Born Robert Percell Ferguson, 9 May 1929, Charleston, South Carolina
Singer / pianist / songwriter.
How to define the inimitable persona of H-Bomb Ferguson? Someone said: "If you could combine the vocal style of blues shouter Joe Turner, the unbridled showmanship of Little Richard and the head gear of a well-aged Rick James, the end result would be something like H-Bomb Ferguson." H-Bomb is the last performing of the original U.S. blues shouters. He recorded extensively in the 1950s for such labels as Derby, Atlas, Savoy, Prestige, Specialty and Federal. He then retired in the 1970s. One day he got an idea to perform in wigs and began a comeback. It included bringing the house down on the Chicago Blues Festival in 1992. Things have looked up ever since.
Bobby Ferguson was the 11th of twelve children born to Irene and Reverend Alonzo Ferguson. At age six, he began playing piano in his father's store front Baptist church. Deciding that the boy had talent, the Reverend paid for piano lessons for his son, demanding that he stuck to sacred melodies on the 88s. Fat chance - by age 19, Bobby Ferguson was on the road with Joe Liggins and his Honeydrippers.
Ferguson had his first recording session in New York City in 1950, which resulted in two singles on the Derby label. Three more singles followed in 1951, two on Atlas and one on Prestige, before H-Bomb signed with Savoy Records, where he probably recorded his best work, backed by top-notch session men. His biggest seller on Savoy was "Good Lovin'" (Savoy 830), which according to some sources earned him a gold record, though it never showed up in Billboard's R&B charts. Drummer Jack "The Bear" Parker, who played on the Derby, Prestige and Savoy dates, allegedly bestowed the singer with his explosive moniker. Parker also became Ferguson's manager.
Unique as the name was, H-Bomb was pushed to imitate the blues shouter style of Wynonie Harris. They were often paired in billing, with on stage antics of H-Bomb mimicking Wynonie. Though they were closely associated, they were not close, and H-Bomb lobbied to be able to create his own style. About his early recordings, H-Bomb says : "They were going for a big band sound. I always loved the sax. Bass, piano, and four horns were used. And I played with some of the best! Guitar played a minor part. I wasn't playing piano in most of these recordings. At the time, they said my voice came out much better if I stood at the mike and didn't play the piano." H-Bomb made the circuit of regional clubs, singing and telling jokes in vaudeville tradition. He worked with Ruth Brown, Clarence ""Gatemouth" Brown, Willis "Gatortail" Jackson and Bullmoose Jackson, and did comedy with Redd Foxx. After nine years in New York City, Ferguson moved to Cincinnati in 1957 and signed with King Records. He formed his own band, "H-Bomb Ferguson and his Mad Lads", and quickly became a regional favourite. He was now honing his own style, away from Wynonie Harris, with funky piano. Popular singles on Federal (King's subsidiary) were "Mary, Little Mary" and especially "Midnight Ramblin' Tonight", which has been reissued on many compilations. But these would be his final releases for some 25 years, though he kept travelling and performing throughout the 1960s. After a short retirement in the '70s, H-Bomb found that he could not quit the music business, and came out in his now renowned wigs. A new persona with each set! Among his international stellar performances are : Blues Estafette Holland (Utrecht) in 1988 and 1991, The British R & B Festival Colne, Lancashire, England 1994, Lugano (Switzerland) Blues To Bop Festival in 1993 and 1994 and Rhythm Riot Festival in Rye, East Sussex (UK) in November 2001. In 2005 he performed at the 4th Ponderosa Stomp.
H-Bomb returned to the recording studio in 1985 for two singles on the Radiation label and, backed by his new band, The Medicine Men, waxed his first album in 1993, "Wiggin' Out" for Chicago's Earwig label. It showed him to be as wild as ever. His Savoy recordings were collected on an LP in 1986 ("Life Is Hard", Savoy Jazz SJL 1176).
CD : Rock H-Bomb Rock !!! (Big Bang BBCD-103). 32 tracks from 1950-60. Obviously a bootleg, with no information whatsoever. But the sound quality is good. Not much variation in style, though.
Acknowledgements / more info : http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/hbombf
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