Two years before the Shadows hit the UK charts with Apache the Fireballs were being auditioned by Norman Petty to record in his legendary studio in Clovis, New Mexico. Whilst the Shadows dominated the UK instrumental scene, Hank Marvin's rather crude single-note guitar picking paled in comparison with George Tomsco's complex, fluid and meticulously executed Tex-Mex style. The Shadows covered several of George's compositions and would be the first to acknowledge George and the Fireballs' influence. The Fireballs, and later the Ventures, can also be credited with influencing a deluge of surf bands in the early 60s.
Although George never learnt to read music, he nevertheless became an accomplished session musician for Norman Petty, who relied on him and the Fireballs for most of the post-Buddy Holly recordings in Clovis. Having established a close knowledge of George's style in assembling our Fireballs' releases, I was intrigued to hear his distinctive guitar picking when listening to Oh Little Girl by Jimmy Craig, which turned up amongst a bunch of tapes we had copied for Ray Topping's upcoming CD of early 50s Norman Petty productions. This led to ongoing discussions with George and Jerry MacNeish (who knows more about George than George does!) to find out what other recordings George and the Fireballs were featured on. We all knew about the Buddy Holly overdubs, but what else was there?
Well after months of consultations with George, Jerry, Rob Finnis and finally the world Clovis expert John Ingman, we came up with this fascinating insight into George's work as producer, songwriter and guitarist for other artists. Rob Finnis had just compiled our Chuck Rio CD - TEQUILA MAN (CDCHD 688) and we gave it an extra logo "Great Rock'n' Roll Instrumentalists", so George's CD naturally becomes Volume 2 in that series, with James Burton following at some stage, hopefully.
Apart from George's involvement, this CD also serves as the first legitimate source for many of these hard-to-find Norman Petty productions, which have been bootlegged on vinyl by Petty enthusiasts over the years.
by Trevor Churchill