On July 1, 2007, Camaro Hi-Performance had one heck of a 4th of July
celebration. Company owner, Jerry MacNeish has been a Fireballs fan
since he was a kid and for him to bring in three of the original four
members to play at the CHP party was as dream come true for the MacNeish
Family. What really made it special was the fact that Jerry played drums
for the band at this event.
Pictured here from left to right is George Tomsco, original member and
lead guitarist, Stan Lark, original bass player, Jerry MacNeish on drums,
Wayne Jones on rhythm guitar and Jimmy Gilmer lead vocals.
Who are Jimmy Gilmer & The Fireballs? During the late 1950s and into the
late 1960s, this rock n' roll band charted 11 top-40 hit records through
out the U.S. "Sugar Shack" became the biggest seller for the band and
was #1 for five straight weeks in 1963, becoming the biggest selling
record of 1963.
JIMMY GILMER & THE FIREBALLS,
THEIR HISTORY, THEIR MUSIC AND THEIR LEGACY
On January 28, 1958, The Fireballs won a PTA talent contest at Raton High
School in Raton, N. Mex. After winning that contest, they would wind up
at a small independent recording studio in Clovis, NM in September of
that same year. The independent studio owner was none other than
legendary recording engineer, Norman Petty. At that time, Petty had
developed quite a resume in the music world as an engineer-producer at
his small studio on 7th Street in Clovis.
Who recorded there during the mid 1950s? How about Buddy Holly, The
Crickets, Roy Orbison, Buddy Knox and Jimmy Bowen. All legendary people
in the world of rock n’ roll today. The Fireballs and Jimmy Gilmer would
also make musical history once they arrived in Clovis, but it would not
be an overnight success.
When The Fireballs arrived in ‘58, the group consisted of leader and
founding member, George Tomsco (lead guitar), Stan Lark (bass), Danny
Trammell (rhythm guitar), Eric Budd (drums) and Chuck Tharp (lead
vocals). The group recorded two songs during their first session. Petty
through his connections and success in the music business was able to
sell the master tapes to Kapp Records. This record did not make the
Billboard Top 100 but Norm Petty saw something in the group and asked
that they write more material, practice and come at a later date. That
they did... ....and the next session produced an instrumental that would take
the nation by storm in the Fall of 1959. "Torquay" would break into the
Billboard Top 40 and go all the way to #1 in Los Angeles, Calif. in
November 1959. The Fireballs were now under contract with Top Rank
Records during this time.
During their first national tour in the Fall of 1959, rhythm guitarist
Danny Trammell would have to leave the group because of health reasons.
Vocalist Chuck Tharp was asked to play rhythm guitar for the band making
them a foursome.
In 1960, the group would have two more instrumental hits while under
contract with Top Rank Records: "Bulldog", their biggest instrumental hit
and a follow up titled "Vaquero". Later that year, lead singer and
rhythm guitarist Chuck Tharp decided to leave the band and pursue a
career of his own.
Back track to May of 1959, Jimmy Gilmer and his band from Amarillo, Texas
came over to record their very first record at Norman Petty Studios.
Jimmy recorded three singles, one for Decca and two for Warwick Records
without any success. The Fireballs actually became session players at N.
Petty Studios in 1960 and were used for one of the Gilmer Warwick
Norm Petty suggested that Jimmy Gilmer would be a good fit to replace
Chuck Tharp. The band agreed, and in 1961 Jimmy Gilmer was now a part of
1961 would bring The Fireballs another national instrumental hit for
Warwick Records called "Quite A Party" with Jimmy Gilmer playing rhythm
guitar. The band started playing gigs around the Texas-N. Mex area and
continued to record at Norman Petty Studios. Petty had a knack for
seeking out talented artists and musicians and really believed in the
More personnel changes for the band came in late 1961. Drummer Eric Budd
was drafted into the Army, leaving the band as a threesome. Many of the
band photos in 1962 just show George, Jimmy and Stan. Eventually,
drummer Doug Roberts was asked to join the band in 1962. Also in 1962,
the group came under contract with a new record company called Dot
Records, a major label in the music business.
In the Spring of 1963, The Fireballs and Jimmy Gilmer continued to work
on writing and recording new material at Petty’s studio. Petty saw
something in a song they recorded at that time called "Sugar Shack." The
masters were sent off to Dot Records and the rest was history. Not only
would Jimmy Gilmer & The Fireballs have a vocal hit record, this one
rocketed into the Billboard top 10 and went all the way to the #1
position in September of 1963 and stayed there for five weeks! As
history tells the story, "Sugar Shack" would become the biggest selling
record of 1963 and catapulted the band into the superstar category.
Other top-40 follow-up hits for Dot Records would continue with "Daisy
Pedal Pickin" and "Ain’t Gonna Tell Nobody." But this was not to last
for long as it was about this time, early 1964, that a group from England
would take the U.S. by storm called The Beatles. Many other artists and
bands from the U.K. would dominate the music industry here in the U.S.
for the next few years. These were lean times for many American
From 1964 to 1967, The Fireballs and Jimmy Gilmer continued to tour all
over the world but did not regain the national stardom that they achieved
in 1963. That would change when Norman Petty signed the band with a new
record label in 1967, Atco Records. Their first release for Atco was a
song written by folk singer, Tom Paxton titled "Bottle Of Wine." The
Fireballs were back as "Bottle Of Wine" rocketed into the Billboard
top-10 in February of 1968 and became one of the biggest selling records
of 1968. Other follow-up hits for Atco Records included: "Goin’ Away,
"Come On React" and "Long Green."
