Was Bruce Dickinson Really the Producer Who Wanted “More Cowbell” on “Don’t Fear the Reaper”?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about music and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the movie urban legends featured so far.

MUSIC URBAN LEGEND: Bruce Dickinson was the producer who added cowbell to the Blue Oyster Cult song, “Don’t Fear the Reaper”

One of the most famous Saturday Night Live skits of all-time is the 2000 sketch written by and starring Will Ferrell as a fictitious member of the band Blue Oyster Cult, whose job is only to play the cowbell, something that doesn’t come up very often, but when legendary producer Bruce Dickinson decides that the only thing that the song “Don’t Fear the Reaper” needs is “more cowbell,” then Ferrell’s character really gets into it, much to the dismay of his bandmates…


Besides the made up band member that Ferrell played, the skit tried to be as faithful as it could to the Blue Oyster Cult at the time (including the fact that the song does, in fact, have cowbell in it), depicting the band members very accurately (although they had the wrong member of the band singing lead and made a few other minor errors). However, what about Bruce Dickinson? Did he really produce the song and ask for the cowbell?

The answer is mostly no, but there’s a bit of a trick to it.


Bruce Dickinson (which happens to be the name of the lead singer of Iron Maiden, as well) is, in fact, a producer.

He was not the producer of the original recording of “Don’t Fear the Reaper.” That was David Lucas, who recalled to a Buffalo news site when he was inducted into the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame as to why he added cowbell to the song:

It needed momentum and I just went to my studio and got my old cowbell, just put four on the floor, just gave it that linear thing. I don’t remember [their reaction]. They really didn’t argue with me or question what I did

Bruce Dickinson, however, DID work on the song decades later, when it was re-issued as part of a “Best of” CD. When the SNL intern went to buy the song for the skit so that they could get the names of the people involved correctly, Dickinson, who was the RE-ISSUE producer, was labeled and thus he was the guy credited in the sketch.

Dickinson hilariously has pointed out, “I usually, when I get that question, I say yes, they’re referring to me, but I’m not the guy who really produced the record. And of course that confuses them a little more.”

The legend is…


Thanks to Eric Greenberg for the Dickinson quote (I’d link you to the article on Greenberg’s site featuring the quote, but it’s not online right now for some reason) and thanks to the Buffalo news channel WIVB and David Lucas for Lucas’ quote!

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future urban legends columns! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com

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4 Responses to “Was Bruce Dickinson Really the Producer Who Wanted “More Cowbell” on “Don’t Fear the Reaper”?”

  1. Bruce Dickinson on October 7th, 2016 at 1:18 pm

    I got a fever and the only prescription is more cowbell!

  2. You keep saying fictitious member of the band. I’m pretty sure he’s portraying Eric Bloom.

  3. Chris Parnell was playing Eric Bloom. Ferrell’s character was the completely fictitious Gene Frenkle, who they even “killed off” at the end of the sketch, with an “In Memoriam” for him.

  4. All of the band members have false names. (Buck is referred to as “Eric” by Ferrell’s character.)
    Here’s what it is to me, from the guys in the video thumbnail, left to right: Albert Bouchard (who was actually BOC’s drummer, but did play guitar), Eric Bloom, Buck Dharma (who did sing the Reaper and does so in the SNL skit), and Joe Bouchard on the right. They appear to have erroneously had Alan Lanier (played by Jimmy Fallon) playing the drums.

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