The late Cheryl Dilcher left behind four albums, all of which have something to recommend them. Dilcher was an American singer/songwriter (from Pennsylvania) whose first album, the rather prosaically titled Special Songs (1971), was recorded in New York and issued on the Ampex label. It’s an acoustic folk/pop album, with a pre-fame Bette Midler featured prominently on backing vocals. Dilcher, who accompanies herself on guitar, wrote perky, thoughtful songs and gets more interesting in the next phase of her career – her two A&M albums, made after she and her producer, the renowned Jeff Barry, moved to Los Angeles. Butterfly contains two of her finest songs ‘High’ and ‘All Woman’; coquettish funk of the highest order. The only questionable part of the album is the rather twee ‘Rainbow Farm’. Melanie had a knack for writing kiddy-wink songs and somehow pulling them off. Dilcher less so. Dilcher’s final album, Blue Sailor, came out in the second half of the 1970s on the Butterfly label and in its musical cast was Al Kooper. Like Magic, it has a slightly harder rock character than Dilcher’s first two albums.

I wish I knew more about this quirky, intriguing performer. You can find bits and pieces online, and they’re worth reading, especially this one. And here’s an intelligent analysis of one of Dilcher’s finest songs, ‘It’s A Secret’ from the Magic album. There are some online recollections that suggest Cheryl suffered from epilepsy. Other accounts, however, some of which are first-hand, dispute this. She died prematurely in 2005 and, sadly, little has been done to reevaluate her work. As of 2024, though, her four albums are on streaming platforms. It’s unclear if they’ve been remastered and there’s no indication of what source has been used to create the streaming files. You would expect, for example, her second and third albums to have a Universal Music copyright, but instead an obscure company appears to have uploaded them. The original vinyl editions seem to be a little more sought after than the average 70s singer/songwriter LP, with slightly higher prices for the first three than for the more easily acquired fourth.

7 comments

  1. Cheryl was born in 1948 and lived in Allentown, PA when she was signed by A&M Records. She was a singer songwriter who played a 12-string guitar (you can hear it). They wanted another Joni Mitchell, but she wanted to be a rocker. In order to be signed by a record company in the 70’s, an artist had to sign away all their publishing rights, and agree to write a couple movie soundtracks. When I visited her in 1974, she was painting her boots for her first performance at the Whisky A Go Go. “May 29-June 2, 1974 Whisky-A-Go-Go, West Hollywood, CA (Sutherland Brothers and Quiver, Cheryl Delcher)” from Concerts Wiki. Since Cheryl did not submit to the image the record company wanted, she was fired and went on the road. Many years later, she discovered that her beloved road manager was an A&M plant. He recorded everything in case she hit it big….they would get the money. It destroyed her. She stayed in SoCal and lived a quiet life. Some articles say she had epilepsy, but I don’t know that to be true. If she had done what the industry wanted and also changed her last name (too German) she would have made it. She’s still on the defunct A&M company artist list (1973-1974) Rest in Peace, Cheryl.

    1. Hi Janice, Cheryl. Was my roommate in Allentown back in the day. She was a dear friend and I miss her. I found out she passed when my last letter to her was returned. She was part of our circle of friends. I still hold her close.

  2. I discovered Cheryl Dilcher around 2020. I love her songs, I keep looking for her album but they are I believe out of stock. And she isn’t here any more to make her music. Such a short career and short life.
    BTW that one link this one has this message
    “410 Gone
    Penn State Personal Web Server Retired – Effective July 28, 2023
    This web site address is no longer available. No forwarding information is available.”
    So can’t read any of that information about Cheryl Dilcher 😥
    But thank you for talking about her in your blog RIP Cheryl Dilcher

    1. Hi. I hope you can read this. Cheryl’s albums have recently appeared on streaming platforms. I’m not sure who’s uploaded them since they’re not copyrighted as A&M/Universal, but it’s good news if you want to easy access to the music.

  3. Cheryl was my roommate in Allentown. I never new of any epilepsy in her medical history. OMG, the fun we had ! I would drive us to a lot of the closer weekend gigs, especially the college circuits! We had a blast meeting people and making new friends. She was my dear friend and we stayed in touch until my last letter came back marked deceased … I was devastated. She will always have a special place in my heart.

    1. Thanks so much for sharing this memory… what a terrible way to find out Cheryl had died. I’m so sorry. I wonder if the epilepsy is either a piece of apocrypha that has somehow crept into the story.

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