Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Mechanical Switch

The core of Mechanical Switch began when friends Alan Meek and Leroy Shelton began playing guitar together at age 13. Alan had begun playing guitar two years earlier and he hastily taught Leroy everything he knew. Shelton learned very quickly, as he was just as obsessed with the instrument as Alan had been.
About a year later the two became friends with Ben Dusek, who they convinced to become their drummer. Ben had no experience playing before an didn't even own a drum set. No problem, Ben's brother in law had an old kit that Ben could have.
The three of them would spend a lot of time together. One day while out fishing, Ben suggested the band needed a name. While waiting for a fish to take the bait on his line, Alan thought of a light switch on a wall... "What about 'Mechanical Switch'?"
After a few months of steady practice, the band started to gel. Eventually, Ben suggested they try out a friend of his named Bart as their singer. Bart was a perfect fit and even had the "look," long hair and stylish mod clothes. Bart quit the band he was currently with, and Leroy switched to bass guitar so that the low end could be covered. Within a years time from there, the band had become quite tight and were playing dances within a 150 mile radius of El Campo.

Being a psychedelic rock band with long hair in a South Texas farming town certainly caused its share of friction. The occasional dance which would feature both a country band AND The Switch would certainly mean fights within the crowd.
Despite these differences, Alan's parents were very supportive of his bands endeavors, his mother had been a musician in her younger days and she supported her sons interest in music. Both Alan's parents began booking the band for many of their dances and generally acted as the bands management.
This was to change after an encounter at one particular show where the group was approached by a man named Walter Richardson who offered the band a contract to be their manager. The band signed and shortly after he sent them up to Tyler, Texas to record with the great Robin Hood Brian, whose work Walter had been acquainted with due to his quality recordings made for Mouse & The Traps. By this point, Organist Mark Wenglar had been added to expand the bands sound.

It took almost 5 hours to record the first song the band had prepared, an original Alan had written the music for called "Everything Is Red." Though they had brought down their own guitars, they were using the studios amps, drums, and organ. Unfamiliar with the new equipment and unable to turn up the amps loud enough for their usual distortion tone, they had to struggle a little to get the right sound. By the time they rolled around to the next song, a collectively written tune called "Spongeman," they were moving a lot faster and were able to knock it out within 30 minutes. Ironic since it was the song they slapped together in one rehearsal before going into the studio.
Both songs were described later by Bart as "drug-love" songs: they both intended to describe the feeling of being a teenager who is intoxicated by his infatuation with a girl. "Spongeman" is a tune about a boy who lives by soaking up his girlfriends love. Although it was difficult to get much radio time for their new single, the record sold quite well in the area and the pressing sold out.

"Everything Is Red"


A year later, Bart and Mark were off to college while the rest of the band was still in high school. Later on Ben and Leroy both joined the army. The band was over, and most of the guys stopped playing music entirely.
Alan continued playing with several groups afterwards, notably an outfit called The Experience which was based in nearby Wharton, where Meek had been attending college.

The line up of Mechanical Switch was:
Alan Meek - Lead Guitar
Leroy Shelton - Bass
Ben Dusek - Drums
Bart Baca - Vocals
Mark Wenglar - Organ

Thanks to Alan, Bart, Ben, and Mark for their help...

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Rebels

Boasting one of my favorite 1960's band portraits, The Rebels were a teen band from Marlin, TX (same as The Wullabies- see my first post). 
They started sometime circa 1966 and folded around 1969.
According to original member Keith Alston, the band went into Chuck Harding's recording studio around 1967 and recorded and released a 45 record. If this is true, it would be a complete unknown in the TRC (Texas Recording Company) label catalog. Very enticing, as the band certainly looks like they could've issued a nice garage rocker.
No one in the group seems to still own a copy of this recording, and details are foggy.
Does anyone out there know anything else about this recording?

