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Bodeans Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame.JPG
BoDeans in 2014
Background information
OriginWaukesha, Wisconsin, United States
GenresHeartland rock, alternative rock
Years active1983–present
LabelsF&A Slash, 429, Zoë, He & He, Megaforce/MRI

BoDeans is an American rock band. Formed in Waukesha, Wisconsin, BoDeans came to prominence in the 1980s. The band's sound encompasses multiple rock genres, including roots rock and alternative rock. In the late 1980s and 1990s, BoDeans released singles that made the top 40 mainstream rock charts and the top 10 in the adult contemporary charts. The band's biggest hit to date is "Closer to Free", which was used as the theme song to the hit TV series Party of Five. BoDeans has a permanent installation at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum in Cleveland, Ohio.[1]


The 1980s: Emergence and early success[edit]

BoDeans in 1986 (left to right: Bob Griffin, Guy Hoffman, Sam Llanas, Kurt Neumann)

Kurt Neumann and Sam Llanas met at Waukesha South High School in 1977. After discovering that they both had similar music interests, they began writing songs together. Llanas entered college, but soon left after Neumann urged him to pursue music with him.[2] At this time Neumann did not sing much, and considered himself to be primarily a drummer, while Llanas had little experience as a guitar player. However, the two decided to get serious about music and both began to sing and play guitar under the name Da BoDeans in 1980.[3][4] Though there are several stories of how their name came into existence, Sam has often explained that he got the name from The Beverly Hillbillies character Jethro Bodine. For Kurt, BoDeans conjured up the image of rock n' roll icons Bo Diddley and James Dean for a familial name, similar to The Smiths and The Connells. Early on, Neumann and Llanas were often credited as Beau and Sammy BoDean.

In April 1983, Da BoDeans began playing around Milwaukee's East Side music scene, with a hired drummer and bass player. The band practiced in the garage of Mark McCraw, a mutual friend who soon became their manager and provided financial support during the early years. The band lost its rhythm section later that year, but continued to perform live as a duo and used the recording studio at McCraw's university to record demos on which Llanas and Neumann played all the instruments.[5] In 1984, drummer Guy Hoffman joined the band. The trio's first recorded song, "Sally", appeared on the first volume of the Milwaukee Sampler compilation released by Breezeway Records.[6] To compensate for the lack of a bass player, Neumann modified his Fender Esquire with two additional pickups intended to capture solid low-end frequencies.[7] After the trio became popular around Milwaukee, they decided to add bassist Bob Griffin in 1985, whom Neumann and Llanas had met while roadies for his band The Agents in high school.

Later in 1985, the quartet received interest from multiple major labels and chose to sign a contract with Slash/Warner Records. After signing, the label suggested that they shorten their name to simply BoDeans. Under the guidance of producer T-Bone Burnett, they entered Hollywood's Sunset Sound Factory in October to record their first album. Burnett focused on capturing the band's natural sound without many additional overdubs. The band later expressed their regret of not being able to spend more time on the production, but high studio costs kept the sessions concise. Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams, the band's critically acclaimed debut album, was released in 1986.[2]

In January 1987, a Rolling Stone reader poll voted BoDeans the Best New American Band. Early that year, they traveled to Los Angeles to work with producer Mike Campbell, but the sessions were shelved after disagreement arose over the album's sound. Campbell wished for the album to resemble Tom Petty's brand of 1960's rock. The band, however, felt that this style did not fit their music and instead wanted a state-of-the-art production.[8] They went back to Wisconsin and accepted an offer from Talking Heads member Jerry Harrison to produce their second album and were given more freedom to experiment.[9] Meanwhile, drummer Guy Hoffman took some time off from the band to be with his newborn baby. Jim "Bo" Conlon filled in for Hoffman on the band's live shows, and session drummer Rick Jaegar was brought in during the recording sessions. Outside Looking In was released in October 1987 and featured a more modern 80's-rock sound unlike its roots-influenced predecessor. At the time, the band wished to break past the "roots" label with a state-of-the-art production, but in retrospect, they felt that the album was not able to capture the true essence of the band.[10] The album's lead single, "Only Love", made #16 on the US Mainstream Rock charts. In support of the album, the band toured extensively with U2 on The Joshua Tree Tour, increasing their fanbase. Hoffman left the band shortly after the album was released. Drummer Bo Conlon and keyboardist Susan Julian would continue to tour with the band throughout the rest of 1987 and 1988. That year, they also contributed to Robbie Robertson's debut solo album alongside U2 and Peter Gabriel.

