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Teachers Pet

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Along with better known bands such as Devo, Rocket from the Crypt, and Pere Ubu, the obscure Teacher's Pet were members of Akron, OH's oft-overlooked, but creatively visionary, punk rock and new wave scene of the mid-'70s. Born from the ashes of a hard rock cover band named Wizard in the fall of 1977, Teacher's Pet's first lineup consisted of guitarist Kal "Rex Lax" Mullens, drummer Mark Fisher, and vocalist Dave Marsteller, who would soon pick up the bass guitar when Kal's brother, Ron (aka Pete Sake), took over as frontman after parting ways with the Rubber City Rebels, who were moving to L.A. The new four-piece immediately got busy playing at nearby clubs, developing a set mixing both covers and originals as time went on, and shopping demos to local record labels. The first to take notice was Akron's own Clone Records, which, after some initial hesitation, agreed to finance a session at local Bush Flow studios, and then released Teacher's Pet's debut single, "Hooked on You" and its B-side, "To Kill You," in early 1978. Unfortunately, the single (featuring very unusual synthesizers -- for a punk record -- courtesy of Ron Mullens) went nowhere and both Fisher and Marsteller had quit by the following summer, unhappy with the band's increased performance workload with so little to show for it. Undeterred, the Mullens brothers auditioned, admitted, and fired several candidates over the ensuing months before finally settling on a permanent rhythm section consisting of bassist Gary Elliot (aka Jack Hammer) and drummer Billy Tomazic (aka Billy Whipp) by the time 1979 rolled around. With their lineup solidified at last, Teacher's Pet became major players in the Akron indie scene that year, playing numerous shows and penning a wealth of new material, which, thanks to Ron's persistent use of synthesizers or Farfisa organ, really set the group apart from most punk rock ensembles. One of those songs, "Cincinnati Stomp," was inspired by the tragic trampling death of 11 fans at a concert by the Who, at Riverfront Coliseum, on December 3, 1979; its tongue-in-cheek refrain of "don't step on me" proving about as tasteless as it was punk rock. But none of these songs were capable of drawing label interest for Teacher's Pet, and their amateurish attempts at filming their own videos also did them no good; so as the band's live bookings started to dry up (along with the entire Akron scene, by that time), Kal Mullens became increasingly distracted with parallel projects like the Bizarros and the Sodbusters. Quite suddenly, Teacher's Pet was no more, and with all that recorded material still unreleased, they effectively remained "no more" for nigh on three decades; their token inclusion in the 1980 edition of The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll seemingly providing the only lasting record that they ever existed. Luckily, their 1979 recordings remained safely archived somewhere, somehow, and when the Mullens brothers decided to reconvene Teacher's Pet for a few shows with drummer Billy Whipp and new bassist Dave Stephenson, a deal was struck with Cleveland's Smog Veil Records for the long-lost music's release as an eponymous CD in 2008. Unearthing eight originals and seven covers recorded in 1979, as well as the music videos created by the group in 1980, this belated debut, some 30 year in the making, is obviously a punk rock collector's dream come true, and a well-deserved celebration of Teacher's Pet career. ~ Eduardo Rivadavia

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1977 in Akron, OH

Years Active:

'70s, '80s