Jules Radino had a friend vouch for him.
That’s how he got the chance to audition for the legendary rock band Blue Oyster Cult when they were in need of a drummer in 2004.
He was instructed to learn three songs for the tryout. He had two days to prepare.
At this point, he was already an accomplished percussionist who was touring nationally and internationally with blues guitarist Popa Chubby — but the Bellport native wasn’t taking any chances.
This was Blue Oyster Cult, after all, the band of “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” and “Burnin’ for You” fame that has sold 24 million albums worldwide.
So instead of three songs, he learned 30.
“And when they asked, ‘What songs did you learn?’ I said, just pick something that you want me to play and we’ll do it,” Radino recalled. “I thought the worst thing that could happen is I don’t get the gig but I learned 30 BOC songs, so that’s not bad.”
He got the gig.
“I think they were happy with me doing that homework,” he said.
Blue Oyster Cult’s lead vocalist and guitarist, Eric Bloom, said the band had narrowed their choice down to three good drummers of the five who tried out to replace Bobby Rondinelli, who was leaving for another project.
“I called Jon Miceli who was my son’s drum teacher and Meat Loaf’s drummer for a recommendation,” Bloom said. “He recommended Jules who was one of his students and had a track record on tour with Popa Chubby.
“Jules stood out as steady yet playing with a good feel,” he continued. “Jon is one of my favorite drummers, so being one of his students I could tell Jules had been schooled well plus had a natural ability.”
Bloom is one of two original members of the five-member band, with the other being Don “Buck Dharma” Roeser, a vocalist and lead guitarist.
We interviewed Radino Monday at Rice Realty Group in Bellport, where the drummer now sells and rents real estate when he’s not touring on weekends. Radino had just returned from another whirlwind weekend, during which Blue Oyster Cult played in Milwaukee, Medina, Minn. and Phoenix, Ariz.
In the past 12 years, the band— which traces its roots to Stony Brook in the late 1960s — has played with Alice Cooper, Boston, Cheap Trick, Aerosmith, Motley Crue and Ozzy Osbourne, among others.
“It’s great; it’s a blast,” Radino said of performing with rock idols. “You remember listening to them on your records and cassettes back in the day, and all of a sudden you’re watching from the side of the stage and you’re saying this is pretty cool.”
Radino had almost called it quits on his musical career before his Blue Oyster Cult tryout over a decade ago. As fate would have it, he instead ended up being discovered by Popa Chubby during an open mic.
“The band I was playing with was just God awful, and I’m like, I’m done; I can’t do this anymore,” he said of that early morning in Manhattan. “And as I’m playing, this guy walks in with a couple of guitars and I knew it was Popa Chubby.”
So he tried his best to step it up a notch.
“Then he told everyone to get the hell off the stage, ‘Except for you,’ and he pointed to me,” Radino continued. “The house band comes on and we jam for an hour and a half. The next day he calls up and says, I love the way you play; you got a passport? And I said yes and he told me we leave for Europe next week.”
It was that experience, touring overseas, that also helped land him the job with Blue Oyster Cult, which plays often in Europe.
“When they’re going crazy, it’s amazing,” he said of the massive audiences. “You get pumped. You get fired up and you’re like this is f–ing awesome. And that’s why we do it.”
Of course, no Blue Oyster Cult interview is complete without asking about Saturday Night Live’s “More Cowbell” skit from 2000.
The skit stars Will Ferrell portraying fictional Blue Oyster Cult member Gene Frenkle, who plays the cowbell for the band as it records “The Reaper,” for a producer character played by actor Christopher Walken. It’s considered among the best SNL skits ever made.
SNL definitely helped put the band on the radar of younger generations who weren’t following Blue Oyster Cult in its heyday in the 1970s and 80s, said Radino, who also gives lessons out of his Bellport Village home.
“It’s definitely been a boost,” he said. “‘More cowbell’ has become part of the English language now. We were reading a car review and it said, ‘This car was great, but it needed more cowbell,’ which was like, hilarious.”
Being the band’s percussionist, is it Radino who plays the cowbell for The Reaper?
(We know many of you have been thinking it, so here’s the payoff.)
“My drum tech will play the cowbell,” he said. “And then we’ll have guest appearances. And when we do local shows, my son, who’s 7, will play the cowbell.”
Of course, people love that.
So, does his son Julius ham it up like Will Ferrell’s character did?
“I don’t know if he’s really hamming it up so much,” he said with a laugh, “but he does his thing.”
“He’s a fan favorite and he can keep a beat,” Bloom said of Julius. “I’ve known him since he was born and he’s going to be as good as his dad.”
Top photo: Jules Radino performs at Hellfest in Clisson, France, in July 2012. (Blue Oyster Cult courtesy photos)