Monday, July 12, 2021

The Best of The Fireballs ...The Original Norman Petty Masters


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 line-up consisted of 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, in 1957, and got their start as an instrumental group featuring the distinctive lead guitar of George Tomsco. They recorded at Norman Petty's studio in Clovis, New Mexico. According to group founders Tomsco and Lark, they took their name after their standing ovation performance of Jerry Lee Lewis's "Great Balls of Fire" at the Raton High School PTA talent contest in New Mexico, USA. They reached the top 40 with the singles "Torquay" (1959), "Bulldog" (1960), and "Quite a Party" (1961). "Quite a Party" peaked at No. 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 to the group.

Besides their own recordings, the Fireballs were studio musicians for other recording artist projects. Among many, folk singer Carolyn Hester and Arthur Alexander. Norman Petty had been Buddy Holly's main recording producer; after Holly's death, he obtained the rights to Holly's early rehearsal and home demo recordings. From May 1962 until August 1968, Petty had the Fireballs overdub the Holly material, making them the band he never knew he had, though the band had met Holly at Petty's studio in 1957. The overdubs were originally released on four albums of "new" Holly material throughout the 1960s with four of the efforts, released as singles, charting. In 1964, they recorded and released an album (solely under Jimmy Gilmer's name) of a dozen Holly covers called Buddy's Buddy, likely inspired by the posthumous collaborations.

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 2006, when Tharp died of cancer. Gilmer returned as lead vocalist in 2007. Lark retired from the group in 2016. Tomsco has continued to release CD's of new material using the Fireballs name and continues to do the occasional show as a "solo Fireball", and also along with Gilmer. 

 The Fireballs

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