Cool John Ferguson Cool John Ferguson is the Director of Creative Development for the foundation. He helps artist develop their material so when they go out to perform they have an excellent show to present. Tim met John in Beaufort, South Carolina in 1995, in 1998 John moved to Pinnacle to support the work of Music Maker. He currently resides in Hillsborough and works closely with our visiting artists program. He was born on Saint Helena Island off the coast of South Carolina. His mother is of the Gullah people and John grew up with the old ways all around him. His first guitar was a Harmony #1 with a one-coil pick-up, two knobs, and a Marvel amplifier. He still remembers the shape and look of it and the way it made him feel. He learned to play by listening. He is uniquely equipped for the task at hand. Born December 3, 1953, he has been playing the guitar since age three. At five he was playing church music professionally, often out-seating musicians ten times his age. For three years he was a featured entertainer on the Low Country Sing on channel 5 Charleston TV, appearing with his three sisters (the Ferguson Sisters), a popular gospel trio. He was also featured on stage every morning at school, where the principal found that live music kept the students civilized before the start of class. In the seventh grade he was a mainstay of his high school band and chorus. Around this time he began what was to be a lengthy association with Earl Davis, his music teacher. John became a fixture in the band room, where Earl taught him music theory and charting and John learned to play every instrument in the room. In the tenth grade John formed his first band, the Soul Connection, playing rhythm and blues at school functions. In his junior year he attended the first integrated high school class in Beaufort and formed an integrated band, the Plastic Society, venturing into psychedelic pop music and beginning to play club dates. Throughout this time John played guitar and piano at a minimum of two church gigs every Sunday. One day an itinerant preacher rolled into Beaufort in a rusted out '49 Chevy. His name was Reverend Ike 'You can't lose with the stuff I use' and he soon set up shop at the United House of Prayer on Duke and Haymore. He hired John for a two week gig and immediately attracted large crowds with his peculiar philosophy of personal empowerment through cash donations for Ike's nascent broadcast empire 'The workman is worthy of hire.' John pulled his weight and then some. 'I brought in just as much attendance as he did, chicks would see me play at the honky-tonks and then come to hear me in church.' As Ike's popularity grew and he traveled to preach in ever-larger venues, he took John on the road with him, to Macon, Savannah, and as far west as the Houston Coliseum. President of the student council, he graduated in 1972 and with his mentor formed the Earl Davis Trio with Earl on sax, Earl's wife on organ, and John on guitar, playing jazz. This began an extremely active period for John. He took on a house gig at the Latai Inn at Fripp Island Resort and was playing four churches on Sunday. His next gig lasted five years, with Stephen Best and the Soul Crusaders, playing black clubs throughout South Carolina. This was followed by a long solo engagement at the Sans Souci in Beaufort, playing dinner jazz interspersed with blues, soul and rock. 'I always gave them a little more than they wanted. When it was time to beef things up I knew where to go.' He played the Sans Souci four nights a week and it was there, at twenty-seven, that he was married to his wife Brenda. In the years since John has traveled where the music has taken him, equally comfortable in churches and clubs. He has been active on the tent revival circuit, a little-documented but vibrant niche of American religious culture, and has been associated with LaFace Records of Atlanta, Ga. collaborating on pop recordings with his niece Esperanza. John epitomizes the traditional role of the musician as an integral entity in the everyday life of the community. Through his work in the church he has provided the sound-track for thousands of weddings, funerals, picnics, and parties. He and his sister Bessie made something of a specialty of funerals, working closely with the director to dictate the appropriate tone of the event. 'He would say, ' Let them cry, but not too much, then let the spirit out', I would come out with some sad stuff, then unexpectedly cheer them up. And a lot of them would come to see me at the club I was playing that night' John's musical path is immersion. The man breathes music and plays from the inside out. He commands the rare ability to develop a theme on the fly, incorporating every element of the situation along the way and somehow summing them all up neatly when he feels the end coming. His improvised pieces carry the aesthetic sensibility of careful, painstakingly crafted works, which in fact they are; it is simply all done in real time. Coupled with the willingness to play with anybody, any time, in any style, familiar or not, he possesses a formidable panurgy that is making him a force to be reckoned with in the music industry. -Wesely Wilkes.