Cheap Trick formed in Rockford, Illinois, in 1975. The core members were guitarist Rick Nielsen and bassist Tom Petersson, locals who had already played in the touring bands Fuse and Sick Man of Europe. Drummer Brad "Bun E. Carlos" Carlson and singer Randy "Xeno" Hogan came aboard; the band's name was changed to Cheap Trick, and Hogan departed, to be replaced by Robin Zander.
As had been the case with Fuse and Sick Man of Europe, Cheap Trick toured constantly, creating a dynamic stage act centered on pretty-boys Zander and Petersson and wacky-looking Nielsen (who bore a notable resemblance to the East Side Kids' Huntz Hall), and Carlos, who resembled a third-level government official in a banana republic. Visuals aside, the band could also write, and play.
Their 1976 debut, on Epic Records, fared better in Japan than in the United States. Constant touring (still) and a more polished sound helped the band's second album, In Color, cracked Billboard's Hot 100.
In Japan, however, the band became superstars, selling out even the giant Budokan Arena.
Heaven Tonight, released in 1988, helped them reach the U.S. singles chart, with Surrender. But it was their fourth album - recorded at Budokan prior to the release of Heaven Tonight - that established the band as superstars on both sides of the Pacific. It included songs from their first two albums, though in a supercharged performance that communicated the strength of their well-crafted live show. I Want You to Want Me and a revival of Fats Domino's (and Dave Edmunds') Ain't That a Shame hit the pop charts as the studio-recorded versions had been unable to. Live At Budokan, and the studio-recorded Dream Police entered the Top 10.
Following the release of All Shook Up, produced by George Martin, Petersson left the band; Jon Brandt took over as bassist. The band's subsequent albums, Next Position Please, Standing on the Edge and The Doctor failed to take advantage of the momentum generated by the group's albums from Budokan on. Petersson's return for the album Lap of Luxury (1988) brought them back to platinum status, thanks in part to the hit singles The Flame and a revival of Elvis Presley's Don't Be Cruel, and the group moved from Epic to Warner Bros. Records. Their term there resulted in one album, Woke Up with a Monster.
After leaving Warner Bros., Cheap Trick has recorded for various independent labels, including their own. While airplay and sales of their newer material haven't reached the level of their peak (or even their weak) major label years, the band continues to be a powerful and popular live act.