Known as one of the first bands responsible for the earliest examples of proto-punk, The Swamp Rats were a garage-rock band from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The band originated from a group called The Fantastic Dee Jays, who formed in 1965 and consisted of Denny Nicholson, Dick Newton, and Tom Junecko. Performing as a three piece, they were soon signed by DJ, Terry Lee who was managing several other bands at the time (who also became their producer), but after releasing their self-titled debut in early 1966, they disbanded soon after.
It was to be Terry Lee that later created the Swamp Rats out of original member and bass guitarist, Dick Newton, alongside newcomers David Gannon on drums, and Don Schreiner on lead guitar. Lee signed the band to the small St. Clair label and produced their debut single (and covers), Louie Louie b/w Hey Joe – which, as far as covers go are real cool! These recordings were a real contrast to the band’s previous material as the material was far heavier and punk orientated and soon after their debut was released, Bob Hocko returned to the group as lead vocalist – also accompanied with new bassist, Paul Shalako. Together they released a succession of singles on the same label, most of which were covers, but despite their popularity locally the band continued to disagree over many elements of their running and subsequently disbanded in mid-1967.
In 1979, following a returning interest in garage rock, the band’s material was released on a compilation album titled Disco Sucks!, on the Keystone label. The album consisted of singles by the group, two tracks from 1972 reunion demos, work from Hocko’s band, Galactus, and an outtake, but today’s song didn’t appear on an album until a bootleg follow-up album was released in 2003. Written by Bob Hocko, Hey Freak is one of the few original tracks released by The Swamp Rats and what a cracker it is! Heavier than most psych tracks of its time, you can hear early punk beginnings roaring through that delicious distorted guitar and raucous vocals….I love it! Listen above.