Devo guitarist Bob Casale has died at the age of 61, from health complications that led to heart failure. In a post on the group’s Facebook page, Casale’s brother Gerald said that Bob’s death “came as a total shock to us all,” and that he was “a solid performer and talented audio engineer, always giving more than he got.”
Casale had been a member of the new wave group since about 1976, when the then-in-flux band began firming up its personnel. Bob was brought to the group by his brother Gerald, and along with brothers Bob and Mark Mothersbaugh and Alan Myers, they created a weird, offbeat type of rock that ultimately took them to mass-market fame with the success of 1980’s “Whip It.”
Bob Casale was born in Kent, Ohio in 1952, and was a trained medical radiation technician before leaving the field to join Devo. The group released its first single, “Mongoloid/Jocko Homo” in 1976, the b-side of which came from a film about the band, The Truth About De-Evolution. A 1978 EP, Be Stiff, caught the attention of David Bowie and Iggy Pop, who got the band a deal with Warner Bros. Records. The group’s first record, Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!, was released in 1978 and featured production from Brian Eno. A second LP, Duty Now For The Future, followed in 1979.
The group’s real breakthrough came in 1980 with the release of Freedom Of Choice and its single, “Whip It.” The track quickly became a Top 40 hit, and affirmed the group’s recent move toward a more electronic sound. Devo released several more records to diminishing returns before being dropped from Warner Bros. in 1984.
Following the departure of drummer Alan Myers, the group picked up Sparks’ David Kendrick and started releasing LPs through Enigma Records. In 1990, the band released Smooth Noodle Maps and launched a poorly attended European tour. The failure of that album and tour led to internal stress within the band, and the group broke up in 1991.
After the split, Mark Mothersbaugh started a commercial production studio called Mutato Muzika, where both his brother Bob Mothersbaugh and Bob Casale worked. Casale served as the studio’s recording engineer, and together the group created music for shows like Rugrats and Pee-wee’s Playhouse, and for movies like Moonrise Kingdom, Happy Gilmore, and Rushmore.
In 1996, Devo reunited to record a track for the Tank Girl soundtrack. That move led to the group playing several dates on the touring Lollapalooza festival. The group toured pretty consistently for the next decade or so before releasing Something For Everybody, its first new record in 20 years, in 2010.
Casale was preceded in death of Alan Myers, who died of stomach cancer last June. Myers was 58.