After the short run of The Antennas, “Tex” Newman – a Dallas-native who hitchhiked his way to Detroit looking for a better rock scene than what was available in Texas – started R.U.R in late 1978 after the name was given to the band by Scott Campbell of The Sillies. The band takes its name from the 1920 sci-fi play which popularized the word “robot”.
R.U.R. was a frequent visitor on the Bookie’s stage, and other area venues, as a headliner as well as opening for larger international/national acts such as Iggy Pop, The Damned, Ultravox, Magazine, Lydia Lunch, and The Jim Carroll Band.
In late 1980, Newman says he found it harder to get on the stage at Bookie’s. So, he started to take the band to other venues and helping to draw punk/new wave fans to the Silver Bird and Nunzio’s on non-weekend nights.
Due to the strength of the live performances and recordings, R.U.R. was offered a deal with I.R.S. Records at one point, but Newman rejected it seeking a major label deal. After “Go Baby”, from the band’s 1979 EP, received local radio play on WRIF and WABX, A&M and Warner Brothers were scouting R.U.R. for a deal. The Detroit Free Press noted in October 1980, Sandy Pearlman – manager for Blue Oyster Cult and Black Sabbath as well as the producer of The Clash’s “Give ‘Em Enough Rope” LP – was interested. But, a record deal failed to materialize.
R.U.R. was also captured live and interviewed in the Bookie’s scene documentary “Face the 80s”.
Feeling the band had been unofficially “blacklisted” from Bookie’s, and that it did not receive much support from the press in the scene, Newman thought television might help R.U.R. reach a bigger audience. In late 1980, Newman put together some money to film a 30 minute TV show featuring The Mutants, Coldcock, and R.U.R. at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. The show aired on WGPR-TV 62 in Detroit. WGPR, which stood for “Where God’s Presence Radiates”, became the first Black-owned TV station in the United States when it was put on the air in 1975. Newman says the show received press attention in the local dailies as well as calls from confused viewers because WGPR was known mostly for gospel and Black focused shows. But, the station manager was supportive and saw something in the idea of a local video music show for sponsors and viewers alike. This show aired about a year before MTV premiered in 1981 and would become a staple of cable TV and change the game for popular music throughout much of the 1980s and 1990s.
Newman says the “Detroit Bandstand” show, sadly, ended up devolving into a fight between himself and Coldcock guitarist/Bookie’s booker Vince Bannon effectively killing any future episodes of the show.
By 1982, following more frustration with booking shows and personnel changes, Newman packed in R.U.R. and started working on other music projects including goth and industrial groups such as Bill’s Corpse, Shock Therapy, and Danse Macabre. Later in the 1980s, Newman would become best known for the shock country outfit Country Bob and the Bloodfarmers. Former R.U.R. guitarist Rick Mills would go on to form Crayon Killers and The 3-D Invisibles.