Here is a previously unpublished history of Mechanical Switch written by lead vocalist and song writer Bart Baca in 1994. Thank you to Bart and to Massimo Di Gianfrancesco for bringing this history to light.
First time I heard the monster Texas garage psych two-syder 45 by Mechanical Switch was in the late ’80s when I bought a copy of Eva Records’ Texas Psychedelia. A few years after in the early 90’s. I bought an original copy with the picture sleeve from an U.S. dealer; I was so happy considering the scarcity of the 45 and for such awesome punkadelic single. At the time we did a small ‘zine called Never Existed, so for the second issue (that never came out), I sent a xerox copy of the pic sleeve to my friends Matteo Bocci and G. Del Buono to try contact the band by phone ’cause they had easier access to call the states. The band was shocked that somebody from Italy in the ’90s were looking for them and liked them so much; they happily sent us the pics and story you find here, enjoy!
Massimo Di Gianfrancesco
Mechanical Switch started in a garage in the small Texas farming town of El Campo. It was 1966, a wild period in U.S.A. history. Sixties music was rocking in Texas. Our group met at high school and began practicing, playing music by the Yardbirds, Stones, Animals, English groups.
The Mechanical Switch core band was Alan Meek, lead guitar; Leroy Shelton, rhythm and bass guitar; Benny Dusek, drums; and me, Bart Baca, vocals and tambourine. Mark Wenglar, organ and several other bass players joined later.
We started playing school gigs and local clubs in 1967. Rednecks and cowboys hated us and our hair and music. Always wanted to fight us. We tried to play in the high school talent contest but the principal read the words to the song we picked (“Satisfaction” by the Stones) and he stopped us. Just driving around town could be dangerous.
The late 60s brought psychedelic music and a dropout-anti-war, turned-on counterculture. We had played some pretty good shows in the Houston area where girls would mob us and start to rip off our clothes. We wore paisley and metallic Nehru jackets and “Beatle boots”. We did songs by psychedelic bands like Thirteenth Floor Elevators, Fever Tree, Iron Butterfly, Spirit and the Doors, and traditional English rock.
We also wrote a number of songs and recorded two in 1969. We recorded in Robin Hood Bryan’s studio in Tyler Texas where other psychedelic groups had recorded. We recorded all night. Our 45 rpm record had a drug-love song “Everything is Red” on the “A” side and “Spongeman” on the “B” side. “Spongeman”, about a flaky guy who lived by soaking up his girl’s love, was a hit and all copies of our record sold, except for a few we kept.
Vietnam was big. The war was always reaching for us, trying to get us into it. We saw friends dying for nothing or skipping off to Canada and blowing off their life. We recorded psychedelic songs and sent them to soldiers in Nam since they did not have live rock to listen to. Some songs were so radical people would not send them to the soldiers. Rednecks and cowboys were worse than ever. They were also our parents. Marching or even talking against the war was risky. Keeping long hair was hell. Mine was curly so I had to use heavy grease or go to a black lady who knew how to iron it straight.
The draft lottery and college deferments kept some out of war, but many went. Anyway, the band broke up during these times (1970). Leroy joined the service, went to Korea, returned to the U.S., and died in a mine cave-in. Benny joined the service and went to Germany. He is now in the Texas oil business. Alan and I went to college. Alan is a farmer in El Campo, still playing a little guitar. I am in environmental work in Florida. Watching for a rebirth of the rebel rock music of the late 60s. Saw it happen again with punk, and grunge. Kind of repeats itself when we need it.
We recommend On the Road South for more info and photos of Mechanical Switch.