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ATLAS 1005; MARCH 1952



For those singers trying to establish an image of a vocal ruffian for themselves with crass uptempo songs boasting of non-existent conquests of every variety, there inevitably will come a time when you reach the conclusion that you might need to change things up once in awhile to maximize your chances for a sustained career.

It could be a record label that tells you they’re having trouble selling the same approach, or maybe the audiences that are recoiling from your all-out vocal attacks in live venues convinces you to ease back a little every now and then to prevent them from fleeing out the back of the theater. Then again it just might be you’ve run out of ways to put across countless unrelenting messages in the same merciless style in one song after another.

Whatever the reason though we’ve reached the stage with H-Bomb Ferguson that not all of his songs can be cut from the same cloth. Yet while the packaging may be different enough here to draw notice, what’s inside the box once you open it remains all too familiar.


About To Lose My Mind
Once again when delving into this disreputable character we must say… A thousands pardons… not for any lyrical crudity H-Bomb Ferguson is unleashing, but rather because we have no choice but to drag out the same comparison we’ve used each and every time we’ve met him and chances are you’re getting as sick of it as we are.

But the reason we have no choice in the matter is because Ferguson refuses to alter his delivery from his Wynonie Harris homage even when the song’s structure changes.

Of course even when Harris changed his delivery you never failed to realize it was him singing, but the difference is when he tackled more restrained songs he was able to modify his approach in ways that Ferguson seems incapable of so far. Wynonie effectively expressed concern about his own mortality, he’d feign innocence when confronted with charges of his many crimes and he could even manage to occasionally sound humble if it came to that.

But as we see in On My Way, there were certain things that H-Bomb Ferguson did not pick up on from his idol and downplaying his forceful vocal style for the good of a song’s presentation was apparently one of the things he missed.

Whether or not a more subdued delivery would’ve significantly improved the record in question however is another matter altogether.


A Mean Jitterbug
The way this starts off, with a methodically slow piano doodle, you’re likely to think you’ve got the wrong track. Surely no record associated with H-Bomb Ferguson could be so ponderous.

In fact, there’s even reason to speculate that the tapes could be slowed down… either intentionally by Atlas Records to offer something different than his usual fare, or by re-issuers who mastered it in the CD era at the wrong speed because his line readings are a little TOO deliberate, like somebody trying to enunciate everything clearly enough so their deaf aunt can make out all the words.

But since Ferguson’s tone is unchanged from his usual output with On My Way there doesn’t seem to be any drastic tape manipulation which means they consciously tried to slow him down in the studio to give off a different vibe.

Unfortunately changing the pace wasn’t the only thing they needed to do in order to alter the perception, Ferguson had to also stop flexing his vocal chords while he sang because once again he comes across as far too harsh to convey more moderate image the song requires.

The song itself however is just sort of a re-hashed T-99, which features the same hypnotic chanting responses by the band that was its defining feature, although this at least comes up with a different plot and lyrics to give it just enough separation to avoid plagiarism.

Ferguson’s girlfriend has a new lover who has moved in with her – apparently in H-Bomb’s house, no less! – and so he’s forced to leave with his tail between his legs after the new guy roughs him up. This explains the dejected vocals obviously, but doesn’t explain why he’s still using the same martial tempo with its distinctive swelling of his voice at key junctures.

It’s not that this would’ve been a great record had he changed up his approach more, but its thematic differences would’ve been more easily appreciated if he wasn’t stuck on using the same repetitive vocal technique as he does on songs with subject matters far removed from the more cowed persona he takes on here.

More disappointing though is that Charlie Singleton’s band which provided all of the highlights on the other side of this release, is just going through the motions here, adding nothing of note. They’re not playing badly by any means, but it’s just a monotonous track with drums, piano and Singleton’s meandering sax popping up here and there.

Of course they seem like creative geniuses by comparison when Ferguson utters the line “the rain is raining” and then begs for food and a roof over his head.

Sorry pal, no matter how soggy you are, you won’t get any sympathy from us.


Put Me Out
You’ll notice that Atlas Records chose this as the A-side, which either tells you that they were as hard of hearing as most record label executives, or that the all guns blazing approach H-Bomb Ferguson usually took was already wearing thin after just a few months of steady releases on multiple labels.

While we can appreciate the attempt at bringing something reasonably new to the table with On My Way, it’s a shame that he didn’t have the confidence, or the artistic instincts, to really give himself over to presenting a new image all the way around by changing up his delivery to one more suited to the contents.

Whereas on the flip the band got all of the credit for what worked and we panned Ferguson for writing an uninspired song, here we’ll give him slightly more kudos for the subject reversal, but since he can’t convincingly alter his delivery to put the story across better, it winds up being all for naught anyway.


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