H-Bomb Ferguson, 1929-2006

The Cincinnati music scene lost one of its giants on Nov. 26, when local Blues legend H-Bomb Ferguson died of complications from emphysema. Ferguson (whose real name is Robert) had been a constant p

Share on Nextdoor

The Cincinnati music scene lost one of its giants on Nov. 26, when local Blues legend H-Bomb Ferguson died of complications from emphysema. Ferguson (whose real name is Robert) had been a constant presence in area clubs up until the time of his death. The Charleston, S.C.-born "shouter"/pianist began playing in the late '40s/early '50s, eventually landing in New York City, where comedian Nipsey Russell reportedly befriended him and helped him score a gig at Harlem's Club Baby Grand, where he went by the stage name The Cobra Kid. Ferguson put out a series of releases on labels like Atlas, Prestige and Savoy (Savoy encouraged him to use the "H-Bomb" nickname, which Ferguson's manager/drummer reportedly came up with). Though never huge sellers, Ferguson's flamboyant stage show and howling vocals made him popular on the R&B circuit.

In the late '50s, Ferguson came to Cincinnati to cut some sides for the Federal label, and he set up camp in the Queen City and never left. Over the years, Ferguson won fans/friends like Chuck Berry and Sammy Davis Jr. In the '70s, Ferguson retired briefly, returning to the stage with what became his trademark — a variety of colorful wigs, which added to the energetic, thoroughly entertaining live shows and was reportedly inspired by Rick James' braided coif. Ferguson played international music festivals (more recently, England's Mojo magazine singled out Ferguson's appearance at the 2005 Ponderosa Stomp fest in New Orleans as a highlight) and continued to write and record; he scored two W.C. Hand Awards in the '80s. Since the early '90s, Ferguson has been playing practically every weekend in the Cincinnati area with his band The Medicine Men. Interest in H-Bomb remained high right up until the end — local filmmaker John Parker debuted his documentary Blues Legend: The Life and Times of H-Bomb Ferguson in October and, five days before he died, the label Rev-Ola Bandstand released Big City Blues, a remastered collection of Ferguson's material from the early '50s.

A memorial celebration of H-Bomb's music and life takes place Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Garden Park Unity Church (3581 West Galbraith Road, White Oak).

More Local Notes
· From a baseball standpoint, there wasn't a ton to get excited about with the Cincinnati Reds this year. But one cool bonus was the team's efforts to tie local music into their promotions, playing music from area musicians between innings, hosting concerts after games and releasing the Clutch Hits CD, which featured baseball/Reds-oriented songs from local artists. This weekend is the annual Redsfest and local music once again is playing a part. On Friday, celebrate the "re-release" party of the CD with some of the disc's performers at the 'Fest, which takes place at the new Duke Energy Center downtown. The music kicks off at 7:30 p.m. with Freekbass, followed by Ryan Adcock, Screaming Mimes, Kinsey Rose, psychodots, Greg Mahan and Noah Hunt and the All-Stars. Reds pitcher Bronson Arroyo headlines the night at 10:20 p.m. Tickets are $10, which includes the whole day of activities (signings, a taping of Fox Sports' The Best Damn Sports Show Period and the unveiling of the new Reds uniforms). Redsfest continues Saturday as well; for full details, go to reds.com/redsfest.

· Brian Wright of the local Metal band Retribution suffered a serious accident in late September, falling down a flight of stairs and sustaining severe head trauma. This Friday at Top Cat's, Wright's bandmate Ryan Hammann has organized a benefit concert to help with mounting medical bills. Performers include Wicked Intent, Pain Link, Silk Abrasion and Dark Soul. (retributionmetal.net)

· Local rockers Spindle are shooting a video this Friday at the Poison Room, sharing a bill with Spin Doctors singer Chris Barron, Joey DeGraw (brother of Gavin) and Ashland, Ky.'s Eye Alone. The show is also the official CD release party for the band's new CD, Rebirth. For advanced tickets and to check out some songs from the new album, go to myspace.com/spindlelive.

· This Saturday, Chuck Land Jr. is hosting his annual Landman Productions Musician Relief Festival at the East End Café. The festival is raising money for Land's Musician Relief Fund, which assists uninsured musicians. Land is also celebrating the DVD release of his film about local music, My Passion Project, at the event. Proceeds from the DVD sales also go to the fund. Performers participating Saturday include Grooveshire, John Redell, Sammy Smith and the Tadcasters, The Chuck Land Band and The Rusty Van Band. Music starts at 10 p.m. (landmanproductions.com)

CONTACT MIKE BREEN: mbreen(at)citybeat.com

Scroll to read more Local Music articles


Join CityBeat Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.