Peter Laughner

Cleveland musician, writer, poet, catalyst, and proto-punk cult figure Peter Laughner...

was born in Bay Village, OH on August 22, 1952. He is best known for being a co-founder of Cleveland’s legendary “avant garage” band Pere Ubu and a significant member of both proto-punk trailblazers Rocket From The Tombs and the Mr. Stress Blues Band, a Cleveland musical institution that existed for nearly five decades.

However, Peter had a musical career that stretched back to the mid-1960s and continued through to his untimely death at age 24 in 1977, doing a little bit of everything in the process. Laughner played rock, blues, folk, punk, jug band, bluegrass, and even jazz fusion, drawing on influences as diverse as Bob Dylan, Chuck Berry, Richard Thompson, Patti Smith, Robert Johnson, Brian Eno, Michael Hurley, Bob Marley, Tom Verlaine and Television, and above all else Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground.

Drawing by Jack Snyder

Peter was also an accomplished writer who wrote reviews and features for several local and national magazines and newspapers throughout the 1970’s, among them Creem, Exit, Zeppelin, and Star. By himself and in collaboration with his then wife, Charlotte Pressler, aka Stella Rayon, he also wrote and published poetry as a visible participant in Cleveland’s vibrant literary scene. Peter’s love of music and literature defined his life and his mission.

As he stated in an article he wrote for the Cleveland Plain Dealer in October 1974 (after extolling the virtues of Cleveland area acts 15-60-75, the Mirrors, and Jimmy Ley): “I want to do for Cleveland what Brian Wilson did for California and Lou Reed did for New York. I’m the guy between the Fender and the Gibson and I’m singing about you . . . I want a crowd that knows a little bit of the difference between the sky and the street.”

Peter also sought to chronicle the Cleveland scene, writing once to a friend in 1975 that he wanted “to create a folklore of the present and future.” True to his word, Peter helped out various local bands with gigs, recording assistance, and/or plugs in the media. “Of all the people in Cleveland," Stiv Bators of the Dead Boys said, "Peter was the most hip. Peter made me believe in myself. I thought what I was doin’ was too far-fetched, and Peter said, ‘No – you’re right, do it, that’s what it’s all about.’”

Unfortunately, Peter died before he could realize his ambition of putting Cleveland on the map of rock and roll during his lifetime. Laughner only released three records before his death: the two singles he recorded with Pere Ubu in 1975 and 1976 plus the 1970 private press LP Notes On A Cocktail Napkin done in collaboration with Terry Hartman of which only a limited number of copies were pressed.

NIck Blakey
June 2019

Discography

Peter Laughner
Peter Laughner LP (Koolie) 1982

“Cinderella Backstreet” b/w “White Light/White Heat” 45 (Forced Exposure – Inner Mystique) 1987

Take The Guitar Player For A Ride LP/CD (Tim/Kerr) 1993

“Biscuit Roller” on the CD compilation Listening To The Watertrain (Blue Navigator) 2014

with Fins (aka Finns)
“Baby’s On Fire” b/w “What Goes On” 45 (S.O.L.) 1992

with Pere Ubu
“30 Seconds over Tokyo” b/w “Heart of Darkness” 45 (Hearthan) 1975

“Final Solution” b/w “Cloud 149” 45 (Hearthan) 1976

390 Degrees of Simulated Stereo: Ubu Live Volume One LP/CD (Rough Trade) 1981

Terminal Tower: An Archival Collection LP/CD (Twin/Tone) 1985

The Hearpen Singles [box set] 45s (Tim/Kerr - Hearthan) 1995 + (Fire) 2016

Datapanik In the Year Zero [box set] CD (DGC) 1996

The Shape of Things (Ubu Live 1976) CD (Hearthan) 2000

Elitism For The People: 1975 – 1978 [box set] LP (Fire) 2015

with Rocket From The Tombs
“Aint’ It Fun” on the compilation 45 Inner Mystique #3 (Inner Mystique) 1984

“Ain’t It Fun” b/w “Life Stinks” 45 [bootleg] (Punk Vault) 1988

Life Stinks LP [bootleg] (Jack Slack) 1990

The Day The Earth Met… LP/CD (Smog Veil) 2002

Extermination Night [download] (Hearpen) 2012