Formed in the autumn of 1957 in Raton, New Mexico, USA, the Fireballs originally comprised George Tomsco (Born 24 April 1940, Raton, New Mexico, USA; guitar, vocals), Chuck Tharp (Born 3 February 1941; lead vocals), Danny Trammell (Born 14 July 1940; rhythm guitar), Stan Lark (Born 27 July 1940; bass, vocals) and Eric Budd (Born 23 October 1938; drums). Their Tex-Mex instrumental rock 'n' roll was driven by Tomsco's clear and concise guitar sound, which helped the group place 11 singles in the US charts between 1959 and 1969, although they achieved their greatest success when they hooked up with singer Jimmy Gilmer. The Fireballs also attracted controversy in the 60s, when they were used to overdub music behind unfinished tapes recorded by Buddy Holly before his death in 1959.
Founder members Tomsco and Tharp met at Raton High School in New Mexico. After the others came in, they rehearsed and won a talent contest in January 1958 with a performance of "Great Balls Of Fire", from which they took their name. After a shaky start that found members leaving for college and then returning, they recorded at Norman Petty's studio in Clovis, New Mexico, in August 1958. Their debut single on Kapp Records was the instrumental "Fireball", b/w a vocal performance by Tharp, "I Don't Know". A contract with the Top Rank label led to the breakthrough instrumental "Torquay", which scraped into the US Top 40 in September 1959 and saw the band appearing on Dick Clark's American Bandstand. Another Top Rank single, "Bulldog", reached number 24 in January 1960 and one on Warwick, "Quite A Party", reached number 27 the following June. Several non-charting singles also appeared on the Jaro and Hamilton labels. Tharp left the group and was replaced by Jimmy Gilmer (Born 15 September 1940, LaGrange, Illinois, USA). During 1962 the Fireballs were signed to Dot Records, where they recorded Torquay, after which Budd entered the army and was replaced by Doug Roberts (d. 18 November 1981). In early 1963, now billed as Jimmy Gilmer And The Fireballs, they recorded "Sugar Shack", using an unusual keyboard called a Solovox to give the record a distinctive sound. The result was one of the bestselling hits of 1963 - "Sugar Shack" stayed at number 1 for five weeks late in the year. An album of the same title also charted. Although several other singles and albums were released, the group was unable to capitalize on that success, although "Daisy Petal Pickin'" made number 15 in December. Such efforts as Folk Beat, a 1965 album crediting only Gilmer, were unsuccessful. By the following year, Dot was sold and in 1967 the Fireballs, minus Gilmer, signed to Atco Records. Before Christmas that year they recorded a Tom Paxton song, "Bottle Of Wine", which reached number 9 in late December 1967. Three other minor chart singles followed before the end of 1969, including the politically charged "Come On, React!". Although the latter marked the end of their chart success, the Fireballs continue as a popular live unit with a line-up now comprising Lark, Tomsco, Ron Cardenas (vocals, keyboards, guitar) and Daniel Aguilar (drums).
The Fireballs (Top Rank 1960)***, Vaquero (Top Rank 1960)***, Here Are The Fireballs (Warwick 1961)***, Torquay (Dot 1963)***, as Jimmy Gilmer And The Fireballs Sugar Shack (Dot 1963)***, The Sugar Shackers (Crown 1963)***, Sensational (Crown 1963)***, as Jimmy Gilmer And The Fireballs Buddy's Buddy (Dot 1964)***, as Jimmy Gilmer Lucky 'Leven (Dot 1965)**, as Jimmy Gilmer Folk Beat (Dot 1965)**, Campusology (Dot 1966)**, Firewater (Dot 1968)**, Bottle Of Wine (Atco 1968)***, Come On, React! (Atco 1969)**.
The Best Of The Fireballs (The Original Norman Petty Masters) (Ace 1992)****, Blue Fire & Rarities (Ace 1993)***, The Best Of The Fireballs Vocals (Ace 1994)***, The Fireballs/Fireball Country (Calf Creek 1995)***, Sugar Shack: The Best Of Jimmy Gilmer And The Fireballs (VarŠse Sarabande 1996)***, The Tex-Mex Fireball George Tomsco retrospective (Ace 1998)***, Best Of The Rest Of The Fireballs' Vocals (Ace 2002)**.
Source: Encyclopedia of Popular Music
The Best Of: The Original Norman Petty Masters
The Best Of The Fireballs' Vocals
Blue Fire & Rarities
Sundazed Music Inc.
Sundazed Music Inc.
Sundazed Music Inc.
Here Are The Fireballs
Bottle Of Wine/Come On React
The Best Of The Rest *
Bottle Of Wine