In 1988, the band began recording with Jim Scott, whom they had been introduced to by Robbie Robertson. Unlike their two previous albums, the tracking was mostly done live in their warehouse rental space. At least 22 songs were recorded during these sessions, but only 15 made it past the mastering stage and onto the record. In 1989, their third album, titled Home, was released. It was more reminiscent of their rootsy debut, but showed a diverse range of influences including Motown, U2-inspired arena rock, and heartland rock. This album was also the first with keyboard player Michael Ramos. Drummer Kenny Aronoff (best known for his work with John Mellencamp) also played on the album.

The 1990s: A new direction[edit]

In 1991, in search of a different take on their music, the band began recording with David Z (producer and sideman of Prince) at Paisley Park Studios, and released their 4th studio album Black and White that year. The album's electronic-influenced sound was a sharp departure from most of their previous efforts, with more emphasis on synthesizers, drum machines, and processed guitar tones. The album also explored darker and grander lyrical themes. Though not a single, the album's first track, "Good Things", achieved some success and became one of the band's best-known songs. The rebellious and political "Black, White, and Blood Red" was the only single released from the album; it did not perform well in comparison to the band's previous songs that made the charts.

"Closer to Free" and aftermath[edit]

After Black & White, the band decided to shift their focus to making the album that pleased them instead of searching for a hit. For their 1993 album Go Slow Down, the band reunited with T-Bone Burnett and took a more homemade approach, with Neumann playing many of the instruments himself. Unlike their previous album, Go Slow Down was more acoustic and marked their transition into 90s alternative rock.

The first song from the album, "Closer to Free", brought Bodeans to a much larger audience after it was selected as the theme song to the TV series Party of Five in 1994.[2][11] (In 1999, the band would perform a cover of The Beatles' "I've Just Seen a Face" as the theme song for the show's short-lived spinoff, Time of Your Life.) Due to the new-found exposure, "Closer to Free" became the group's biggest pop hit, peaking at #16 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, three years after its release. "Closer to Free" was also the opening song used in the movie Heavyweights, and is the theme song (and namesake) for an annual fundraiser at Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale-New Haven, in New Haven, Connecticut. The Smilow Cancer Hospital uses the modern multidisciplinary approach to patient care which allows the patients to receive the highest level of care, making them "closer to free" from their disease.

In 1995, Joe Dirt Car, a two-CD live set, was released. The album included live tracks recorded between 1989 and 1995, some of which were acoustic. In 1996, the band released Blend, produced by Greg Goldman. Two of the tracks were mixed by Bob Clearmountain, and Danny Federici (best known for his work with Bruce Springsteen) contributed accordion to the album. This album expanded upon Go Slow Down's alternative rock guitar-driven sound. The single "Hurt By Love" achieved minor chart success, while the song "Hey Pretty Girl" was used in an episode of Dawson's Creek.

Around this time, the band became entangled in legal battles with their longtime manager Mark McCraw, who had gone on strike stating that he was entitled to partial copyright ownership of the band's first two albums.[12] The band became further immobilized when Slash chose not to renew their record contract. Meanwhile, Neumann and Llanas released solo albums. Sammy created the band Absinthe and their album A Good Day to Die.

The 2000s[edit]

In 2001, the 17-song compilation The Best Of BoDeans—Slash and Burn was released on London/Slash/Rhino.

In 2003, the band was able to terminate their former management and sign with Rounder Records.[2] The following year, the band released their seventh album, Resolution, on Rounder/Zoe.[2] It was well received by fans. In 2003, they also released The Leftovers, a collection of previously unreleased songs that never made it to studio albums. A live album recorded during the Resolution tour was released in 2005, entitled Homebrewed: Live from the Pabst. The group released the DVD for Homebrewed: Live from the Pabst at the end of 2005. In January 2006, Bob Griffin left the band for personal reasons.

