Donald Brian Roeser (born November 12, 1947), more commonly known by his stage name Buck Dharma, is an American guitarist and songwriter, best known for being a member of Blue Öyster Cult since the group's formation in 1967. He wrote and sang vocals on several of the band's best-known hits, including "(Don't Fear) The Reaper," "Godzilla" and "Burnin' for You."
Roeser was born on Long Island, New York. His father was an accomplished jazz saxophonist, and Roeser spent a lot of time listening to jazz music as a result. Because of this, Roeser developed an interest in the melodic arts at an early age, even playing the accordion for a brief time.
Roeser was influenced greatly by the British Invasion of 1964, and decided to pursue rock-and-roll music. He first started out playing the drums, but had to stop temporarily after breaking his wrist playing basketball. While recovering, Roeser learned to play guitar, and found he enjoyed it more than the drums.
During his high-school years, Roeser played guitar in various cover bands. At this time, he started to develop his own signature sound by imitating his favorite guitarists and combining their sounds with his own style. Roeser attended Clarkson University in New York, and joined a band that included later bandmate Albert Bouchard. The two played together on and off during the rest of their college career. At the end, both musicians abandoned potential degrees (Roeser's in Chemical Engineering), and decided to pursue music full-time. They moved into a band house near Stony Brook University, where Roeser was a part-time student, and started their careers.
Early career: 1967–1971
Roeser and Albert Bouchard started the band Soft White Underbelly in 1967. Members included keyboardist Allen Lanier, singer Les Braunstein, bassist Andrew Winters and former music critic Sandy Pearlman (their producer). In 1968, they were signed by Elektra Records after the company's president Jac Holzman saw them perform. The band dropped Braunstein and added new singer Eric Bloom to their lineup - and recorded under the name Stalk-Forrest Group (after a bad gig forced them to change their name) in 1970. Elektra dropped the band because of problems with the personnel, and the album was shelved (it was eventually released in 2001 under the name St. Cecilia: The Elektra Recordings).
Blue Öyster Cult: 1971–present
Roeser, along with Bouchard, Lanier, Pearlman, Bloom, and new member bassist Joe Bouchard (younger brother of Albert Bouchard) reformed with the name Blue Öyster Cult. They signed with Columbia Records in 1971, and released four albums between 1972 and 1975. By Blue Öyster Cult's fifth album Agents of Fortune in 1976, Roeser proved himself as a songwriter and vocalist with the band's signature song "(Don't Fear) The Reaper". As a result, Roeser's songwriting and vocals were more prevalent on the follow-up albums Spectres, Mirrors, Cultosaurus Erectus and Fire of Unknown Origin. Most significantly, he penned and sang on the tracks "Godzilla" and "Burnin' for You."
In 1982, Roeser recorded and released Flat Out, his first and only solo album to date. The tracks were all composed by Roeser (some co-written with Richard Meltzer, Neal Smith and Roeser's wife Sandy), with the exception of "Come Softly to Me," a song originally recorded by The Fleetwoods. The songs on the album were ones Roeser wanted to record with BÖC, but were perceived as too poppy by the other members of the band. Singles from the album were "Born to Rock" and "Your Loving Heart," both of which had music videos made but did not chart. The video for the former was part of an MTV promo along with Blotto's Metalhead clip, in which Buck made a cameo appearance, as well as playing guitar on the song.
Roeser and Blue Öyster Cult subsequently recorded several more albums that flopped commercially, but contained several of Roeser's compositions and many tracks with him on lead vocals. The band's commercial struggles, along with the loss of original members Albert Bouchard (1982) and Allen Lanier (1985), prompted Blue Öyster Cult to break up in mid 1986.
In 1985, Roeser and Bloom participated in Hear 'n Aid, a project created by Ronnie James Dio to raise money for famine relief in Africa. It included many famous heavy metal musicians. Hear n' Aid recorded the song "Stars," which includes a guitar solo by Roeser. Hear n' Aid also released a compilation album which included "Stars," as well as live outtakes from the participating artists.
In 1988 Blue Öyster Cult released Imaginos, which was recorded between 1982 and 1988. The record was originally planned to be a concept album based on Sandy Pearlman's poetry by former drummer Albert Bouchard. At the insistence of Columbia Records, it was released under the band name. Despite largely positive reviews, the album did not do well commercially, and the band was dropped by Columbia. This was the last album featuring all original members, as the Bouchards left at the end of production.
In 1988, Roeser formed The Red and the Black with John Rogers on bass and Ron Riddle on drums. The band recorded demos, but was never signed by a record company and never released an album. As a result, the band split quickly. In 1989, Roeser contributed the instrumental "Gamera is Missing" to the album Guitar's Practicing Musicians Volume 3 (later included on the CD re-release of Flat Out).
After releasing Imaginos, Roeser, Bloom and Lanier continued to tour as Blue Öyster Cult, with various musicians on bass and drums. In 1992, the band wrote the score for Bad Channels and composed two original songs for its soundtrack. In 1994, Blue Öyster Cult released Cult Classic, an album containing remakes of their greatest hits.
In the late 1990s, Blue Öyster Cult signed with Sanctuary Records, and released two studio albums and one live album between 1998 and 2002. The band was dropped by the label in 2002. Roeser continues to tour extensively with the band, and in December 2012 reunited for a final time with all of the original members for the band's 40th Anniversary Concert.
On January 1, 2015, Roeser released "Fight", an original song, on his SoundCloud account. It is his first newly released material since 2001.
Roeser appears on the song "Metal Head" by the comedy-rock group Blotto and appears in the song's video, watching television.
In 2002, Roeser and his wife created "The Dharmas", a web-series exclusively featured on Roeser's website. The web-series is a comical, fictionalized insight on the life and times of the Roeser family.
In 1996, Roeser heard about Ricky Browning, a 10-year-old fan of Roeser's "Godzilla" who was battling a brain tumor. Roeser organized a benefit concert to help with the family's medical costs. Roeser, his wife Sandy, drummer John Miceli and bassist Danny Miranda played the concert under the name "Buck Dharma Band". Roeser taped the concert and released a video of it, which includes the story of Browning. Browning eventually succumbed to his illness. The Roesers still have a close relationship with the Browning family.
Roeser is notable for his use of the Gibson SG and numerous Steinberger models. One of his Steinberger guitars has a custom body made to look like Swiss cheese (see photo at top); Dharma calls this guitar his "Cheeseberger".
His other equipment use includes: a Giuliano Balestra Vulcan, a Fender Stratocaster, a St. Blues and custom models built by Rick Kresiak, Harper Guitars and Warren Guitars. Many of his guitars were made by White Plains-based custom guitar maker, Giuliano.
In August 2015 Dharma became an endorser of Kiesel Guitars and played a headless Vader 6.
Roeser got the stage name "Buck Dharma" in the late 1960s. Manager Sandy Pearlman came up with the idea of creating eccentric stage names for Blue Öyster Cult's members. Every member rejected their new stage name except for Roeser, who liked the name and the idea of having an alternate persona.
- Flat Out (1982)
- "Born to Rock" (1982)
- "Your Loving Heart" (1982)