The Fireballs !

By Gary:

“We have recently been in contact with George Tomsco, one of the founding members, lead guitarist and leader of the Fireballs, and this post has been updated to include some of George’s thoughts on his buddy, Chuck Tharp, who was another founding member and the lead vocalist for the Fireballs. Chuck passed away in 2006 and George has commented about Chuck as a musician and prolific writer.

Dick Clark, a man I respect and admire, said at one time, ‘In the beginning, the music business was all about the music, today it is all about the business’. In an interview, Dick said that ‘Rock and Roll’ has lost the Roll. Today it is just the hard Rock beat, but the melodic Roll has gone. This may not be an exact quote, but it is close.

Now, Instrumental Music was one of Rock’s main elements in providing that melodic Roll, and my generation loved it. Unfortunately, pop music without words has become a thing of the past; too bad.

Here is absolutely one of my favourite Instrumental Bands from the late Fifties and into the Sixties. They are from New Mexico and they recorded in Clovis for Norman Petty. To ME they are just the Greatest…

The Fireballs

Fresh off winning the Raton High School PTA Talent Show in

Fresh off winning the Raton High School PTA Talent Show

The Original Fireballs in 1958. From left –

  • George Tomsco – Lead Guitar,
  • Chuck Tharp – Vocals *
  • Eric Budd – Drums,
  • Stan Lark – Bass,
  • Dan Trammell – Rhythm Guitar.

notesLine

* One of the original Fireballs, Chuck Tharp, left us in 2006.

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George Tomsco commented and sent me this email:

Sent: Tuesday, May 28, 2013 1:44 PM
Subject: Re: Update
Hi Gary;
Thanks for the info and the offer to contribute to your show. If you want to add “Cry Baby” I think that would be great, and I thank you !! – however, I’ve done a few gigs in Spain, and the recording that still lives on’ internationally, as the most popular Chuck Tharp vocal (above all others) is “Long Long Ponytail”…so you might consider that one…or both ! We appreciate the fact that youremember the Fireballs. I have several other vocals (not Tharp or Gilmer vocals) songs that are not ‘early Fireballs’, but sure are favorites of mine….”Everybody Should Have Lived In The 50’s” and “Merry Christmas Mom & Dad” – would you review those for possibilities of adding…maybe never too late to think of the “50’s” and might not be to early for thinking about Christmas music – Ho Ho Ho !
George

… and in a further messages from George,

Sent: Monday, June 03, 2013 7:57 PM
Subject: Re: about Chuck Tharp
… [about Chuck] the only thing I could really say, is:
Chuck didn’t know how to play guitar until our rhythm guitarist, Danny Trammell, quit and went back home from our first Midwest tour. But he left his guitar and amp with us for Chuck to take his place. Once Chuck learned how to play and started writing more songs, he became a very prolific writer. Even after Chuck left the Fireballs he wrote “Make the World Go Away” and sold it to some disc jockey in Texas and then it was recorded by Jim Reeves. He also wrote Johnny Duncan’s hit “Sweet Country Woman”…and several more really great country songs. He worked with Billy Strange and Frank and Nancy’s (Sinatra) music publishing company.
You [Gary] asked: …”How well did you know  Norman Petty?  I know that Buddy [Holly] had some disputes with him, but from what I remember about that era, the music industry took advantage of singers and groups.”… 
My comment is this:
I think we had it a lot better than most groups.  Disputes? who doesn’t have disputes?  Jesus kicked out the money changers in the temple !  I don’t know about Buddy & the Crickets…that was just a shade before Fireballs.  I just know about Fireballs.  When “Sugar Shack” happened I bought a house, Barbara & I paid off a ‘63 Plymouth Sport Fury in early ‘64 and had a savings account and I was touring & sending money home.  I would love to see that same scenario happen again… right today !
Amazing the the same 5 guys of your band [the Martels] are still together and playing !  Yes, that’s great…hey, since I’m the lone ranger Fireball still left, (Stan Lark, original bass player retired) maybe you could book some dates and feature “George Tomsco of the Fireballs” and we could do some dates, and I could get busy again – ha !!  I can sing Sugar Shack – do Torqay, Bulldog, etc. – ha !
Blessings – George Tomsco

notesLine

Videos:

Quite a Party / Clovis / 2009 /

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Torquay / 2011 / The Fireballs /

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Bulldog

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Sugar Shack

Fireballs Hit Recordings

My interest in this group peeked in 1959 when they recorded the Instrumental, “Torquay”, then “Bulldog”. I have played those two recordings maybe 300 times, no foolin’. I own, I think, the only Fireballs CD and Vinyl.