BoDeans released an album entitled Still on March 4, 2008.[2] Produced again by T-Bone Burnett, the album moved away from the modern rock sound of their previous albums and was more reminiscent of their heartland-esque sound of the late 80s. "Everyday" was the first single to radio from "Still". It was stated that the first 15,000 copies of "Still" had some errors in the lyrics booklet. The record company later re-released the album with the corrections in the booklet. A live, acoustic CD became available on the band's website; it was recorded in Schaumburg and Arlington Heights, Illinois in November 2006. It features only Sammy, Kurt, and Bukka, and has 13 rare live, acoustic songs.

The 2010s[edit]

The band's ninth studio album, Mr. Sad Clown, was released on April 6, 2010. Similar to their 1993 release, Kurt Neumann produced and played most of the instruments on the album in his home studio. Though critics lauded the album for its homemade approach, reviews were mixed due to the overall melancholy theme.[13] The album features some of Neumann's most personal songwriting.[14] Their song "Headed for the End of the World" was used in the antiwar documentary film "Countdown to Zero".

In August 2011, Llanas officially left the band.[15]

The band released their 10th studio album, titled Indigo Dreams, on July 26, 2011. The album was originally scheduled to be released on June 28, but was pushed back. The first single, "Blowing My Mind", was released to radio stations and posted online. The second single, "How Can We", had moderate success at radio.

Llanas departure[edit]

On August 10, 2011, Sam Llanas failed to arrive in Colorado for BoDeans performances at KBCO Radio in Denver, the Triple A Convention in Boulder (August 11), and a concert in Winter Park, CO August 13. He sent a text message to several band and crew members at 4:09 AM August 11, 2011 notifying them of his departure from the band. On August 18, Llanas officially left the band due to "differences of opinion" that had been "going on for years", according to Neumann. His departure was also related to his rekindled solo career, with a new solo album titled 4 A.M. having been announced one day after Indigo Dreams was released. The band stated that it would continue on without Llanas, with the band's guitar technician Jake Owen filling in.[15]

Later work[edit]

In November 2011, the band began recording at The Village in Los Angeles with producer John Alagía. Their eleventh studio album titled American Made was released on June 12, 2012.[16] On March 26, the album's first single, "All The World", was released.[17] In November 2012, the band announced the upcoming release of "Amped Across America", a double live album recorded at several venues from the American Made tour.[18]

On October 3, 2014, Kurt Neumann announced the release of the band's 12th studio album, entitled I Cant Stop.[19][20] On June 17, 2016, the band released the single "My Hometown" from their upcoming 13th studio album, which was entitled Thirteen.[21] The release benefited the Milwaukee County Historical Society, which opened a BoDeans exhibit the same day. The band also released BoDeans Original Ginger Brew, a beer made by Sprecher Brewery in celebration of the 30th anniversary of their debut album.[22] On November 11, 2016, the band released a Christmas record, “The Night Divine”.[23] On April 21, 2017, the band released Thirteen.[24]

Abuse allegation[edit]

On June 11, 2018, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Kurt Neumann's stepdaughter, Tessa Neumann, had accused former BoDeans member Sam Llanas of sexually abusing her from 2001 though 2007 while she was a minor.[25][26] Earlier in 2018, on the band's Facebook page, Kurt Neumann had publicly accused Llanas of molesting his stepdaughter.[25] Llanas denied the allegations,[27] stating that he was "shocked and sickened to read about the tremendously terrible, untrue allegations of misconduct against me by the Neumanns."[28] The band posted the June 11 article on the Bodeans Facebook page and commented as follows:

We’ve had an amazing outpouring of love and support in response to Monday’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article. Thanks so much to all who have reached out offering love and encouragement. While we’ve tried to keep the BoDeans page all about music and positivity and moving forward, we’ve made the difficult decision to post the story here because, unfortunately, it is part of BoDeans history. It is our deepest desire to close this chapter and move forward as soon as we can.[28]


Band members[edit]

Current members
  • Kurt Neumann - lead vocals, lead guitar (1983–present)
  • Eric Holden - bass (2005–2009, 2014–present)
  • Tolan Shaw- acoustic guitar, backing vocals (2019-present)
  • Stefano Intelisano - keyboards, accordion (2013–present)
  • Kramer Sell-drums (2018-present)
  • Bukka Allen - keyboards, accordion (2004–2011, 2014–present)
  • Kenny Aronoff - drums (1993, 1998, 2004–2007, 2012–present)
  • Glenn Fukunaga- bass

