Limited edition of 1500.
Norman Petty was way ahead of the game back in the 50s when he realised that he could double his strike rate simply by releasing recordings under the separate identities of the Crickets and Buddy Holly, even though the recordings were basically made by the same group of musicians. This was a tactic he followed with the Fireballs to an even greater extent, changing their name according to fashion or the whim of the day. They began as simply the Fireballs, then became Chuck Tharp & the Fireballs, returned to being the Fireballs again before becoming Jimmy Gilmer & the Fireballs, which was then distilled down to just Jimmy Gilmer, before finally returning to being the Fireballs once more.
Petty's penchant for multiple identities has actually served us very well for our new giant 30-track Fireballs project. Added to a host of never before released instrumentals by the band are further tracks they cut under the alias of Guitars Inc and another 18 recorded while they were masquerading as the String-A-Longs in 1968. By then the original String-A-Longs, who Petty also recorded at his Clovis studios, had disbanded some three years previously. Petty had had the foresight to register the String-A-Longs name to himself and so he decided to mop up any residual interest in the group with an LP titled “Wide World Hits”. This was actually recorded by the Fireballs although released under the String-A-Longs name.
Fortunately for us the Fireballs never turn in anything less that an excellent performance no matter who they are supposed to be, so their String-A-Longs recordings are just as valuable as anything else they cut during their long and distinguished career. As well as the complete “Wide World Hits” album we also include here ‘Popi’, a rare 45 that was also released under the String-A-Longs moniker on Atco. To this we add a further five titles – ‘Dock Of The Bay’, ‘Light My Fire’, ‘Love Child’, ‘Hold Me Tight’ and ‘Stormy’ – which were recorded for the project but have lain forgotten in Petty's Clovis vaults ever since then.
At the heart of the String-A-Longs sound was the sweet-toned Magnatone amplifier. Fireballs lead guitarist George Tomsco reflects today, “It’s kind of strange that the String-A-Longs sound should begin and end with the Fireballs. We first used Norman’s Magnatone amplifiers back in 1959 when we recorded ‘Nearly Sunrise’. The amp produced a very sweet tone which was just too pretty for me back then – I was 19 just wanted to rock’n’roll!” Petty subsequently pressed the String-A-Longs into using the amp on ‘Wheels’ after the Fireballs had declined to record the tune. It went on to sell millions and George Tomsco is still kicking himself.
The Guitars Inc project was another Petty experiment from around 1963. The rare ‘Little Toy’ and ‘Holiday Love’ have never been on CD before and we are delighted to include them here. There was even more good luck when our diligent researcher Alec Palao discovered a dusty old tape box in the Clovis vaults with Guitars Inc scrawled on it. This proved to be another great find and we are thrilled to be able to present the bright and breezy ‘Mexican Firefly’ for the very first time anywhere.
All of the titles on “Exotic Guitars From The Clovis Vaults” are taken from Norman Petty's expertly crafted master tapes and they sound as fresh and pristine as the day they were recorded.
By Dave Burke, Pipeline Magazine