The Fireballs

The Fireballs
The group in 1959, from left: George Tomsco, Stan Lark, Eric Budd, Chuck Tharp, Dan Trammell
The group in 1959, from left: George Tomsco, Stan Lark, Eric Budd, Chuck Tharp, Dan Trammell
Background information
OriginRaton, New Mexico, U.S.
GenresRock and roll
Years active1957–1969
MembersGeorge Tomsco
Jimmy Gilmer
Past membersChuck Tharp
Stan Lark
Eric Budd
Dan Trammell
Doug Roberts

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.[1] 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.[2] 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.[3] Tharp, Budd, and Trammell left the group in the early 1960s, but the Fireballs added Doug Roberts on drums, plus Petty Studio singer Jimmy Gilmer (born September 15, 1940, in Chicago and raised in Amarillo, Texas) to the group.

Billed as Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs,[3] the group reached No. 1 on the Billboard chart with "Sugar Shack", which remained at that position for five weeks in 1963.[1] The single also reached No. 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" based on record sales.[4] In the UK, the song peaked at No. 45.[3] Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs then had another pop hit in 1964 with a similar-sounding "Daisy Petal Pickin'", which reached No. 15 on the Hot 100.[1]

Besides their own recordings, the Fireballs were studio musicians for dozens of other recording artist projects from 1959 through 1970 at the Norman Petty Studio, including folk singer Carolyn Hester and Arthur Alexander.[2] 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 1958. 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.

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.[1] The Fireballs took "Bottle of Wine" to No. 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.[1][5] Gilmer pursued artist management under Petty, with the group disbanding in 1969. Drummer Doug Roberts died in 1981.

The Fireballs reunited in 1989 for the Clovis Music Festival, then 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.

Lark (born Stanley Roy Lark on July 27, 1940 in Raton, New Mexico) died on August 4, 2021, at age 81.[6]

Tomsco has continued to release CDs of new material using the Fireballs name and continues to do the occasional show, as a "solo Fireball" and also with Gilmer.



Note: B-sides appear on the same album as the A-sides except where indicated

Year Title Peak chart positions Record Label B-side Album
1958 "I Don't Know" Kapp Records "Fireball" Non-LP tracks
1959 "Long Long Ponytail" Jaro Records "Let There Be Love" The Fireballs
"Torquay" 39 Top Rank Records "Cry Baby"
"Bulldog" 24 "Nearly Sunrise"
1960 "Foot-Patter" "Kissin'"
"Vaquero (Cowboy)" 99 "Chief Whoopin-Koff" (from Torquay) Vaquero
"Almost Paradise" "Sweet Talk" Non-LP tracks
1961 "Rik-A-Tik" "Yacky Doo" See below
"Rik-A-Tik" Warwick Records "Yacky Doo" Here Are The Fireballs
"Quite a Party"* 27 29 "Gunshot" (Non-LP track) Torquay
1963 "Blacksmith Blues" Hamilton Records "Tuff-A-Nuff" (from Torquay) Non-LP track
"Sugar Shack"+ 1 1 1 Dot Records "My Heart is Free" (Non-LP track) Sugar Shack
"Torquay Two" "Peg Leg" (from Campusology) Torquay
"Daisy Petal Pickin'"+ 15 5 "When My Tears Have Dried" (Non-LP track) Firewater
1964 "Ain't Gonna Tell Anybody"+ 53 65 "Young Am I" Non-LP tracks
"Daytona Drag" "Gently, Gently" Campusology
"Look at Me"++ 90 "I'll Send For You" (Non-LP track) Buddy's Buddy
"Wishing"++ "What Kinda Love" (Non-LP track)
"Dumbo"* "Mr. Reed" (from Campusology) Torquay
"Cry Baby" (re-recording)+ "Thunder and Lightning" Non-LP tracks
1965 "She Belongs to Me"+ "Rambler's Blues" Folkbeat
1966 "Ja-Da" "What I Am" Non-LP tracks
1967 "Bottle of Wine" 9 3 Atco Records "Can't You See I'm Tryin'" (Non-LP track) Bottle of Wine
1968 "Goin' Away" 79 33 31 "Groovy Motions"
"Chicken Little" "3 Minutes' Time"
"Come On, React!" 63 70 "Woman, Help Me!" Come On, React!
1969 "Long Green" 73 "Light in the Window" (from Come On, React!) Non-LP tracks
"Watch Her Walk" "Good Morning Shame"

+ = Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs
++ = Jimmy Gilmer
* = A-sides re-recorded for album inclusion


Year Album Record Label
1960 The Fireballs Top Rank Records
1961 Here Are the Fireballs Warrick Records
1963 Sugar Shack+ Dot Records
1964 Buddy's Buddy++
1965 Lucky 'Leven++
1966 Campusology
1968 Firewater!+
Bottle of Wine Atco Records
1969 Come On, React!

+ = Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs
++ = Jimmy Gilmer


  1. ^ a b c d e Colin Larkin, ed. (1997). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music (Concise ed.). Virgin Books. p. 525. ISBN 1-85227-745-9.
  2. ^ a b "The Fireballs - History". Retrieved April 15, 2021.
  3. ^ a b c Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London, UK: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 200. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  4. ^ Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London, UK: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 159. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
  5. ^ James, Gary. "Gary James' Interview With George Tomsco of the Fireballs". Retrieved November 22, 2006.
  6. ^ "Stanley Roy Lark 1940 - 2021". Boxwell Brothers Funeral Directors - Amarillo. August 6, 2021. Retrieved July 2, 2022.

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