I have listed their recordings in order of release, so start with “Fireball”, “Torquay”, “Bulldog”, “Quite a Party” (which has a radio promo in the introduction), “Sugar Shack”, “Daisy Petal Pickin'” and “Bottle of Wine”, and you will see how they changed a bit over time.

The Fireballs – Fireball / first chart record was an instrumental on Kapp records, and charted at #90 in Music Reporter
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That would be the Fireballs’ career. I think only Duane Eddy had the immense popularity as an Instrumental hit maker. Most of the other groups where short lived, except maybe “The Ventures”; they sold a lot of vinyl.

The group was formed in 1959, and got Norman Petty to manage them. Petty also managed The Crickets with Buddy Holly (another story) and owned a recording studio in Clovis, New Mexico.

Petty secured a recording contract for the Fireballs with Top Rank records and they had their first national hit in October of 1959 with an Instrumental called “Torquay”.

I think George Tomsco wrote most if not all of their music.

GeorgeTomscoGeorge Tomsco

In another email, George talks about Norman Petty…

Sent: Monday, June 03, 2013 5:57 PM
Subject: Re: Update
Gary;
You asked: …”How well did you know Norman Petty? I know that Buddy had some disputes with him, but from what I remember about that era, the music industry took advantage of singers and groups.”…
My comment is this:
I think we had it a lot better than most groups. Disputes? who doesn’t have disputes? Jesus kicked out the money changers in the temple ! I don’t know about Buddy & the Crickets…that was just a shade before Fireballs. I just know about Fireballs. When “Sugar Shack” happened I bought a house, Barbara & I paid off a ‘63 Plymouth Sport Fury in early ‘64 and had a savings account and I was touring & sending money home. I would love to see that same scenario happen again… right today !
Amazing the the same 5 guys of your band [The Martels] are still together and playing ! Yes, that’s great…hey, since I’m the lone ranger Fireball still left, (Stan Lark, original bass player retired) maybe you could book some dates and feature “George Tomsco of the Fireballs” and we could do some dates, and I could get busy again – ha !! I can sing Sugar Shack – do Torqay, Bulldog, etc. – ha !
Blessings – George Tomsco

The group’s piano player, Jimmy Gilmer gained national fame in 1963 when the group was called “Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs” and he stepped in front of the microphone and out came “Sugar Shack”… then “Bottle Of Wine”.

The Fireballs live in Canada, 1963 – from left; George Tomsco, Doug Roberts, Jimmy Gilmer, Stan Lark.

During the run of “Daisy Petal Pickin'” on the charts, the British Invasion began with the first hits by the Beatles. The Fireballs had difficulty competing with the influx of British artists and did not reach the Top 40 again until 1968, with “Bottle of Wine,” which was written by Tom Paxton.

The Fireballs took “Bottle of Wine” to #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 left the group in 1969 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 label. The Fireballs continued performing with original members George Tomsco, Stan Lark and Chuck Tharp until Tharp died of cancer in 2006.

Jimmy Gilmer has returned occasionally as lead vocalist and this line-up continues to perform, as of 2009.

-Gary
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8 responses to “The Fireballs !

  1. Pingback: The Fireballs Revisited – Gary | Russ & Gary's "The Best Years of Music"

  2. Great Band. Have a 45single and a C.D. with them.

  3. Pingback: Instrumentals of the 50’s “The Lost Music” | Russ & Gary's "The Best Years of Music"

  4. Pingback: Instrumentals of the 60’s “The Lost Music” 1960 to 1962 | Russ & Gary's "The Best Years of Music"

  5. Pingback: The Fireballs Revisited – Gary | Russ & Gary's "The Best Years of Music"

  6. HUGH "BABE" O'DONNELL

    GARY; THE INSTUMENTAL DAYS WERE A LOT OF FUN. TO WARM-UP THE TEEGE DANCERS I WOULD ALWAYS START WITH 12 INSTRMENTALS FIRST AND SAVE THE SLOW AND PUNDERS FOR THE NEXT 3 HOURS. ALWAYS PLAYED SUGAR SHACK WHICH WAS ALWAYS REQUESTED. ANOTHER GREAT WARM-P WAS “POOR BOY” ROYAL TEENS.
    THE EMPEROR OF MUSIC AND DANCES

    HUGH “BABE” O’DONNELL

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