Photo credit: Antoinette Haselhorst
Jeanie Barton writes:
Generations of London’s jazz fraternity came together at Golders Green Crematorium yesterday to say goodbye to long time bassist and talented all-rounder John Ferguson.
Not yet a subscriber of our Wednesday Breakfast Headlines?
Join the mailing list for a weekly roundup of Jazz News.
Known more recently for his regular gigs with the Laurie Morgan Trio Downstairs at the King’s Head in Crouch End on Sunday afternoons, and the Friday afternoon sessions at the Spice of Life in Soho with Jack Honeybourne on piano and Dennis Smith on drums, John had a long and varied professional career.
Born in Glasgow on 2nd June 1932, he embraced his love of music by enjoying the vibrant local dance band scene; he learned trombone and had singing lessons with opera singer Queenie Hall, he also enjoyed ballroom dancing and took up tap dancing as a serious hobby. By the time he added the double bass to his arsenal John was in demand and became a professional musician. He was invited to join the Durham Light Infantry band and moved to London age 26.
After being spotted by Vic Damone among others, John joined a tour with Val Doonican and stayed with the band for 2 years, only leaving because he couldn’t stand to look at his cardigan any more… He continued to play in numerous ensembles and was with Dick Williams band “The Dick 6” to perform at the first Ealing Jazz festival – he continued to participate every subsequent year without fail.
John will be remembered for his sharp suits, his velvet voice and his cheeky yet shy demeanour. He was affectionate and occasionally grumpy but always great fun; every year he would enjoy going to play at Orpington Naturist Camp with Jack and Dennis and was the first to disrobe, halfway through their opening set, asking Dennis to hold his bass (only the bass) while he stripped off.
After a short illness John succumbed to mesothelioma cancer just before Christmas which was brought on by exposure to asbestos during building work in his youth. He will be sadly missed by his family, his lifelong friend Maurien Venables and by us all.
I heard John many times at the Spice of Life and got to know him because I book the music for the Naturist Foundation Jazz Festival. John was a great favourite at the Festival, not just because he entered into the spirit of the place, but because of his fine bass playing and rich baritone voice. He will be much missed.