Local Blues Legend Dies (11/26/06)
The man known as "H Bomb" because of the way his voice exploded on stage, died Sunday morning in a local hospice room. Robert Ferguson was 77 years old.
Ferguson, thought by many as a blues legend, was one of the last survivors of an almost forgotten style of blues.
"He was the last original performing US blues shouter," John Parker says. Parker and Jerry Adams, two local filmmakers, recently completed a documentary on Ferguson's life.
"He was the last, there's no one after H Bomb. So the loss today is a loss to the blues community as a whole," Parker says.
Parker says Ferguson had been fighting Emphysema for years. He says Ferguson was hospitalized for it a few times, but had always been able to recover.
"He made the statement, he said, I'm going to keep playing [music] until I die and god bless him, he did," Adams says.
Ferguson's wife, Christine and son Robbie are planning a memorial celebration for 7pm this Thursday at the Garden Park Unity Church on W. Galbraith Rd.
Ferguson was well known and well respected in the blues world when he settled in Cincinnati in the late 1950's. Originally from South Carolina, he began playing piano at age six and was writing music shortly after.
He began creating his style of "honkytonk shag blues" as a teenager, and served in the Merchant Marines during World War II. After coming home, Ferguson almost immediately began traveling the country on the blues circuit.
He had a gold record at 23, and quickly earned a name not only for his music ability, but for the jokes he told in between songs. He was a frequent and popular emcee at the Apollo Theater.
After growing tired of traveling and living in bigger cities like New York, Ferguson made his home in Cincinnati in 1957, the heyday of blues here. After a brief retirement, where he worked as a garbage man, Ferguson continued writing and playing music at local clubs.
The highlight of his long career may have been in 1992 at the Chicago Blues Festival. Ferguson was the only act not signed to a record label. The crowd reacted so strongly to his set, they would not let him leave the stage until he performed a few encores.
After that day, Ferguson signed to another record label and made another album. He traveled all over the world promoting it and in the years that followed, never stopped playing shows in Cincinnati.
Ferguson was known for his aggressive style of playing piano and for the colorful wigs he wore on stage, almost as much as he was known for his booming voice. But friends say his personality and wit, out shined all of it.
"In his whole career he was an entertainer [and in] person he was an entertainer. Dinner at H Bomb's was a treat, it was like dinner and a show," Parker says.