Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Fireballs--Sugar Shack (1963)

     The Fireballs began as an instrumental group out of Raton, New Mexico and recorded out of the same studio (Norman Petty's NorVaJak ) in Clovis that Buddy Holly began his breakout success. The original band consisted of George Tomsco (Lead guitar), Chuck Tharpe (vocals), Stan Lark (Bass), Eric Budd (Drums) and Dan Trammel (Rhythm guitar). Although having a vocalist, they made their early success with instrumentals built around Tomsco's guitar playing. "Torquay" (1959), "Bulldog" (1960), and "Quite A Party" (1961) all made their way to the top 40. There was a break where Tharpe, Trammel, and Budd left the group and was replaced by Doug Roberts (drums) and a singer employed by Petty Studio's named Jimmy Gilmer.
     Gilmer was from Chicago, but grew up in Amarillo Texas where he studied at the Musical Arts Conservatory. He started a rockabilly band called the Jimmy Gilmer Combo who's drummer, Gary Swaffert also played for the Norman Petty Trio, and who first introduced the two of them. Petty encouraged Jimmy to come to Clovis and cut some sides, which he did to little success, but the producer thought a great deal of his voice and when the three musicians left The Fireballs, Gilmer was asked to come along.
     It was Petty's idea to sell the group as Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs, and soon after recording "Sugar Shack", the group signed a record deal with Dot Records. The song itself was written by Keith McCormack who at the time was a member of another influential instrumental group, "The Tag-a-Longs" who was working out of Petty's studio. Interestingly enough, when Gilmer left the band at the end of the of the 60's McCormack became the lead singer.
     "Sugar Shack" reached number 1 in the fall of 1963 and had two more top ten hits through the decade. The group continues to tour today and can be found on the net at, Gilmer moved to Nashville to work in production and artist management which he still does today.


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