Former members
  • Sam Hawksley - guitar, backing vocals (2013–2018)
  • David Sierra - drums (2011–2017)
  • Sam Llanas - vocals, acoustic guitar (1983–2011)
  • Guy Hoffman - drums (1984–1987)
  • Bob Griffin - bass (1985–2005)
  • Susan Julian - keyboards (1987–1989)
  • Jim "Bo" Conlon - drums (1987–1988)
  • Rick Jaeger - studio drummer (“Outside Looking In” 1987, ”Black and White” 1991)
  • Rafael Gayol - drums (1989–1992)
  • Nick Kitsos - drums (1993–2000)
  • Kevin Leahy - drums (2001–2004)
  • Michael Ramos - keyboards, accordion (1989–1995, 2001–2004, 2011–2012)
  • Noah Levy - drums (2005–2012)
  • Jake Owen - guitars, backing vocals (2011–2012)
  • Ryan Bowman - bass (2009–2012, 2013)
  • Warren Hood - violin (2011–2013)
  • David Duffy - violin (2012–2014)


  1. ^ Desk, BWW News. "Hennepin Theatre Trust to Welcome Wisconsin-Based Rock Band BODEANS". Retrieved 2017-09-19.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Smith, J. Sharpe (2008-08-04). "And the BoDeans played on ... and on". The Post Crescent. Gannett News Service. pp. D-6. Retrieved 2008-08-05.
  3. ^ Rohde, Marie (2007-10-28). "BoDeans search for a way back to the top". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved 2009-05-11.
  4. ^ "Sound Pass with BoDeans". YouTube. Retrieved 2011-10-18.
  5. ^ "The Milwaukee Sentinel - Google News Archive Search".
  6. ^ Various Artists - Milwaukee Sampler Vol. 1- State of the Art (LP) - $29.99 Archived March 13, 2014, at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ "BoDeans' Kurt Neumann Builds "Bastard" Guitars & Amp".
  8. ^ "The Milwaukee Journal - Google News Archive Search".
  9. ^[permanent dead link]
  10. ^ "The Milwaukee Journal - Google News Archive Search".
  11. ^ "BoDeans provide the theme song for Party of Five".
  12. ^ "BoDeans battling former manager McCraw in court". 29 September 2004.
  13. ^ Muckian, Michael (2010-05-24). "For the BoDeans, a Melancholy Album and an Uncertain Future". Retrieved 2011-10-18.
  14. ^ "Triple Threat Friday: Conversations with BoDeans, Bleu and The Chapin Sisters". Huffington Post. October 22, 2010.
  15. ^ a b Jackie Loohauis-Bennett (2011-08-18). "Sam Llanas leaves the BoDeans". JSOnline. Retrieved 2011-10-18.
  16. ^ "BoDeans Perform Live From Studio X [Listen] « WXRT". 2012-02-21. Archived from the original on 2012-06-27. Retrieved 2014-03-07.
  17. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-03-29. Retrieved 2012-03-27.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  18. ^ "BoDeans | BoDeans Amped Across America | Online Store Powered by Storenvy". Retrieved 2014-03-07.
  19. ^ Music Box Supper Club (3 October 2014). "Bodeans' Kurt Neumann: 2014 Interview on 88.3 FM WBWC, Runnin' Late" – via YouTube.
  20. ^ BoDeans [@BoDeans] (11 December 2014). "@cridder_ thanks! New record, 'I Can't Stop' due out April 7, 2015! #bodeans #ICantStop" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  21. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-07-06. Retrieved 2016-07-09.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  22. ^ "BoDeans look back at 30 years with museum exhibit, Summerfest show".
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^ a b "BoDeans' Kurt Neumann, stepdaughter accuse former band member Sam Llanas of molestation". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
  26. ^ "Summerfest officials: Sam Llanas won't perform amid molestation allegations". 11 June 2018.
  27. ^ "BoDeans co-founder pulled from Summerfest lineup after sexual assault allegations". WISN. 14 June 2018.
  28. ^ a b "Videos and sources undercut molestation denials by former BoDeans singer Sam Llanas". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

External links[edit]