GENEVA — Hobart and William Smith Colleges grads have gone on from Geneva to take leading roles in politics, business, the media and more, but rock stardom? Not so many.
That is, except for Eric Bloom, a member of Hobart’s class of 1966 and founder, lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist for Blue Öyster Cult, one of the biggest bands in rock in the 1970s and 1980s, which is set to play a show at del Lago Resort & Casino on Feb. 22.
It’s part of a tour that will take the band — best known for hits such as “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper,” “Godzilla” and “Burnin’ for You” — to venues around the country, as well as the United Kingdom and France.
HWS officials said that as a student at the Colleges, Bloom majored in modern languages and participated in the men’s billiard guild, the Colleges’ radio station WEOS, marching band and Tau Kappa Epsilon. He recalls playing gigs as a student “anyplace that would take us … fraternity parties, local bars like the Holiday Grill in downtown Geneva … even a ‘teen dance’ at a firehouse.”
In a piece he wrote for the Colleges’ magazine, The Pulteney Street Survey, Bloom fondly recalled his time in Geneva and noted that it was the famed Geneva 1960s rockers Wilmer and the Dukes who truly ignited his passion for rock and roll.
“As we (he and friend Brian Fitch) were walking by the old Hotel Seneca, we heard music coming from the Holiday Bar and Grill (on Exchange Street),” he writes. “Neither of us had been in there before. We stood outside and listened for a bit. The music sounded great, and it was freezing outside, so we walked in, ordered a couple of beers and checked the place out.
“In another room, a great-sounding R&B band was playing. I think it was $2 to get back there. The music was so good we forked over our money and went to the back room to see the band. This was a pivotal moment for me, as the band playing was Wilmer Alexander and the Dukes. I’d never heard of them, but they were awesome. The small room was packed. Everyone was partying, dancing, drinking, laughing and generally having a good time. I’m sure some readers from my era could tell their own stories about seeing the Dukes, but for me this was a revelation. Damn, they were a great band!”
The native of New York said he and Alexander became good friends and that he saw the band more than 100 times over the years.
Bloom said he started playing in bands while living in Geneva, including the group Lost and Found, with HWS students John Trivers, Peter Haviland and George Faust, along with local musician Jeff Hayes, who played drums.
Bloom wrote that he “kept playing in the Geneva area until late 1968, which included doing the sound for Richie Havens, Alan Ginsburg and Iron Butterfly on campus. These were great years.”
Bloom told HWS that he is “looking forward to playing del Lago in February. I always like the upstate New York vibe — hasn’t changed a bit.”