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Most people will not hold the same job, drive the same car and live in the same house for their entire adult life.

Along the way you upgrade, making incremental advances based on your past achievements… one job leads to another with slightly better pay, maybe an easier commute or better health benefits and with your added income you’re able to buy a better car and stop renting a house and purchase one of your own.

At a certain point after you’ve settled down, content with your progress and ready to enjoy the fruits of your labor, it’s safe to look back on just how far you’ve come, smiling as you remember just what it was like to have a job at a company that had an office wedged between a dry cleaner and a pawnshop, when you drove a car with no heat and lived in an apartment where the faucet dripped incessantly.

H-Bomb Ferguson was currently driving to the studio in a car with no heat, where the musicians had to get their instruments out of hock from the pawnshop next door to play the session, after writing his song to the drip-drip-dripping of a faucet in his apartment, hoping that his efforts would pay off and he’d be able to move on up in the music world.


Take This Dollar
In the annals of rock ‘n’ roll, Prestige Records hardly lives up to its name. Though their output in this field was decidedly insignificant, they were at least a slightly more established label than H-Bomb Ferguson’s first stop, Atlas Records, where last month he’d been the first artist to have a single released.

But that was a one-session deal and already he was on the move to this subsidiary of New Jazz Records, which housed such luminaries such as Miles Davis, Gene Ammons and Sonny Stitt, a roster of names that tells you their primary focus was not rock ‘n’ roll and certainly not a lusty shouter of rock ‘n’ roll named after a weapon of mass destruction.

To their credit though they didn’t try and tame him down too much to fit their established sound, but Feel Like I Do does feature some very credible playing by drummer Jack “The Bear” Parker’s outfit that lends a touch of effortless cool to the proceedings.

Still, on its own this probably isn’t enough to entice a bigger company into taking a chance on him (though shockingly it got released in England on Esquire a year later). Yes, it’s a halfway decent song featuring a credible performance by singer and band alike with some nice touches thrown in, but ultimately nothing that jumps out at you.

But that’s the story of countless artists in rock’s history, those who are grateful for each opportunity that arise, all while never knowing which of these stops – if any – would pay off in the long run.

I’m On My Way
Sometime in December, presumably as Ferguson’s explosive Rock H-Bomb Rock was being issued elsewhere, he cut a whopping ten sides for Prestige of which only one single was released.

This is a strange development considering his next release for yet another label stirred plenty of interest and you’d think a company needing hits might want to take advantage of that with something by an artist who was sort of hard to ignore any time he opened his mouth, but maybe they thought only Feel Like I Do showed commercial potential.

If so, it’s not what other labels would be seeking from Ferguson as he slightly downshifts away from his Wynonie Harris inspired vocals, not completely of course, but just enough to put some distance between them.

He sounds good too even as his vocal pace is sort of lurching at times, like he’s gulping air in between the lines. But if he’s not quite in command of the tempo, he handles it well enough that it’s not a distraction and never seems less than fully confident in the song’s direction.

Of course the song is less a proper story and more a series of verses just stitched together, formally independent of one another but able to be crafted into a narrative if you insist upon it. Ferguson is unconcerned with which way you care to view it and more intent on selling each vignette the best he can. Some of them show a nice eye for detail but how it relates to the title remains a mystery since after introducing that theme in the hopeful opening he goes on to paint a picture that’s much more dire even though the music doesn’t share his outlook.

Conflicted though that may be, that’s in fact where the record comes alive as Parker’s work on the drums in conjunction with the piano is really infectious, their herky jerky rhythmic pattern never lets up and never gets old. It may be difficult for Ferguson to navigate, trying not to fall out of step, but the overlapping patterns are the one thing that makes this record somewhat memorable.

If the others in the band could’ve contributed a more robust instrumental break rather than stuffy horns playing a repetitive and not very exciting riff, then this might’ve taken off. But even with the rather limited vision of that part of the arrangement the overall sound of this – including Ferguson’s vocal patter – gives the record its identity and makes it a rather enjoyable, if non-essential, way to spend a few minutes time while waiting for something better to come along.


Ain’t Got No Lovin’
Hearing this in the first few weeks of 1952, assuming you hadn’t been one of the twelve or so people who already picked up your copy of Ferguson’s release on Atlas 101, you would say he was a fair – if derivative – singer who might be worth keeping an eye out for in the coming months, but more than likely you’d be impressed by the band, particularly if you found out someone that Parker, who gets label credit, was the drummer as well as the bandleader.

Though Ferguson’s success, limited commercially though it may have been, would certainly far exceed Parker’s in the future, fear not, we will get more Jack (The Bear) Parker sightings around here in a year’s time.

What kept guys like Ferguson and Parker going was in 1952 there were plenty of independent labels out there, all in their own way seeking the same improbable rags to riches story on the assumption that there was just enough rock fans out there who Feel Like I Do when it came to searching for some obscure name on a tiny label who just may be a diamond in the rough.

This isn’t a diamond by any means, but it’s also not cubic zirconia either. Instead it’s a passable rock record by some capable artists who will never be stars but who admirably will never quit trying.


(Visit the Artist page of H-Bomb Ferguson for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)