Band members were:
Kevin Alston - ace tone organ
Keith Alston - drums
Eddie Verevoski - bass
Joe Falco - guitar
Nick Labarbera - vocals

Thanks to Keith for the info! Anyone with additional knowledge about this group or the record they recorded, please drop me a line at shape3 (at) yahoo.com

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Souls

Here is a real mystery record which I recently dug up... Its an acetate pressing by a band called The Souls recorded at Sound City Recording Studio in Fort Worth, Texas. I would guess this was tracked around 1966. The record contains two songs: "Why" and a great crude garage punker called "Green Eyes".
Does anyone out there know more about this mysterious band?

"Green Eyes"


Please excuse the audio quality of this record. Not in the best of shape, but at least it exists!
If anyone out there remembers this group, please drop me a line at shape3 (at) yahoo.com !

Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Minds Eye

The Minds Eye was a short lived band from the small town of Wharton, Texas.
The county seat of Wharton County, you can find this town of less than 10,000 folks smack in the middle between Victoria and Houston on Highway 59.
Though the rest of the band was in high school, lead guitar player Herb Warner was only in the 6th grade when the band started up circa 1965. Herb played an orange Royal Artist 12 string guitar which he purchased at Navratil music shop after hearing The Byrds. The high string action on the instrument would frequently cause his hand to bleed after playing their frequent 4 hour sets.
The bands tour radius consisted of other mostly even more minuscule towns within a 45 minute radius:
East Bernard, Klute, Boling, Hillje, Taiton, El Campo, and Bay City. Most of these towns didn't have their own proper teen clubs, so renting out the local dance halls and renting a cop for the door would be the way. Even in the tiniest communities, hundreds of kids would come out and the band would make good money each night.
Occasionally, the guys would sneak out at night by stealthily rolling one of their parents cars in neutral out of the driveway, driving down to the gulf coast, and playing on the beach in Freeport.
The band broke up somewhere in the late 60's, when band members Joe Pedia and Rudy Anzuldua were drafted into military service.
Drummer Ernie was later in an a local psychedelic rock band The Experience and after that played as the 2nd drummer in Krystal Blue.

The photo above was taken at the Sons of Herman Knights of Columbus Hall in Wharton, TX circa 1968. The member line up from left to right is Rudy Anzuldua (bass), Herb Warner (lead guitar), Joseph Pedia (lead singer),  Eddie Zescoda (rhythm guitar), and the back on drums is Ernie Sprta.

Herb with his 12 string guitar

Thanks To Herb Warner and Ernie Sprta for sharing their memories! Keep your eyes peeled for the story on neighbors The Mechanical Switch- coming soon!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Dimensions (Of Refugio)

From all the way down in small town Refugio, Texas (halfway between Victoria and Corpus Christi on Hwy 77) originated the 1960's high school garage band The Dimensions.
They got started around 1964 and would practice regularly at the Refugio City Hall. On the weekends, they would rent the hall out for $50 and play all night, usually pulling in $3-400 in profit...
Not a bad payout for the mid 60's!
Lead singer of the band- Vincent Heard, had his share of local inspiration. He recalls getting to see The Bad Seeds, Zakary Thaks, The Argyles, and Playboys Of Edinburg, all play in his area.
The Dimensions themselves would venture out to Victoria, Corpus, Mercedes, and Harlingen to play the local dances.
Sometime circa 1966, the band made several recordings at Doyle Jones recording studio, which were financed by Frank Scanio's dad.
These recordings led to two 45 singles. The first was a decent original jangler called "Worryin'" paired with a cover of the Rolling Stones "Time Is On My Side."
The second 45 was pressed but never distributed because the band was unhappy with the quality of the pressing. It featured two sleepy little instrumental versions of popular songs: "Michele" b/w "Harbor Lights."
There are other unreleased studio recordings from those same sessions, including a cover of "Zilch" by The Bad Seeds.

The band member lineup from the photo above, starting from front left:
Vincent Heard - Rhythm Guitar and Lead Vocals
Frank Scanio - Guitar
Grover Caldwell - Guitar
Robert Henning - Bass
Chris Rainey - Drums


"Time Is On My Side"


"Harbor Lights"

Thanks to Vincent and Frank from the band for their help.