t a stand-up bass. It was just my 12 string bass attached to a pool que. It was a bit wobbly, but I would just play it on that song since it was an Elvis cover.
WM: A lot of non-profit charities will get a portion of the proceeds for this concert, like the Red Cross and their efforts to provide relief to those affected by Hurricane Florence; the American Cancer Society; the Brown County Heroin Treatment Court; and the Miracle League of the Lakeshore that gives children with disabilities the chance to play baseball. Are there any charities that you feel strongly about?
TP: There’s one that’s not a charity, but a music program that my wife Alison and I have worked on for several years. We started it to help our son with speech therapy, as he’s autistic. It’s call Rock Your Speech. We’ve changed it from just autism to music therapy in general.
WM: I’ll make sure to include the link. We are highly looking forward to your show in Green Bay!
TP: We don’t have to do five sets there in Green Bay anymore, do we? (laughs)
WM: You can if you want, I’m sure the crowd won’t mind! And I can guarantee you’ll have more than ten people!
TP: OK, you tell Paul Rodgers he’ll have to wait another four hours before he hits the stage! (more laughs) We’ll see you soon!
Want to win tickets to see Bad Company, Cheap Trick and the Femmes of Rock? Red Rock Productions was generous enough to allow five of our readers the chance to win! Just answer the following three questions based off our interviews with Michael Licata, Simon Kirke and Tom Petersson:
1. What was Michael Licata’s first professional gig?
2. How old was Simon Kirke when Free recorded “All Right Now”?
3. Where was Tom Petersson when he was mistaken for Peter Frampton?
4. List three charity’s that will benefit from the October 27th concert at the Resch Center?
Submit answers to firstname.lastname@example.org. Next week on October 24th we will feature an exclusive interview with Bad Company lead singer Paul Rodgers, and will announce the winners!