Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Three by Jay Ferguson

Most people will remember Jay Ferguson’s limited hit run in the late 1970s; however, Jay’s musical career stretched back into the 1960s. For several decades, Ferguson was a part of the Los Angeles music scene.

Born as John Arden Ferguson, Jay studied classical piano as a child and then took up the banjo in the early 1960s. In the mid '60s, Ferguson joined Randy California, Ed Cassidy, Mark Andes, and John Locke as lead vocalist and percussionist in the LA rock ensemble which later became known as Spirit.

Spirit possessed an interesting dynamic – as lead guitarist Randy California (real name Randy Wolfe) was the step-son of drummer Ed Cassidy. Cassidy was perhaps the oldest musician in a rock band during the period. Cassidy was born in 1923 and had been a professional musician since 1937 – ten years before Ferguson was born. The band’s original lineup produced several albums but only one Top 40 hit.

Spirit: “I Got a Line on You”

While Jay Ferguson was the band’s lead vocalist, he is often credited as singing lead on the band’s only bona fide hit; however, Randy California actually sang the lead and Ferguson supplied back-up and harmony vocals on “I Got a Line on You.” Nonetheless, he is in there in the vocal mix.

From the 1969 LP “The Family that Plays Together,” “I Got a Line on You” was released in November 1968 two months prior to the album’s release. It charted at #25.

Jo Jo Gunne: “Run, Run, Run”

In 1971, Jay Ferguson and Mark Andes left Spirit to form Jo Jo Gunne. Mark’s brother Matt was the guitarist and I remember them doing “Run, Run, Run” on Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert and Matt Andes was playing the slide part on a Danelectro Guitarlin – the guitar with the mandolin range. The slide guitar screams on this one. Jay Ferguson handles the lead vocals. “Run, Run, Run” peaked at #27 in 1972.

Jay Ferguson: “Thunder Island”

Encouraged by producer Bill Szymczyk to get back into the studio and begin recording new material, Ferguson had two hit singles. The first of these, “Thunder Island,” peaked at #9 in January 1978. Ferguson's second hit “Shakedown Cruise” paled by comparison by only charting at #31 during summer 1979. Jay released five commercially available albums during his solo career and an additional live LP that was only released to radio. Since that time, he has been involved in writing and scoring TV and film music.

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