The Fireballs (USA 60s surf rock band)

~ Group


The Fireballs, sometimes billed as Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs, were an American rock and roll group, particularly popular at the end of the 1950s and in the early 1960s. The original 1958 line-up was George Tomsco (lead guitar), Chuck Tharp (vocals), Stan Lark (bass), Eric Budd (drums), and Dan Trammell (rhythm guitar).

The Fireballs were formed in Raton, New Mexico, and got their start as an instrumental group, featuring the very distinctive lead guitar of George Tomsco. They recorded at Norman Petty's studio in Clovis, New Mexico, where Buddy Holly had previously launched his career. According to group founders Tomsco and Lark, they took their name from Jerry Lee Lewis's "Great Balls of Fire". They reached the Top 40 with the singles "Torquay" (1959), "Bulldog" (1960) and "Quite a Party" (1961). "Quite a Party" peaked at #29 in the UK Singles Chart in August 1961. Tharp, Budd and Trammell left the group in the early 1960s, but the Fireballs added Doug Roberts on drums, plus Petty Studio singer/pianist Jimmy Gilmer (born September 15, 1940 in Chicago and raised in Amarillo, Texas) to the group.

Billed as Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs, the group reached number 1 on the Billboard chart with "Sugar Shack", which remained at that position for five weeks in 1963. The single also reached number 1 on Billboard's R&B chart for one week in November of that year, but its run on that chart was cut short because Billboard ceased publishing an R&B chart from November 30, 1963 to January 23, 1965. Nonetheless, "Sugar Shack" earned the group a Gold Record Award for "Top Song Of 1963". In the UK the song peaked at #45. Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs then had another pop hit in 1964 with a similar sounding "Daisy Petal Pickin'", which reached number 15 on the Hot 100.

During the run of "Daisy Petal Pickin'" on the charts, the British Invasion began with the first hits by the Beatles. The group had difficulty competing with the influx of British artists and did not reach the Top 40 again until 1967, with "Bottle of Wine", which was written by Tom Paxton. The Fireballs took "Bottle of Wine" to number 9 on the Hot 100. Although Gilmer was still a member of the group, the band was billed simply as "The Fireballs" on that single. Gilmer was not on the "Bottle of Wine" session. Gilmer left the group in 1967 to pursue artist management and record production in Nashville, Tennessee. Drummer Doug Roberts died in 1981.

All of the Fireballs' material has been reissued on Ace Records (UK) and Sundazed record labels. The Fireballs continued performing with original members George Tomsco, Stan Lark and Chuck Tharp until Tharp died of cancer in 2006. Jimmy Gilmer returned as lead vocalist and this line-up continues to perform, as of 2014. George Tomsco has continued to release CDs of new material using the Fireballs name.

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Year Title Artist RatingReleases
1963 Sugar Shack Jimmy Gilmer & the Fireballs 1
1968 Bottle of Wine The Fireballs 1
1969 Come On, React! The Fireballs 1
The Fireballs / Vaquero The Fireballs 1

Album + Compilation

Year Title Artist RatingReleases
1992 The Original Norman Petty Masters The Fireballs 1
1996 Sugar Shack: The Best of Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs Jimmy Gilmer and The Fireballs 1
1999 Sugar Shack: Jimmy Gilmer & The Fireballs Jimmy Gilmer and The Fireballs 1
2006 Clovis Classics: The Definitive Collection The Fireballs 1


Year Title Artist RatingReleases
1959 Nearly Sunrise / Bulldog The Fireballs 1
1959 Torquay / Cry Baby The Fireballs 1

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