In the Fall of 1969, Jimmy Gilmer & The Fireballs broke up to pursue
their own interest and new careers. They left us with a warehouse of
great music and recorded all of their material in a very historical
recording studio that is now a museum today.
The Fireballs and Jimmy Gilmer recorded 11 hit records that broke into
the Billboard Top-40 charts.
1. SUGAR SHACK
2. BOTTLE OF WINE
3. DAISY PEDAL PICKIN’
5. QUITE A PARTY
7. AIN’T GONNA TELL NOBODY
8. COME ON, REACT
9. LONG GREEN
10. GOIN’ AWAY
"Sugar Shack" was a multi-million seller and was the biggest selling
record of 1963.
The Fireballs were one of the few groups in history who had hit
records in the 1950s, survived the British Invasion and continued to have
hit records into the late 1960s.
The Fireballs were one of only a few groups to have both instrumental
and vocal hit records here in the US.
During their 11 year career, Jimmy Gilmer and The Fireballs were under
contract with six different record labels; Kapp Records, Top Rank
Records, Decca Records, Warwick Records, Dot Records and Atco Records.
George and Stan getting ready for sound check in the CHP shop. Note the nice back drop, Z28 Camaros behind the band!
From left to right, George Tomsco, Jerry MacNeish, Stan Lark and Jimmy Gilmer wearing their NHRA golf shirts.
WHO RECORDED AT NORMAN PETTY STUDIOS?
THE NORMAN PETTY TRIO
BUDDY KNOX & THE RHYTHM ORCHIDS
THE BOBBY FULLER FOUR
These are just a few of the legendary artists who recorded at Norman
Petty Studios during the 1950s and 1960s.
The Fireballs in the XM Satellite radio studios on Friday, June
29, 2007 doing a live one-hour interview with 1960s channel DJ, Phlash
Phelps. Left to right; Phlash Phelps, Dawn Lark, George Tomsco, and
Jimmy Gilmer and Wife Donna in the XM studio.
Lots of Camaros on display at the CHP party.
Bill & Diane Hodel drove from Massillon, OH in their new Viper
to attend the CHP party and watch Jimmy Gilmer & The Fireballs perform.
Here they are with Fireball's lead guitarist, George Tomsco.
Left to right, Mike Miklus, Mike Williams, Stan Lark and Dawn
Lark. Mike Williams drove his new ZO6 Corvette to the CHP party.
The cars are lining up in formation at the party.
Bill Hodel receiving an original autographed J. Gilmer & Fireballs album.
Jim Groszer receiving an autographed album for his help and support at the CHP Bash.
Sam Murray receiving an autographed Fireballs album and CD for all his help at the race track.
MacNeish Motors hard at work doing a drum solo in the Fireball's song "Quite A Party."
George Tomsco holding the microphone during the MacNeish CHP drum solo.
CHP owner thanking everyone for coming out for the CHP party.
Big crowd watching Jimmy Gilmer & The Fireballs as they perform.
Note the Camaro tent with big crowd watching the concert.
Left to right, Jerry MacNeish, George Tomsco, Stan Lark and Wayne Jones.
All of the band ladies in the pool the day before the big concert. Left to right, Dawn Lark, my lovely wife Joy MacNeish, Ruth
Macias, and Donna Gilmer above.
My wife Joy and Jimmy Gilmer.
Ken Lucas, the official photographer at the CHP party
receiving an autographed Fireballs CD. Thanks Ken for all of your help.
Ken runs Lucas Motors better known as Lucas Restorations.
Norm & Carole Shuey received a special package
from CHP, an original autographed Fireballs album and CD for all of their
help and 18 year friendship. Thanks so much!
Tony Eichler receives an original 1968 vintage
autographed Fireballs album titled "Bottle Of Wine" for all of his help
and support with the MacNeish music room and help at the event.
Gary Sommers receiving an autographed Fireballs
album and CD for all of his help and support over the years. Thanks for
going on many of those CHP road trips and keeping the appraiser company!
Some of the rowdy Camaro bunch pose
with Jimmy Gilmer after the show. From left to right, Norm Shuey, Jimmy
Gilmer, Bob Yingling, and Mike Chaney.
Another great shot of the car show part of the CHP
party. Next year promises to be even bigger! And Jimmy Gilmer & The
Fireballs will be back!
Left to right; rhythm guitarist, Wayne Jones, Jimmy & Donna
Gilmer, Dawn & Stan Lark.
Left to right, NHRA racers Johnny Wareheim, Danny Householder,
and Wayne Totaro telling speed secrets before the concert.
The cars are stacking up for the party.
Jimmy Gilmer with Mom MacNeish, behind them are racing cousins
David and Timmy Bishop.
Paul Kiel waiting for Fireball's autographs. Notice the
signed "Bottle Of Wine" album in his hand.
Group shot after the concert, left to right; Jerry MacNeish,
Carole Shuey, Jimmy Gilmer, Mindy Lang, Stan Lark, George Tomsco, Mike
Lang, Norm Shuey, and Wayne Jones.
Jimmy Gilmer with Pat Barnish on his right and Fran on his
left. Pat and Fran drove down from Connecticut for the CHP party.
Left to right, Jimmy Gilmer, NHRA photographer David Bishop
and Englishtown Raceway Park announcer, Andrew Hinckley.
Jimmy Gilmer and The Fireballs standing in front of Dave
Strickler's NHRA Old Reliable race car. Jerry MacNeish on the end.
Left to right; racers David Bishop, Timmy Bishop and Sam
Murray. Sam and Chris flew down from Boston, MA for the CHP party