Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Life and Times of H-Bomb Ferguson

Born Robert Percell Ferguson in Charleston, South Carolina, he was the eleventh of twelve children. His father was a baptist preacher who paid for piano lessons for his son, on condition he learned sacred melodies. But Ferguson had other ideas. "After church was over, while the people was all standing outside talking, me and my friends would run back inside and I'd play the blues on the piano."

At the age of 19, he was on the road with Joe Liggins and the Honeydrippers. They moved to New York, where Ferguson branched off on his own, getting a gig at the nightclub Baby Grand Club in Harlem, billed as "The Cobra Kid."

His 1951-1952 recording contract with Savoy Records produced some of his best recordings. Drummer, Jack "The Bear" Parker, who played on the Savoy dates, allegedly bestowed the singer with his explosive moniker. Other accounts credit Savoy record producer, Lee Magid, with coining H-Bomb's handle; either way, his dynamite vocals fulfilled the billing. However, it was not until 1955 that rock and roll became a sensation, when Bill Haley & His Comets' version of "Rock Around the Clock" became a hit.

Ferguson retired from touring in the early 1970s, but made a number of comebacks. Backed by the Medicine Men, he recorded his first album, Wiggin' Out, for Chicago's Earwig Records in 1993.

He died in 2006 at the Hospice of Cincinnati of complications from emphysema and cardiopulmonary disease.

His early work was featured in a compilation album H-Bomb Ferguson: Big City Blues, 1951-54.

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