Akron, 1973 -
Akron's biggest band began as one of the most unlikely success stories. The group began as an art project by Kent State students, who happened have played in teen bands in the mid-late 1960s. Gerald Casale was from Stow and had played a short lived band called the Swagmen. Mark Mothersbaugh was in the Fugitives, who were good enough to have placed second in a Cuyahoga Falls battle of the bands (By Popular Demand were the winners). Along with Bob Lewis, whose resume is unknown to us, they started working on songs that played out a concept called "De-Evolution", that humanity had peaked and was regressing. They took a found pamphlet from the 1920s called "Jocko-Homo Heavenbound", which was about an ape like humanoid - and developed their signature song around it, along with the "booji boy".
In they gave their first live performance as a band, billed as "De-vo the De-evolution band" at a 1973 KSU arts festival. A full band of six members including Casale, Mothersbaugh, Lewis, with Bob Casale, Gerald's brother, on guitar, and Rod Reisman (drums) and Fred Weber (lead singer). Weber had been the Measles/Lacewing lead singer for a couple years but left about the time they recorded their LP. This lineup only did the one show.
In 1974, with both Casale brothers, Lewis, Mark, and Mark's brother Jim on drums started playing shows. Jim played a drum machine. Occasionally Bob Mothersbaugh (Mark and Jim's brother) would play guitar, and Bob Lewis would eventually drop out. During the years 1974-6 Devo played local shows, but just as importantly made the short film 'The Truth about De-Evolution" that included 'music video' performance segments for the songs "Jocko Homo" and "Secret Agent Man". Midway through, Mark Mothersbaugh as Booji Boy is show running past a mural called "Shine On America", located on a building in downtown Cuyahoga Falls (about 2 blocks from a former residence of this website's editor). The mural, painted for the 1976 US Bicentennial, was later used as the cover for the 1978 Stiff Records Akron compilation (with the infamout scratch and sniff rubber smell cover). The mural had weathered quickly and was painted over a couple years later, the wall is now covered by another building.
In 1976 "The Truth about De-Evolution" was getting shown at avant film festivals and the band's profile was raised considerably. Jim Mothersbaugh quit and Alan Myers, who played a regular drum kit, joined and the band lineup stabilized with the 'classic' five member group of the two Mothersbaughs, the two Casales, and Myers. This lineup recorded the other key signature song "Mongoloid" and released it with the re-recorded/edited "Jocko Homo" recording for their 1st 45 in March 1977. This, along with the film, got them noticed by David Bowie, Iggy Pop and Neil Young, which led to having the band, mainly Mark, work on the film score for the film "Human Highway" written and produced by Young. The film was not released until 1982, but Devo had filmed their parts in 1978. While a deal with Warner Brothers was being worked, the band released their second 45, a deconstruction of "I Can't Get No Satisfaction" b/w "Sloppy (I Saw My Baby Getting)". Stiff records released these, along with "Be Stiff" on an EP.
In the summer of 1978 the first Devo LP was released on Warner Brothers with re-recordings of the earlier 45 sides, recorded at Conny Plank's studio in Cologne, Germany. Plank was already a legend in Kraut Rock and had produced David Bowie's "Berlin Trilogy" LPs. The LP was a lot more successful in the UK than in the US, where in 1978 the public was slow to warm up to Devo's sound.
The band released "Duty Now For The Future" in 1979 and "Freedom of Choice" in 1980, which included "Whip It", Devo's only 'hit record". They got to perform on several national TV shows. They released "New Traditionalists" in 1981 and "Oh No It's Devo " in 1982. In 1984 they released "Shout" which didn't sell well and led to the loss of their Warner Brothers deal and the band going on hiatus.
In 1987 Devo restarted with new drummer David Kendrick replacing the departed Alan Myers. This group recorded the 1988 LP "Total Devo" and the following tour they recorded the live LP "Now It Can Be Told - Devo live at the Palace". The band made one more LP in 1990, "Smooth Noodle Maps", before disbanding.
After several years which saw Mark Mothersbaugh and Gerald Casale involved with various projects, the group started performing again with a new drummer Josh Freese. They played rock festivals and recorded a few one off songs. Fast forwarding to 2010, they recorded their first LP in 20 years, "Something For Everybody" which was much better received than any LP since "Oh No It's Devo". In 2014 Bob Casale passed away suddenly.
Devo is still a working band, with Josh Hager taking Bob Casale's guitar spot. They launched a massive tour in 2014/5 in part to help the Casale family, and new Devo-related activities are still happening.Alan Myers is deceased. In 1978 there were suits and counter-suits filed by Bob Lewis and Devo, fighting over the value of Bob's contribution to the band ideas and image, which was settled out of court,