Sugar Shack – Jimmy Gilmer/Fireballs

“Sugar Shack” by Jimmy Gilmer & The Fireballs hits the #1 spot on the C-FUNtastic Fifty this week in 1963!

The song was recorded at Norman Petty Studios in Clovis, New Mexico, the same studio where Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison and Buddy Knox recorded their early hits. “Sugar Shack” sold over a million copies and went on to become Billboard magazine’s #1 song of 1963.

Fireballs co-founder George Tomsco was one of the most popular and influential Tex-Mex guitarists. The group reached the top 40 with singles “Torquay” (1959), “Bulldog” (1960), and “Quite a Party” (1961) and they worked as studio musicians for Norman Petty. I asked him to tell us the story of this classic hit:

“The record label says ‘Sugar Shack’ was written by Keith McCormack and Faye Voss. Faye was Keith’s aunt, and he was staying with her when his band, the String-a-Longs, were going through some hard times. Every morning, Keith would rise out of bed, have his morning coffee and cigarette, grab his guitar and try to come up with another new song idea. The ‘coffee house’ idea materialized because coffee houses were gaining popularity in 1963. The title ‘Sugar Shack’ came next.

Keith’s aunt was very vocal about how much she loved the idea, and the song as it was taking shape. Not wanting to overlook an opportunity, Keith suggested ‘Aunt Faye, if you’ll forget about the 40 dollars I borrowed from you, and if I can get this song recorded at Norman Petty’s studio, I’ll put you down as a co-writer.’ She jumped at the offer!

Keith presented the song to Norman Petty, Petty played it for Jimmy Gilmer, a recording session was scheduled, and the song was a huge hit. Keith kept his word and gave his Aunt Faye 50% of the royalties to cover his $40 debt. Keith told me that after she started receiving her share of the ‘Sugar Shack’ royalties she would call him and say ‘Thanks for giving me half that song, Keith! We just bought a new car!’ or ‘We decided to remodel our house!’ She just loved that song!”

Thanks, George! Catch up with George Tomsco at fireballs-original.com. Want to know more about legendary producer Norman Petty? Check out norvajakmusic.com.

It’s October 5, 1963. Let’s go back… to that Sugar Shack!