Don’t fear the reaper, it’s Buck Dharma
There are certain pieces of music in songs that stand out as classics. These are the riffs, licks and solos that make the song a classic and are usually imitated by others infinitely.
The drum solo in Wipeout, the guitar riff in Hendrix’s All Along the Watchtower, the sax solo in Jungleland, the drum beat of In the Air Tonight, Mark Knopfler’s guitar lick in Sultans of Swing and so many more are all examples of iconic pieces of songs that make that song so special.
One of my favorites that I think is instantly recognizable is the opening of Blue Oyster Cult's Don’t Fear the Reaper. It’s so familiar and establishes the song so distinctly. That song was written by Buck Dharma from Blue Oyster Cult. Buck has been an original member of Blue Oyster Cult since 1967. He also wrote another big hit for them with Burnin' for You and other Blue Oyster Cult's hits that made the group so successful.
I met Buck Dharma over 20 years ago at The Downtown Café in Red Bank. The Downtown, before it was renovated, was a long narrow bar with a brick wall and a small stage. Every Monday night my friend and musician Pat Guadagno would perform. It reminded me of being in the Village in New York. I really enjoyed my Mondays at the Downtown, the bartenders were great, the atmosphere was perfect, the music was awesome and you never knew who would pop in to catch Pat’s music.
I was sitting at my usual spot at the bar on this particular Monday night some 20 years ago when this couple walked in. They sat next to me at the bar. I kept looking at the guy who was short in stature but it was one of those ”where do I know this guy from” moments.
It was racking my brain when from the stage Pat says how happy and honored he was to have a music legend in the house. I knew he wasn’t talking about me and I glanced once over the crowd and didn’t notice anybody and then Pat blurted out the words Buck Dharma, from Blue Oyster Cult. Well Holy Crap! Of course, it’s Buck!
So Buck acknowledged the crowd and we struck up a conversation. He and his wife Sandy made you feel like you knew them for most of their lives. When Buck wasn’t touring, he and Sandy came Monday nights to The Downtown and we would always hang out and enjoy Pat’s music and chat at intermission.
When I was doing my TV show, The Big Joe Henry Variety Show, Pat was my musical director and said we should book Buck on the show. Of course, great idea. Buck had the audience in the palm of his hand that night. Here is my interview with him on my TV show. Thanks for the music Buck and how about "more cowbell?”
The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 weekend host Big Joe Henry. Any opinions expressed are Big Joe’s own.