That legendary “more cowbell” sketch on SNL in 2000 didn’t just introduce Blue Oyster Cult to a new generation, it changed the band’s touring requirements. Now, co-founder Buck Dharma says, BOC doesn’t go anywhere without one.
“It’s funny, that cowbell sketch,” Dharma tells Vintage Rock. “We never really thought much about the cowbell, until then. Now, we have to make sure we have the cowbell!”
In the April 8, 2000 episode of Saturday Night Live, guest host Christopher Walken portrays producer Bruce Dickinson, who encourages fictional Blue Oyster Cult member Gene Frenkle (played with typical nerdy obliviousness by former cast member Will Ferrell) toward ever wilder gesticulations with a cowbell during the sessions for “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper.”
All of a sudden, a song that hadn’t been a hit since way back in 1976 — when it went to No. 12 on the Billboard charts — was hot again. So was Blue Oyster Cult.
“I think it turned the band on to a lot more people, especially young people,” Dharma adds in a talk during last week’s NAMM event. “Of course, it was nice to get the exposure.”
With time, inaccuracies in the original script became more apparent: Eric Bloom, for instance, is portrayed as the lead singer, when Dharma actually handled vocal duties. Dickinson, though a reissue producer for BOC, did not oversee the original date.
Despite all of that, the sketch has continued to resonate in pop culture. Members of BOC have been offered condolences, since the original segment ended by stating that the Frenkle character had died in 2000. T-shirts proliferated everywhere, as the “more cowbell” saying moved into the language. That mantra has been repeated, of course, without fail at every Blue Oyster Cult show since, too.
Dharma, whose real name is Donald Roeser, takes it all in stride: “If we’re tired of ‘more cowbell,’” he says, chuckling, “just imagine how Christopher Walken feels.”