|Also known as: Buck Dharma
Born on: 12.11.1947
A twist of fate, or more accurately, a twist of the wrist, turned Donald "Buck Dharma" Roeser into a guitar player.
Surrounded by music growing up, Roeser spent his formative years listening to his father, an accomplished jazz saxophonist, and naturally gravitated toward the melodic arts as the years progressed. As a child, Roeser briefly toyed with the accordion, but when the British Invasion made a loud landing on US shores, he finally discovered his true calling: Rock & Roll. Buck's first love wasn't the guitar however. He began his journey to rock legend as a drummer.
But as it happened, fate intervened early, when the young Roeser fractured his left wrist on the basketball court. Unable to quell his musical energies, he began fiddling around with the guitar during his recovery. Slowly, the realization dawned that he enjoyed plucking a guitar just as much as banging skins, and the rest is rock history.
Following a course familiar to most young musicians, Roeser played in a series of cover bands during his high school years. Imitating licks from his favorite records at first, it didn't take long for him to meld the influences of his guitar heroes into a sound and style all his own.
It wasn't until after he arrived at Clarkson College in New York that the foundations of his storied rock career began to fall into place. He joined a band that included original BÖC drummer Albert Bouchard. The two hit it off, and continued playing together on and off while attending school. Eventually, both were lured away from academic pursuits - Roeser from a potential degree in chemical engineering - by the enticing possibility of making music full time. Forsaking academia for the wilds of Long Island, they landed in a rented "band house" near Stony Brook University with several other musicians, and the Soft White Underbelly was born. Soft White Underbelly began as a loose enclave of musicians who quite simply enjoyed playing and partying together, creating music that was equal parts San Francisco psychedelia and New York grit -- with extended jams and improvisation. Amongst the participants were keyboardist Allen Lanier and Stony Brook mover-and-shaker / music critic Sandy Pearlman, who would eventually become the band's manager. It was during this time that Roeser took on the stage name "Buck Dharma," which actually came from a rejected Pearlman idea in which each band member was given an unusual stage name. The names were summarily rejected by all except Roeser, who actually liked the name, and the idea of having an alternate persona.
As the Underbelly's unique sound took shape, it caught the ear of Jac Holzman, president of Elektra Records, who rewarded their creative efforts with a recording contract. Unfortunately, after recording a remarkable debut album, band personnel problems led Elektra to drop SWU before the recording was released.
Despite the setback, the band pushed forward, filling the vacant band positions with singer Eric Bloom and Albert's brother Joe Bouchard on bass. With the new members' influence, the music began to take on different shape, and this new sound was now shopped to record companies. After a live audition in a Columbia Records conference room for Columbia Records president Clive Davis, Harry Nilsson and Bobby Columby, the band secured a long-term contract under the new moniker Blue Öyster Cult, as bestowed upon them by manager Pearlman.
Blue Öyster Cult blasted onto the music scene in 1972 with their self-titled first album. The record received broad critical acclaim, and their next two albums, Tyranny & Mutation and Secret Treaties, only increased their following. Originally signed by Columbia as the American answer to Black Sabbath, the band's ultra-tight live act created a loyal, rabid fan base that ultimately turned BÖC into one of the most successful live rock acts of the '70s.
By the time their live fourth album, "On Your Feet Or On Your Knees," was released, BÖC's reputation for sonically challenging guitar-driven stadium shows was reaching epic proportions. However, it wasn't until "Agents Of Fortune" was released in 1976 that the band landed a spot on the popular charts.
Their fifth album, "Agents of Fortune" went Gold and Platinum on the shoulders of Dharma's haunting single, "(Don't Fear) The Reaper," which rose as high as #12 on the Billboard "Hot 100." Standing the test of time, the song remains as beautiful and relevant today as the day it was released. The true measure of the song's status in the rock pantheon is evidenced by the frequency with which it is cited as a musical influence and covered by other popular bands, such as Big Country, R.E.M. and the Goo Goo Dolls. "Reaper" has also made numerous appearances in movies and on television, including "Halloween," and Stephen King's "The Stand." "Reaper" is a modern classic -- a daily staple of Classic Rock radio across the country to this day.
