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Switch was an R&B/funk band that found fame recording for the Gordy label in the late 1970s, releasing hit songs such as "There'll Never Be", "I Call Your Name" and "Love Over & Over Again". Switch influenced bands such as DeBarge, which featured the siblings of Switch band members Bobby and Tommy DeBarge.
The group was formed in Mansfield, Ohio, around 1976 by Gregory Williams. They recorded a demo tape in Columbus, Ohio with the financial assistance of Bernd Lichters. Switch included brothers Tommy DeBarge and Bobby DeBarge, from Grand Rapids, Michigan, along with Akron, Ohio natives Phillip Ingram (brother of James Ingram), Eddie Fluellen, and Jody Sims (originally from Steubenville, Ohio). Williams, Bobby DeBarge, and Sims had been members of White Heat, which released a self-titled album on RCA in 1975, but the band's producer, Barry White, soon shuttered his Soul Unlimited production company and dropped all the acts on the roster. Williams, then living in Akron, decided to form his own band.
The new group would become Switch due to their ability to switch to different lead vocalist and instruments during a song. Williams and Sims met and got the attention of Jermaine Jackson, former member of the Jackson 5 and husband of Hazel Gordy (daughter of Motown Chief Berry Gordy, Jr.), who heard the group's demo tape. Within weeks, the group was signed to the Motown Records subsidiary label, Gordy. They recorded and released their self titled debut album some 18 months later in 1978, which featured their first Top 10 R&B hit single, entitled "There'll Never Be".
Their songs were written by Williams, Bobby DeBarge and Sims, often in collaboration with Jermaine Jackson. Though they never managed 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, released in 1981. Songs such as "I Wanna Be Closer", "We Like to Party", "I Call Your Name", "Best Beat in Town" and "Love me Over and Over Again" also became hits for the group.
Shortly after the DeBarge brothers left Switch to mentor their younger siblings in the group DeBarge, and lead singer Ingram left to pursue a solo career, Switch took on new vocalist and musicians: singer Renard Gallo, Gonzales Ozen and bassist Phil Upchurch Jr. 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 that year.
In 1991, Motown released a greatest hits compilation album by the band. 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 Grand Rapids, Michigan on August 16, 1995 at age 39.
Switch has since reunited, featuring original members founder/leader Williams, Fluellen, Ingram, original sessions/on stage guitarist Michael McGloiry, and new members Akili Nickson, Michael Norfleet, James Strong and Derek Organ.
Gregory Williams (1976-present): vocals, keyboards, trumpet,
Eddie Fluellen (1977-present): keyboards, trombone, vocals,
Phillip Ingram (1976-82; present): vocals, keyboards, percussion,
Michael McGloiry (original session guitarist) (1978-??; present): guitar,
Bobby DeBarge (1977-81): vocals, piano/keyboards, drums,
Tommy DeBarge (1976-81): vocals, bass guitar,
Jody Sims (1976-84): vocals, drums,
Attala Giles (1981-84): guitar, bass, keyboards,
Renard Gallo (1982-84): vocals, percussion,
Gonzales Ozen (1982-84): vocals, percussion,
Akili Nickson (2003-present): lead vocals,
Michael Norfleet (2003-present): keyboards, vocals,
James Strong (2006-present): bass, vocals,
Derek Organ (2006-present): drums, vocals