ick Nielsen (guitar/songwriter) and Tom Peterssen (bass) started Cheap Trick after their membership in the Grim Reapers and then Fuse had expired. Under the 1969 Fuse incarnation they featured Nielson and Peterssen with Joe Sunburg (vocals), Craig Myers (guitar) and Chip Greenman (drums) they released only one self-titled album before recruiting Thom Mooney and Robert "Stewkey" Antoni fresh from Todd Rundgren's Nazz.
In 1972 they changed their name to The Sick Men Of Europe recruiting Bun E. Carlos in place of Mooney and Randy "Xeno" Hogan joining for vocals, but after two years of touring he was replaced with Robin Zander. This classic formation of Nielsen, Peterssen, Carlos, Zander and Hogan changed the name to Cheap Trick and got them a deal with 'Epic' to release their eponymous debut in 1977 to a US 77 chart position. Featuring Zander and Peterssen as the good looking "hunk" types with Carlos playing the bow tie, baseball cap and eccentric attired joker their unique off-the-wall style helped their live shows garner them attention even though the critics and fans gave them only a warm welcome to their recordings during the days of New Wave and punk of the late 1970s.
In Color (1977), and the tour supporting Kiss and Queen exposed them to a wider audience and helped warm the room temperature in favor of them a bit more with a 75 US charting spot. I Want You To Want Me, when spun off as a 45 single, flopped the first time around but the live version got a top 10 later in 1979. Heaven Tonight (1978) and the live set At Budokan (1979) helped push heavy interest for them outside of just Japan to a 4 US and 29 UK standing and eventually went platinum, making them international stars over the forthcoming decade. Dream Police (1979) was likewise a smash at 6 US/41 UK The album showed their Beatles influences but the stardom of the follow-up All Shook Up (1980) was apparently almost wrecked with their featuring of George Martin, the album making only 24 in the US.
Peterssen opted to get off before the next port of call, One On One (1982), in favor of Pete Comata. The album saw them slipping in the charts again with a 39 US/95 UK placing. But their standings continued to slip with the Tod Rundgren produced Next Position Please (1983) getting only a 61 US, a far cry from their trans-Atlantic highs of just a few years previous. Standing On The Edge (1985) was a bit better, managing a 35 US but they returned to the gutter with The Doctor (1986), an album that failed to chart.
It was clear drastic changes were required. Peterssen returned they also hired outside songwriters resulting in their best disc of the decade. Lap of Luxury (1988) got them an 18 standing in the US with the track-gone-single The Flame making 1 US on its own while Don't Be Cruel made 7 US.
The 1990s saw their AOR musical style utilized in the Busted (1990) and The Greatest Hits "best of..." compilation in 1991. Shortly after Robin Zander released his solo set in 1993, Cheap Trick would shift to 'Warner' to release Woke Up With A Monster (1994), a disc that saw them attempting to revitalize their 1970s styles. But their sales remained flat so 'Warner' said bye-bye, as did 'Sub Pop' after their one-off self-titled for them, an album that just squeaked under the US top 100 to make 99.
In the late 1990s the act was in a nostalgic mood with a set of compilations and "best ofs..." coming out before their next studio effort, the self-released live effort Music For Hangovers (1999), and it's follow-up live effort only released in the US Silver (2001). Although the albums failed to chart they were bought up by die-hard fans and demonstrated the act's enthusiasm still intact after all those years.
Back in early 2000, the band entered into a license with the now-defunct Musicmaker.com to directly download and create custom CDs for over 50 songs.
Special One arrived in 2003. While the lead-off single Scent of a Woman was typical Cheap Trick fare, most of the album's tracks were acoustic-based. The album was met with mixed reviews, with one of the larger subjects of criticism being that the last two tracks on the album sounded the same. The band also contributed to the 1999 re-recorded version of Surrender to the comedy film Daddy Day Care, and made a cameo in the film.
In late 2003, Bun E. Carlos starred in a Target commercial with Torry Castellano, drummer of The Donnas.
In April 2005, the band released the five-track Sessions@AOL EP for digital download.
In 2006, they Rockford on their own 'Cheap Trick Unlimited/Big3 Records' label. They promoted the album through appearances on the Sirius and XM satellite radio networks and a North American tour. The track, Surrender was featured on the video game Guitar Hero II. Also that same year the albums, Dream Police and All Shook Up were re-issued in remastered form with bonus tracks.
In 2007, officials of Rockford, Illinois honored Cheap Trick by reproducing the Rockford album cover art on that year's "city sticker" (vehicle registration).
In August of that year, the band honored the 40th anniversary of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band by playing the album in its entirety with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, conducted by Edwin Outwater, along with guest vocalists including Joan Osborne and Aimee Mann. Geoff Emerick, who engineered all the sound effects on Sgt. Pepper, engineered the same sounds for the two live concerts. The Chicago chapter of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences honored Cheap Trick at the 2007 Recording Academy Honors event in Chicago on October 11, 2007.
In 2008, Cheap Trick were selected to be featured in the John Varvatos Spring/Summer 2008 clothing ad campaign.
Also in 2008, the song Dream Police was featured as a playable track in the hit video game Guitar Hero: Aerosmith. Rock Band 2.
In 2009, the band released The Latest. It was also made available in vinyl and 8-track tape (no kidding!) sold on the band's website.
Also in 2009, the group also performed the theme song for the film Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, as well as releasing Sgt. Pepper Live, their interpretation of the classic Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Bun E. Carlos launched a separate power-pop project including members of Smashing Pumpkins, Fountains of Wayne, and Hanson called Tinted Windows.
In 2010, the Dream Police track was re-recorded as Green Police for a commercial that appeared as the musical background in an Audi commercial that first aired during Super Bowl XLIV.
On March 19, 2010 Bun E. Carlos stopped touring as drummer for the band but would still be a band member, to be replaced by Nielsen's son Daxx.
On April 6, 2010 'Sony Music' began to reissue Cheap Trick's albums that have been out of print via reissue specialist labels 'Friday Music' and 'Wounded Bird' Records.
In 2013, Carlos filed a lawsuit against his former band mates, claiming that even though they claim that he is still a band member, he is not being allowed to participate in band-related activities, including recording the new album. The other members filed a counter-suit, seeking a legal confirmation of their dismissal Carlos; the lawsuit was thrown out by a Delaware judge late that year. On February 26, 2015, Robin Zander announced that the lawsuit was over nd the misunderstanding had been settled.
On January 22, 2016, Bang, Zoom, Crazy... Hello arrived.
In 2016, the US Republican Party offered the band $100,000 to play at a concert launching the 2016 Republican National Convention. The band turned it flat down with the statement, "We turned it down. Then we had second thoughts. Maybe we should have accepted it -- but we would all have got swastika guitars made." 2016 was the year Donald Trump was running for President on the Republican ticket.
In May, 2016, Cheap Trick was accepted in to the Rock and Roll hall of fame.