Younger kids will not understand who I’m talking about, but will relate to the skit played by Will Ferrell on Saturday Night Live when the comedian “directed” classic rock band Blue Oyster Cult to add more cowbell while recording the hit Don’t Fear the Reaper.
Now, what a lot of people don’t know is that the real person behind the idea of adding the cowbell sound to Don’t Fear the Reaper was Blue Oyster Cult’s producer, David Lucas, who has, for a while, been a resident of Boca Raton, Florida.
When Boca Raton Magazine asked me to photograph Lucas for an article entitled “How Does it Feel” where Lucas describe his participation with the classic band and the addition of the cowbell that made him famous – although his credentials go way beyond the instrument who became a virtual curse for him – I knew this would be a day I would not forget. But I had no idea what was coming.
As I mentioned in my post Jam Session With Pastor Duke Philips, one of my biggest passions is playing drums – which I was fortunate to do professionally for several years in my 20s. So photographing music personalities has a special place in my heart. Photographing someone like Lucas was already a thrill in itself just for what he – and his work – represent to the music world.
Part of my job as an environment portrait photographer is to connect with the people I’m photographing. And this cannot be faked. The success of my photo shoots depend on my genuine interest in the people I’m photographing. And my interest comes from my love for what I do. With Lucas, it was no different. His stories fascinated me and we chatted for over an hour before I even started setting up my lighting equipment. The fact that he is also an amazing photographer added a little pressure to the experience.
After capturing the photos I wanted to illustrate his article, Lucas asked me if I had a few more minutes so he could show me something. I followed him upstairs where he opened a closet door, pulled a bag full of Zildjian drum cymbals and handed it to me. I opened the bag and started looking at the cymbals without understanding the situation. Then Lucas said: “these cymbals were given to me by one of my best friends. He asked me to keep them before he passed away”.
Of course, I asked who was his friend to what he answered: “turn them around. His initials are on the cymbals”. The moment I saw the initials BR, my hands started shaking and I felt the tears in my eyes. Yes, I can be quite emotional when I’m holding a piece of history in my hands. The cymbals belonged to Buddy Rich, probably the most influential and revolutionary drummer that ever played the instrument. Rich was a frequent guest at Johnny Carson’s show and played with acts such as Artie Shaw, Tommy Dorsey, Benny Carter, Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Gene Krupa, and Louis Armstrong just to mention a few. Also, he’s credited of creating some of the most original drum solos ever seen and mastering the use of the drums rims on his solos.
Without a doubt, photographing David Lucas was an amazing experience and I’m glad to know that I also made a friend that day. Who else will prepare you a fresh Bloody Mary during a photo shoot? But the energy I felt while holding those cymbals made me want to rush home and hit my drums. And that’s exactly what I did. For that, I thank you, Lucas. And I thank you, Mr. Rich, wherever you are.