Sugar Shack

Album: Fireball Country (1963)
Charted: 45 1
  • songfacts ®
  • Lyrics
  • Before the Temptations "Psychedelic Shack" and the B-52s "Love Shack" were where it was at, the Sugar Shack was where you want to get back.

    This shack is a coffeehouse, where the singer successfully courts the cute girl who works there. They get married and spend a lot of time thinking about those good times at the Sugar Shack.
  • In America, this was the biggest hit of 1963, spending five weeks at #1. It was also the first Hot 100 chart topper with "sugar" in the title. There were two more: "Sugar, Sugar" by The Archies (1969) and "Brown Sugar" by The Rolling Stones.
  • The Fireballs were a New Mexico band that had some success with instrumental tracks like "Torquay" (#39, 1959) and "Bulldog" (#24, 1960). Their recordings were all instrumental, but they used a vocalist when they played concerts in order to fill the sets. Until the summer of 1960, Chuck Tharp served as their frontman, replaced by Jimmy Gilmer, who led his own rockabilly band before joining The Fireballs.

    On the road, the band played "Sugar Shack," which got a great response. They urged their producer, Norman Petty, to record the song, and he did so at his studio in Clovis, New Mexico. Released in May 1963, the song took off, climbing to #1 in October.
  • The song was written by Keith McCormack and his aunt, Faye Voss. McCormack had a band called the String-a-Longs that also recorded with Norman Petty; their song "Wheels" went to #3 in 1961. When the Fireballs were looking for songs, McCormack supplied him with a few, including "Sugar Shack."

    According to an interview with he did with the Plainview Herald, McCormack and his aunt wrote the song over breakfast, which explains why coffee shows up in the lyric. They traded lines back and forth until they had the whole story.
  • The distinctive whistling riff was made with a 1940s Hammond Solovox organ, which producer Norman Petty played on the record. The instrument was not practical to take on the road, so when the band played it live, they simulated it on guitar.
  • The Fireballs lineup when this song was released was:

    Gilmer - vocals
    George Tomsco - guitar
    Doug Roberts - drums
    Stan Lark - bass

    In 1964, the group hit #15 with "Daisy Petal Pickin'," a song musically similar to "Sugar Shack" that also used a Solovox lick. Their next hit came in 1967 with a very different song: "Bottle of Wine," a drinking tune written by Tom Paxton that reached #9. They never again cracked the Top 40.
  • No other version of the song ever charted, possibly because that vintage organ riff was too difficult to emulate. In 1963, the Surfaris recorded the song, as did Lawrence Welk, with an instrumental version. Marcia Griffiths of "Electric Boogie" fame recorded it in 1990, altering the lyrics so she's scoping out a cute dreadlocked guy at the Sugar Shack.
  • Later in 1963, a singer named Georgia Lynn recorded "Sugar Shack Queen," an answer song sung from the perspective of the girl in the song.
  • The single was credited to Jimmy Gilmer & The Fireballs.
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Comments: 6

  • Aiken Nutz from Tahlequah OkI was really surprised to see this song rise in the charts in '63. Sure,it's bouncy & sounds happy, but at first it was difficult for me to like. I did---after a week or so. I was always amused that they used a flute or piccolo, or something. At the time, I loved rocking songs and R&B with a hard-driving sound. But it grew on me after a while. Now, their later hit, "Bottle of Wine" was a good hit for them.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn December 8th 1963, "Daisy Petal Pickin'" by Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #90; and eight weeks later on February 2nd, 1964* it peaked at #15 {for 1 week} and spent 11 weeks on the Top 100...
    And at the time "Sugar Shack" was still on the Top 100, it was in its 13th week on the chart and it was also at position #13...
    * The week "Daisy Petal Pickin'" peaked at #15, the Beatles first charted record, "I Want to Hold Your Hand", was in its 2nd of 7 weeks at #1 on the Top 100.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyThe Fireballs first two charted records were instrumentals; "Torquay" {1959} and "Bulldog" {1960}. Both were great records!!!
  • Jennifer Harris from Grand Blanc, MiI love this song! MSD did this in their spring program,I fell in love with it!I also have this song on one of my A.M. Gold cds.
  • Maggie from Waterford, OhThis is just a fun little song to listen to that makes you want to dance
  • Alan from Grande Prairie, Alberta, CanadaThe Fireballs did some re-work on a few Buddy Holly tracks. They had a minor hit I believe in the late 60's or early 70's with a tune called "Bottle of Wine".
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