The Early Years
Formed in Mansfield, Ohio in 1974 under the name First Class. Featuring brothers Bobby DeBarge and Tommy DeBarge and Greg Williams, all of whom hailed from Grand Rapids, Michigan along with Akron, Ohio natives Phillip Ingram (brother of James Ingram), Eddie Fluellen and Jody Sims. At the time, they called themselves First Class. They joined Barry White’s background group ‘White Heat’ as background musicians and were let go shortly thereafter.
Eventually changing their name to Switch due to their ability to ‘switch’ to different instruments during a song, the group got the attention of Jermaine Jackson, former member of The Jackson 5, who heard the group’s demo tape and within days the group was promptly signed to the Motown Records subsidiary label, Gordy. There, they recorded and released their self titled debut album in 1978. The album featured their first Top 10 R&B hit single entitled “There’ll Never Be”. Depending on whom was singing lead on the songs, their songs were written by Williams, Ingram and Bobby DeBarge and often in collaboration with Jermaine Jackson, who continued to sponsor the band throughout their five years on the label. Though they never did manage to cross over into the pop singles chart, they were a consistent presence on the R&B charts through the late 1970s with albums such as Switch II from 1979 (their second release), This Is My Dream and Reaching For Tomorrow in 1980. Their final release on Gordy was Switch V which was released in 1981. Other than “There’ll Never Be”, songs such as “I Call Your Name” and “Best Beat in Town” also became hits for the group.
Shortly after the DeBarge brothers left to mentor the group DeBarge with their siblings, and lead singer Phillip Ingram left to pursue a solo career, new musicians were added in the personage of percussionist and singer Joe Robinson, Gonzales Ozen and keyboardist Attala Zane Giles. This configuration of Switch signed with Total Experience (well known home of their contemporaries The Gap Band) and recorded a final album Am I Still Your Boyfriend in 1984 breaking up later on that year. In 1991, Motown released a greatest hits compilation album by the band, and a similar version on the 20th Century Masters series released more recently is all that remains in print of this band. Former lead singer Bobby DeBarge died of AIDS-related complications in his home in Grand Rapids, Michigan on August 16, 1995 at age 39.
2010 and beyond
Switch has since reunited featuring original members founder/leader Gregory Williams, Eddie Fluellen, Phillip Ingram, original sessions/on stage guitarist Michael McGloiry, and new members Akili Nickson and Michael Norfleet.