Switzer was born in Paris, Illinois, the youngest of four children born to Gladys Carrie Shanks (1904–1997) and George Frederick "Fred" Switzer (1905–1960). The oldest brother died in 1922. A sister Janice was born in 1923 and a brother Harold was born in 1925. Of Scottish and German ancestry, he was named Carl Dean after a member of the Switzer family and many relatives on his grandmother's side (respectively). He and his brother Harold became famous in their hometown for their musical talent and performances. Both sang and could play a number of instruments.
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