The concept of De-Evolution, the guiding philosophy of DEVO, dates back way past 1972 Ohio. In fact it officially dates back in print to 1924 Ohio when Rev. BH Shadduck (PhD!) published his wild anti-evolution booklet Jocko-Homo Heavenbound (aka Jocko-Homo Heaven-Bound King of the Zoo). The book and the many followup books published by his Jocko-Homo Pub. Co. were popular in his lifetime, but then sat dormant for decades waiting to be rediscovered. Gerald Casale was a student at Kent State who’d been using the term “De-Evolution” before he met fellow student Mark Mothersbaugh in 1970. But it was Mothersbaugh who owned the Jocko-Homo booklet and introduced it to Casale, and here the embryonic DEVO truly began to devolve.
Rev. B.H. Shadduck (1869-1950) was many things in his day, an officer in the Salvation Army, Deacon and Elder in the Methodist church, Doctor of Philosophy, Christian apologist, public speaker, vocal critic of the teachings of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and vigilant refuter of evolution, but he is best remembered today for his series of clearly insane religious pamphlets.
Brought up in a non religious household. He once stated that his father was an infidel:
I didn’t know what church or Sunday school was. With no one to teach me of the way of God, I naturally grew up wild. My first trip to church was to satisfy curiosity, and if I went afterward it was to escape some disagreeable (farm) work that father had for us on Sunday.
On February 6, 1888, after four months as a Salvation Army soldier, eighteen-year-old B. H. Shadduck was accepted as an officer in their organization at Ashtabula, Ohio. Four years later he wrote—among numerous other lyrics put to the melodies of popular songs of the day—“The Great Judgment Morning,” a gospel standard that has appeared in dozens of hymnals and was recorded by country great Roy Acuff in 1941. He left the Salvation Army in 1893 after getting married, soon after commencing an affiliation with the Methodist church. As a Methodist pastor, Shadduck served churches largely in West Virginia and Ohio. His influence would perhaps have been confined to this territory had not two particular incidents sparked a prolonged response from him.
The first was the unveiling of The Chrysalis, a sculpture of a man emerging from an ape ‘cocoon’, in West Side Unitarian, a liberal New York City church, in 1924. Dr. Shadduck was so revulsed at the thought of evolution supplanting Biblical creation even within church walls that he responded with the publication of Jocko-Homo Heavenbound which featured a disparaging pen-and-ink rendition of The Chrysalis on its cover with an added, angelic apparition emerging from the man-ape. Though written with his characteristically homespun wit, Shadduck soberly addressed the fallacies of evolutionary theories in the light of the scriptures as well as commonly-held scientific fact. A 32-page booklet with color covers and several full-page cartoons by F. W. Alden (of Waukesha, Wisconsin), Jocko-Homo (“ape-man”) Heavenbound, was a runaway seller, going through ten reprintings and being distributed throughout much of the United States and Canada. It was favorably reviewed in a number of Christian journals of the day, but some ‘modern’ churches refused to endorse Shadduck’s book.
The following year, Darwin’s theory of evolution drew nationwide attention with “the Scopes Monkey Trial” in Dayton, Tennessee in which prosecuting attorney William Jennings Bryan upheld Biblical creation and defense attorney Clarence Darrow argued for evolution. Though Bryan won the trial, he grew ill and died five days after its end, and evolution had clearly more than a foothold in the mind of “Christian America.”
Ironically, B. H. Shadduck’s publishing base of operations was latterly held in Ashtabula, Ohio, the birthplace of Clarence Darrow (and of Miriam Linna, future Cramps drummer who was, incidentally, the first human to distribute the first homemade DEVO single of “Jocko Homo” to New York record stores).
Having found one of Shadduck’s books The Toadstool Among the Tombs in the mid 1990’s, I immediately purchased it due to the amazing cover which features a bizarre mushroom-man with glasses growing out of the ground in a graveyard. As I flipped through to the back I saw the words “Jocko-Homo” and was floored, having found the secret of my own De-Evolution idols, DEVO, who I had originally seen on their first visit to New York City in 1976 and immediately loved (I was later in the “Come Back Jonee” video).
It had to come from somewhere, and where better than some anti-evolutionist nut’s Bible thumping 1920’s cartoon series? The art is incredible and the most amazing thing of all is the snide, almost nasty, looking down his nose humor of B.H. Shadduck’s “characteristically homespun wit,” is so similar to DEVO’s own.
Of course the hunt for more of these books was on and eventually I found the holy grail of Shadduck’s books, his first, the one Mark Mothersbaugh had, Jocko-Homo Heavenbound. It just astounded me, and still does. You can trace much of their outlook, their sort of finger-wagging “shame on you, stupid” stance and even the “Devolutionary Oath” revealed in Devo’s 1976 film, In The Beginning Was The End: The Truth About De-Evolution is “borrowed” from Shadduck’s writings.
wear gaudy colors or avoid display
lay a million eggs or give birth to one
the fittest shall survive yet the unfit may live
be like your ancestors or be different
we must repeat!
Halfway through the Jocko-Homo book Shadduck mocks the supposed chaos and ambivalence of evolutionary science by listing its supposed rules:
1- Be like your ancestors or be different.
2- The fittest shall survive and the unfit may live.
3- Grow big or stay little; either will help you survive or not.
4- That your family may survive, lay a million eggs or give birth to one.
5- Unused organs shall disappear or persist.
6- Rudimentary organs are what you have had or what you will have.
7- Win a mate by combat or not; it will help the family survive, or not.
8- Polygamy will help survival, unless you prefer to mate in pairs.
9- Fight your neighbors or unite with them; one way or the other will help.
10- Wear gaudy colors or avoid display, so shall your family survive.
11- Develop legs, wings, tail, horns, shells or not; they will help, or not.
12- Remember, it’s a THEORY. Don’t let any man see you MAKING wings out of warts or Adams out of apes.
Sounds familiar, right?
Shadduck certainly had a way with words that would “catch on with the kids” a half century later in a way that must make him spin in his grave. It takes a real comic genius to turn a phrase like “you might as well hunt for wild squirrels with a bass drum”! There’s a great website that collects some of his booklets called creationism.com and another one here. Between the two you can read most of his books and pamphlets.
Shadduck took the expression of his singular philosophy in many directions, some quite off, like the incredibly racist Rastus Augustus Explains Evolution, Rastus being a fictional “Negro” janitor who listens in on ‘enlightened’ college lectures on evolution which threaten to topple his Christian faith whilst his pious, exasperated wife Mammy Lou contends with him. Pretty harsh reading. Interestingly, DEVO also played with racial archetypes, but from the other side, to their credit. In fact DEVO took this concept (the mocking of it) to many more people than the good Rev. Shadduck ever could. It’s incredible that one man’s utterly demented life’s work can provide the basis another’s life’s work (or a group of ‘em), but coming from such a different place in such a different time. Not to mention musical style (although DEVO did flirt with gospel as their Christian alter-egos, DOVE.)
One thing we can all probably agree on though—we’re all DEVO!