22 August 1952
Bay Village, Cuyahoga County, Ohio, United States
22 June 1977 (aged 24)
Peter Laughner (Peter Ravenscroft Laughner, August 22, 1952 – June 22, 1977) was an American guitarist, songwriter and singer.
A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Laughner remains a rather little known figure; nonetheless, Richie Unterberger described him as "probably the single biggest catalyst in the birth of Cleveland's alternative rock scene in the mid-'70s."
He led a variety of groups (including Mr. Charlie, Cinderella Backstreet, Peter & The Wolves, The Blue Drivers and Friction) but his most enduring contributions were to Rocket From The Tombs and the early work of Pere Ubu. In addition to all this, he wrote for Creem magazine.
Laughner was a voracious rock fan and writer, and was heavily influenced by Lester Bangs's writings. Like Bangs, Laughner worshipped Lou Reed, but also drew inspiration from folk and blues figures such as Robert Johnson and Woody Guthrie. He was a unique, visceral lead guitarist whose greatest influence was Fairport Convention guitarist Richard Thompson. Laughner was briefly considered as a replacement for Richard Lloyd when he departed Television, a band whom he championed from their earliest days.
Laughner had severe drug and alcohol abuse problems that led to his death by acute pancreatitis in 1977 at the age of 24. Rumors to the effect that Laughner was despondent, even suicidal, at the time of his death have been contradicted by Laughner's last known message, written and mailed to Cleveland singer Ruby Port on the evening prior to his death. This letter revealed his intent to move to a retreat in the Ohio countryside, where he could write new music as well as rest and regain his health. Bangs wrote a eulogy for him. Laughner's only known entrance into a recording studio was for the Pere Ubu single sessions, though he left behind countless lo-fi live, rehearsal, and demo recordings. In 1994, Tim/Kerr label released Take the Guitar Player for a Ride, a 15 track compilation drawn from these tapes. This compilation has since gone out of print. Fans continue to circulate bootleg recordings and a Cleveland-based label, Handsome Productions, offers a comprehensive collection of his music on CD, officially endorsed by his estate. As of 2007, the Smog Veil record label is reported to be releasing a Laughner box set (with tapes procured from Handsome Productions, David Thomas, and Tim Wright) which should materialize in late '07 or early '08. Smog Veil announced July of 2008 that the box-set would more likely be released in 2009.
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