In 1961, Nielsen began playing locally in Rockford, Illinois utilizing an ever-increasing collection of rare and valuable guitars. He formed several local bands with names like The Boyz and The Grim Reapers. Brad Carlson, later known as Bun E. Carlos, played in a rival Rockford band, the Pagans. Finally, Nielsen formed Fuse in 1967 with Tom Peterson later known as Tom Petersson, who had played in yet another local band called The Bo Weevils.
Fuse released a self-titled album for Epic Records in 1970, which was generally ignored. Frustrated by their lack of success, Fuse recruited the two remaining members of Nazz in 1970 and ended up playing around the Midwest for 6–7 months under two monikers, Fuse or Nazz, depending on where they were gigging. With Bun E. Carlos joining on drums, Fuse moved to Philadelphia in 1971. They began calling themselves "Sick Man of Europe" in 1972–1973. After a European tour in 1973, Nielsen and Petersson returned to Rockford and reunited with Carlos.
Randy "Xeno" Hogan was the original lead singer for Cheap Trick. He left the band shortly after its formation and was replaced by Robin Zander. Contrary to an often repeated rumor that the band name originated from a Ouija Board, the name was inspired by the band's attendance of a Slade concert, where Petersson commented that the band used "every cheap trick in the book" as part of their act