BÖC began dominating the "Arena Rock" circuit in earnest soon after "Agents," searing audiences with other Dharma-penned tunes like "Godzilla," from the 1977 "Spectres" LP. Later albums like 1979's "Mirrors" and 1980's "Cultösaurus Erectus" received less critical acclaim, but offered incontrovertible proof that the creative juggernaut of Dharma & Co. refused to be bound by rock conventions. In 1981, Dharma delivered another hit single with "Burnin' for You," which drove the success of the 1981 album "Fire Of Unknown Origin."
The 80's marked a period of significant change for BÖC, as Albert Bouchard left the band in 1981. During the transition, BÖC recorded a third live album, and Dharma seized the opportunity to record a solo album, seeking an outlet for his prolific pen, and the songs that were too "pop" for the confines of BÖC, which left little room for ballads.
Released in 1982 by Portrait Records, "Flat Out" contained tracks ranging from romantic tales of love lost and found and moody instrumentals to the slightly offbeat, a Dharma trademark. In addition to writing all the songs, he played nearly every instrument and also produced the record. The album received mixed reviews, perhaps because critics were expecting Dharma's album to be the "Son Of BÖC," but what they heard instead was an optimistic, hook-laden record chock full of his unique songwriting talents and trademark six-string mastery.
During the rest of the '80s, BÖC released 3 new studio albums. While critical success escaped 1984's "Revolution By Night" and 1986's "Club Ninja," Dharma's hallmark writing and playing were abundant throughout, and after a brief hiatus in 1987, the band reformed around Dharma, Bloom and Lanier and began touring again. They haven't stopped since. Dharma and BÖC also contributed songs to the soundtracks for the films "Heavy Metal," "Teachers" and "Bad Channels," which gave Dharma the opportunity to provide the soundtrack cues for the film, in addition to the songs BÖC provided.
In 1988, Buck started The Red and The Black, a power trio with Jon Rogers (bass) and Ron Riddle (drums). (At the time, both Rogers and Riddle were also members of BÖC). The band recorded several sets of demos, performed in and around the New York vicinity. The songs recorded by The Red and the Black are on the fourth CD of the Buck Dharma Archive Series.
In 1996, a BÖC fan called to Buck's attention the plight of Ricky Browning, a 10-year-old Godzilla fan in Georgia who was battling a brain tumor. When Dharma was alerted to the boy's situation, he agreed to perform a benefit concert to help defray the family's medical costs. Buck and his wife, Sandy, along with current BÖC bassist Danny Miranda, and drummer John Miceli (Meatloaf) joined together in the Buck Dharma Band, and the performance, along with a heartwarming portrait of a very brave and compassionate young man is available on the "Miracles DO Happen" video. Sadly, Ricky eventually succumbed to his illness. Buck and Sandy continued their close relationship with Keith Browning, Ricky's father.
In 1998 BÖC released "Heaven Forbid," their first new studio record in 10 years. "Heaven Forbid" offered Dharma his first opportunity to take full control of the music in the producer's seat.
Dharma reprised his role as producer with the 2001 release of BÖC's latest record, "Curse of the Hidden Mirror." "Curse" is another stellar offering from Blue Öyster Cult, showcasing the skillful musicianship and creative songwriting of the band. The record includes two of the songs previously only available on the Buck Dharma Archive Series, "Stone of Love" and "Here Comes That Feeling" which have been transformed by the forceful yet graceful hand of Blue Öyster Cult. Dharma remains a creative pillar in the band that he helped make famous, with Blue Öyster Cult still outgunning the majority of their Classic Rock colleagues by averaging over 100 live performances a year. This constant touring is gaining the band a healthy boost of new young followers who find today's rock and rap music too one-dimensional and welcome BÖC's multilayered combination of musicianship, songwriting craft and lyrical depth.