Peter Laughner (pronounced LOCK-ner) (August 22, 1952 – June 22, 1977) was an American guitarist, songwriter and singer.

Peter Laughner
Plaughner right.gif
Peter Laughner, right, with David Thomas
Background information
Birth namePeter Ravenscroft Laughner
Born(1952-08-22)August 22, 1952
Bay Village, Ohio, United States
DiedJune 22, 1977(1977-06-22) (aged 24)
Cleveland, Ohio, United States
GenresRock, acoustic, proto-punk, garage
Occupation(s)Singer, songwriter, guitarist
Years active1968–1977
Associated actsRocket From the Tombs, Pere Ubu

A native of Bay Village, Ohio, Laughner was described by Richie Unterberger as "probably the single biggest catalyst in the birth of Cleveland's alternative rock scene in the mid 1970s."[1]

Music careerEdit

Laughner led a variety of groups. Among them were Mr. Charlie, Cinderella Backstreet, Peter & The Wolves, The Blue Drivers and Friction. However, 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.[2]

Laughner was a voracious rock fan and writer, and was heavily influenced by the writings of Lester Bangs. Like Bangs, Laughner admired Lou Reed, but also drew inspiration from folk and blues figures such as Robert Johnson and Woody Guthrie. Tom Verlaine was also one of Laughner's idols.[3][4]

Laughner was briefly considered as a replacement for Richard Lloyd when he departed Television,[5] a band he championed from their earliest days. However, Richard Lloyd disputes this.[6]


Laughner had severe drug and alcohol abuse problems that ultimately led to his death by acute pancreatitis in 1977 at the age of 24. Lester Bangs wrote a eulogy for him, simply titled "Peter Laughner is Dead".[3][7][8]

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.[9]


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,[10] a 15-track LP drawn from these tapes, later re-released as a CD. This compilation sold poorly and 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.

In June 2019, the Smog Veil record label released a 5-disc Laughner box set (with tapes procured from Handsome Productions, Pere Ubu's David Thomas, Tim Wright, and others).[11]

In addition to solo recordings, Laughner's live guitar and vocal work is available in the posthumous Rocket from the Tombs album The Day the Earth Met the Rocket from the Tombs.[12]

Further readingEdit

  • Mike Rubin (6 Aug 2019). "Excavating the Lost Work of Peter Laughner, a Rock 'n' Roll Tragedy". The New York Times.


  1. ^ Richie Unterberger (1952-08-22). "Peter Laughner | Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved 2016-05-27.
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on September 17, 2009. Retrieved October 24, 2009.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ a b Peter Laughner is dead, Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung: The Work of a Legendary Critic, collected writings, Greil Marcus, ed. Anchor Press, 1988. (ISBN 0-679-72045-6)
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on November 20, 2008. Retrieved April 4, 2009.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on December 2, 2006. Retrieved August 10, 2006.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  6. ^ "Matters: Solutions". Richard Lloyd. Retrieved 2016-05-27.
  7. ^ "Handsome Productions: Peter Laughner, Words About Pete". Archived from the original on July 7, 2007. Retrieved 2008-02-18.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  8. ^ Dancing About Architecture: Kill Your Sons, The Short, Turbulent Life of Lester Bangs
  9. ^ Laughner, Peter. "Letter to Ruby Port aka HM York". facebook. Retrieved 22 August 2015.
  10. ^ Richie Unterberger. "Take the Guitar Player for a Ride - Peter Laughner | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 2016-05-27.
  11. ^ "Peter Laughner box set 5 LPs plus book". Smog Veil Records. 2019-05-22. Retrieved 2019-06-16.
  12. ^ "The Day The Earth Met The Rocket From The Tombs". Retrieved 2016-05-27.