Devo guitarist, Kent native Bob Casale dies at age 61

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

Associated Press Madeleine Winer

Bob Casale, the guitarist for Devo, best known for the 1980 hit “Whip It,” has died of heart failure, his brother and band member Gerald Casale said Tuesday. Casale, a native of Kent, was 61.

Devo founding member Casale said in a statement that his younger brother’s death Monday was “sudden” and “a total shock.”

“As an original member of Devo, Bob Casale was there in the trenches with me from the beginning,” Casale said. “He was my level-headed brother, a solid performer and talented audio engineer, always giving more than he got.”

Mark Mothersbaugh and Gerald Casale formed Devo in late 1976 as students at Kent State, said David Giffels, author of Devo’s biography, “Are we not Men? We are Devo!” Giffels said Bob Casale was the quietest member of the group.

“I referred to him as the utility infielder of Devo,” said Giffels, an English professor at The University of Akron. “He played a couple instruments and was okay with filling the role the band needed and didn’t challenge the front man for visibility.”

Giffels said Casale graduated from Kent Roosevelt High School and became a medical technician. He was married for a brief period of time before the band became “rock stars” in 1976.

Devo was a figurehead in the underground music and arts scene in the 70s in Akron and Kent. The band’s first concert was at the Kent State University Recital Hall in 1973.

“They were really freaky at the time and experimental,” Giffels said. “They opened with a creepy version of “Here comes Peter Cottontail.”

Giffels said Devo filmed part of their music video “The Truth About De-Evolution” on Kent State’s campus in 1976. He called the video “groundbreaking” because it was a longer music video, which were not a big part of the music industry at the time.

Devo introduced themselves to the world in 1977 by making a frenetic version of the Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction.” The new wave band released its Brian Eno-produced debut, “Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!,” in 1978 and reached platinum status with 1980’s “Freedom of Choice,” which featured “Whip It.”

“They were consciously an art project more than they were a rock band but not pretentious,” Giffels said. “There are very few successful rock bands that were so highly evolved in terms of their aesthetics.”

Giffels said while he never had the chance to interview Casale, he remembers him as the “fun uncle” and “willing to play the role of the side man.”

As Devo was winding down, Casale and his band mates moved to Los Angeles where  he joined Mothersbaugh’s music production company, Mutato. Casale is credited with working on the sound for the Nickelodeon show “Rugrats and movies including “Mama’s Boy,” “Envy” and “Good Boy.”

Alan Myers, the group’s drummer, died last year after a battle with cancer at age 58.

Devo is short for devolution, the idea that man was regressing into an earlier state.

Contact Madeleine Winer at [email protected].