Fender Tucker wrote this history of his band the Torques from Farmington, New Mexico. The Torques lasted from 1963 to 1965 and had one single on the Delta label: a cover of the Chartbusters’ “She’s the One” along with an original by Skip Batchelor, “She’s With Him”.
The germ that infected the gentle souls who later became Torques appeared in 1963 when Fender Tucker, the sole constant in the group, got together with Dwight Babcock and Geno Jaramillo for some guitar picking at his house. They soon saw that they needed a drummer real bad, and heard that Louis Pope, a classmate of Dwight’s, had just bought some drums. Fender, Geno and Dwight all played guitar but Dwight kept on the big strings and simulated a bass.
The four got together at Louis’ house for a few practices and it was time to play a dance at the Farmington high school cafeteria. But they needed a name. At the time there was a cute commercial on TV with an animated character pushing Burgomeister beer, and so they called themselves The Burgie Boys. The dance went over fairly well and another was slated.
But they tired of their name and Fender came up with The Napa 4. He had read a book about California surfing and apparently he thought “Napa” was a word that meant “cool” or “hip”. Later on, in the 70s, Fender married a woman who had lived in the northern California area and when she heard the band was called The Napa 4 she guffawed. To people of the Sacramento area, Napa was the town where the insane asylum was and anyone saying they were from Napa was certifiably nuts.
The Napa 4 only lasted for one dance and then Fender came up with “The Torques”. He noticed a weird wrench that Dwight was using on a rebuilt engine in his back yard and asked what it was called. “A torque wrench.” He liked the sound of it so much he painted a logo on a sweatshirt with cut-off sleeves. It was an armed and legged torque wrench (a long tool with a circular dial at the “head” end) riding a surf board with “Fender des Torques” underneath. Apparently he was taking French in high school that year. The other guys in the band made similar sweatshirts with their names “des Torques” on them and that was the genesis of The Torques.
Graduation in 1963 caused Dwight and Louis to leave the band and their places on drums and bass were taken by Andy Sandoval and Bill Smart. They were pretty good on their instruments, but mainly they had cars. Finding a way to get to dances was always a problem for Fender and Geno.
Everybody got better in 1964 and then the band split up and Fender joined the biggest band in town, Cecil Irvin’s The Invaders. That lasted for one dance at McGee Park that signaled the end of dances put on by bands. After expenses the band barely broke even.
But then late in 1964 Dwight Babcock came back from college and he and Fender teamed up with a guitar player from Bloomfield named Harry Batchelor. They added Barry Dunkeson, a guitar player from another group, but he played drums plenty well enough for The Torques.
The four Torques played at dances in Farmington and then booked several weekend jobs at a 3.2 beer bar in Durango CO, Poor Boys. The unexpurgated story of what happened to Fender and Harry at the Central Hotel on Main Street in Durango on a chilly autumn night in 1964 is told in Fender’s 2007 book, The Compleat Calhoon.
But Barry left to go to college (where he joined the Beckett Quintet, a band featured here on Garage Hangover) and The Torques picked up young Bobby Amerman, an excellent drummer a year behind Fender at Farmington High School.
It was the spring of 1965 that The Torques, Fender, Dwight, Harry and Bob, drove down to Albuquerque and recorded a song that Harry had written, “She’s With Him”. The B-side was a song by The Chartbusters called “She’s the One”. They were recorded at John Wagner’s studio and it was released as Delta R-2078A and R-2078-B.
300 copies were pressed and bought by the guys and a few were sold at Torques dances in Farmington. Most were given away and the rest were lost. In 2010 a collector from southern California found a copy and sent me transfers of the songs and scans of the labels.
Soon after they had made the record, they got a call from Albuquerque from their fan club. What? They didn’t even know they had a fan club. They were told that if they could come back to Albuquerque The Torques would be featured on “Johnny’s Record Party” a TV show that was the Albuquerque equivalent of American Bandstand. So the four Torques drove to Albuquerque and were interviewed on air by a local DJ in a studio above the Kimo Theater on Central Avenue. The DJ kept trying to build up The Torques as a huge phenomenon but Fender kept bringing him back to earth with reality. Listeners said they could hear Harry cackling in the background.
Then they went to the TV studio to tape “Johnny’s Record Party”. They were to do their hit song, “She’s with Him” and the original idea was to mike the live-playing band. But something (probably the band) didn’t sound right and at the last minute the director said, “Just lipsync the song.” The only problem was that there were no monitors and the band couldn’t hear anything. The director pointed at the band and apparently the band started at the right moment, but did they play the same tempo and arrangement as the record? Hell no. They fumbled around mindlessly until they were told to stop “playing”.
The next day at Harry’s grandparents’ house The Torques watched themselves on TV. It was as bad as they feared. If there is a tape of the show, it should be a shoe-in for America’s Stupidest Videos, but I’m afraid that there probably is no record of the debacle left. Go figure; the Torques’ only TV appearance is lost forever.
The Torques had a chance to be heard by a lot of different people when they played the Farmington Senior Prom in early 1965. It was sort of an experiment to have a local band play for the prom so we had to learn a bunch of old fogey songs like “Stranger on the Shore” that of course we couldn’t sing, so we hired a sophomore named Jon Kottke to play sax. It was probably the best The Torques ever sounded.
The end of the summer of 1965 came and that was the end of The Torques. Dwight and Fender left for college in Las Cruces. Harry became “Skip” and went into the Navy. Bob Amerman went to school in Albuquerque but within a year he developed a rare form of cancer and died. He was 19 years old.
All of the members of The Torques were in it for the fun. It was a blast playing dances at the Boys’ Club, the high school, the parks and private dances, and we knew it was a lark. Unlike John, Paul, George and Ringo, who wanted to be the absolute best in the world, The Torques just wanted to have fun, drink some beers, play some songs, and most importantly, to NOT have to wake up for a day job. They were eminently successful at it until the draft (or the alternative to the draft, college) split up the group permanently.
Here are some songs recorded by The Torques at the Farmington Boys’ Club on an October night in 1965. They recorded it by placing a microphone in front of a crummy speaker that was attached to the PA. Surely the sound out in front of the band was better than these recordings? Surely? I hope so.