Blue Öyster Cult's Eric Bloom

Singer/guitarist Eric Bloom met the members of what would become the dark-metal act Blue Öyster Cult -- future rock-critic Richard Meltzer and future producer Sandy Pearlman -- in a music store.

He became road manager for the band, then known as Soft White Underbelly, and eventually, after it changed its name to Oaxaca, the group's lead vocalist. His career was born.

Bloom, who turns 54 today, attended Hobart College in upstate New York in the early '60s. While there, he sang for a band called The Lost and Found. In 1968, Bloom moved to Long Island and got a job as a salesman in the music store where he met the other members.

After a brief relationship with Elektra Records, the group signed with Columbia in 1971. In addition to Bloom and lead guitarist Donald "Buck Dharma" Roeser, the band, which issued the next year's Blue Öyster Cult under its new name, featured Albert Bouchard on drums, his brother Joe on bass and Allen Lanier on keyboards and guitar.

Bloom and Roeser are the only two members of Blue Öyster Cult to appear on all of the heavy-metal band's albums, from 1972 to the present. Pearlman eventually became the Cult's manager; Meltzer began writing for Crawdaddy magazine.

A live album, 1975's On Your Feet or on Your Knees, attracted some attention before Blue Öyster Cult had a commercial breakthrough with Agents of Fortune (1976). The band already had fans based on its live show, which featured lasers, a leather-clad, sunglasses-wearing Bloom and guitar solos by Dharma. But Agents broke the Cult to a wider audience with the melodic, rocking hit "(Don't Fear) the Reaper"(RealAudio excerpt). The LP also included vocals and songwriting by punk priestess Patti Smith, who was Lanier's girlfriend. At one point, the boys even considered Smith for possible band membership.

After touring with Black Sabbath in 1980, the Cult had another top-40 hit with "Burnin' for You," from 1981's Fire of Unknown Origin, their last gold-selling record. Lanier and Al Bouchard departed for a spell, but the original Cult lineup was back together for 1988's Imaginos.

In the '90s, the Bouchard brothers left the Cult, and the band continued around the core of Bloom, Lanier and Dharma. In 1994, Blue Öyster Cult issued Cult Classic, which contained re-recorded BÖC hits that were used in the TV miniseries of author Stephen King's "The Stand." King is a big BÖC fan.

The following year, CBS-Sony released the double-CD hits collection,Workshop Of The Telescopes. In 1997, the Cult toured with Foghat, Pat Travers and Steppenwolf, and issued Summerdaze on CMC International.

This year, Blue Öyster Cult came out with Heaven Forbid.

Other birthdays: Billy Paul, 64; Lou Rawls, 63; John Densmore (Doors), 54; Bette Midler, 53; Gilbert O'Sullivan, 52; Julee Cruise, 42; and Steve Jansen (Japan), 39.