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ATLAS 1005; MARCH 1952



It’s highly doubtful that he sold enough records to negatively impact the sales of the bigger star he emulated, but has anybody else noticed that as soon as H-Bomb Ferguson exploded onto the scene with his blatant Wynonie Harris impersonations that Harris, one of the most consistent hitmakers in rock since its inception, won’t score another hit for the rest of his career?

That’s surely a coincidence, right?

It might just be the patience of rock fans for in-your-face blowhards had finally ran dry… or perhaps there was simply nowhere else to take such a limited one-note approach now that rock had greatly expanded its possibilities… but it’s still a weird irony nonetheless.

But at least in rare moments of sobriety Wynonie Harris had a legendary career to look back on. Meanwhile poor H-Bomb Ferguson was stuck wondering what might’ve been had he just come along a few years earlier.


I’m Your Guy
One of the dangers of musical imitation is that while you may have a remarkably similar tone, projection and even vocal tics to someone else, you’re still lacking their underlying persona.

For a lot of acts in the early 1950’s this might not have mattered as much as it would down the road, simply because the rock world then was obviously not given any media exposure… just the records themselves and whatever live gigs in your area you were able to attend. So nobody quite knew Amos Milburn’s personality or had any idea of what the day to day relationships between the individual members of The Orioles were.

But Wynonie Harris was the exception to the rule. Not only was he so loud and brash in real life that word of his outrageous behavior – both on and off-stage – traveled through the grapevine wherever he went, but his records were often geared towards exploiting that image, even to the point where songs that didn’t follow through enough on the themes they hinted at – I Like My Baby’s Pudding for instance – still attracted interest because you could easily project more salacious details onto it in your own mind.

In later years H-Bomb Ferguson became known for his own eccentricities, but by then he was a curiosity, a self-invented freak of sorts, an old man in day-glo wigs playing festivals without any chance for a hit record.

But when he released Good Time Gal he was still young, still had his own hair in its original color and while backed on his Atlas Records sides by the great sax of Charlie Singleton he had every hope of hitting it big… but it wasn’t to be.

Too close to someone else with a more dastardly reputation to draw from, Ferguson was left with no real way to make himself stand out short of exceptionally written songs, of which this is definitely not.


I’ve Got What You Want
While the throaty roar of H-Bomb Ferguson is a fairly potent weapon, derivative though it may be, it doesn’t quite have the impact it could have if it were being used to convey something more meaningful than the random disheveled declarations he spews throughout this record at full volume.

The subject is fairly obvious even if the plot never does get pulled together as Ferguson is after a hot chick in crude fashion, but we gotta say that if this is how he’s going about it he’s destined to be spending his nights alone in the bathroom with the door locked to find satisfaction.

In case you were wondering his brilliant strategy is to randomly insult her then insist she should smarten up and be with him because of course he has so much to offer her… attributes which apparently does not include charm, intelligence, personality or savior faire.

Actually he does have ONE thing to offer this Good Time Gal and that is one of the hotter band performances we’ve heard.

Charlie Singleton was recording at the same time for Atlas as a solo artist and while he just missed out on the peak sax instrumental era, he shows that he might’ve been more suited to session work all along as this is a rollicking track that not only features some sizzling playing by him, but also showcases the rest of the band in fine fashion.

For starters there’s an organ that never comes to the forefront but provides a sneaky melodic undercurrent that is really compelling, in large part because in 1952 we’re not used to that sound on rock records. Oftentimes when a different instrument gets drafted into the starting lineup it throws off the balance in the arrangement because they haven’t figured out how to best utilize it, but here it adds something that catches your ear without actually distracting you from everything else that’s going on in this musical maelstrom.

The rest of the churning track is prime rock ‘n’ roll with a thumping backbeat, frantic bursts of piano and Singleton’s tenor solo which has a perfect tone, balancing the melodic and rhythmic elements necessary while never once letting up on unleashing its power.

They work well blending with Ferguson’s incessant bellowing but you just wish he either had something more insightful to add, or they let the tapes roll a little longer in the hopes the musicians ganged up on him and beat him into submission altogether.

As for the girl in question, she fled to parts unknown, changing her name, her appearance and if she was smart her gender as well just to get away from this rampaging boor. At least Wynonie Harris committed his felonies with a rakish grin and cockeyed charm, which is far more than you can for what passes for courting in Ferguson’s addled mind.


‘Til The Very End
When the focus of a record is its weakest element, and you could argue he provided its two weakest components since he also wrote this pointless verbal assault, it’s hard to recommend the song other than as a cautionary tale when it comes to leaning too hard on his limited aspirations.

H-Bomb Ferguson had some talent, he just didn’t have the artistic ambition to create his own style, nor the discipline to craft good material to take advantage of his vocal fire.

But on Good Time Gal he hardly needs any of that because Charlie Singleton and company are SO good that you almost ignore H-Bomb as anything more than a rhythmic device.

It’s not a stretch to say the instrumental track by itself could’ve acted as the prototype for half of rock ‘n’ roll of the mid-1950’s. Not that this invented it or anything, but they just defined how well it could be done in the right hands, showing it was possible to play a tight arrangement with a loose feeling, driving hard yet never losing control in the process.

So how do you balance the highs and lows in a review? The musical half is brilliant, the vocals are aimless and the lyrics are innocuous at best, grievously dreadful at worst. Ferguson’s name is on it so if we’re too generous he’ll get credit for elements that he had nothing whatsoever to do with, yet if we focus more on his half of the performance and downgrade it accordingly, we’re practically ensuring the work contained here that deserves to be heard and praised goes completely unrewarded.

No grade is going to satisfy both of those perspectives so we’ll split the difference and call it average, even while freely admitting that it’s anything but that.


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