Jay Ferguson (American musician)
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|Birth name||John Arden Ferguson|
May 10, 1947 |
Burbank, California United States
|Genres||Soft rock, pop, rock|
|Instruments||Vocals, keyboards, percussion|
|Associated acts||Spirit, Jo Jo Gunne|
Jay Ferguson (born John Arden Ferguson, May 10, 1947 in Burbank, California) is an American rock/pop musician, known for his work with Spirit and Jo Jo Gunne, and his 1978 solo hit "Thunder Island". His later career has been as a composer of music for television programs and films.
Childhood and early musical career
Born in Burbank, California in the San Fernando Valley, Ferguson grew up in the Van Nuys and Canoga Park sections of Los Angeles. At 12 years old, Ferguson's parents encouraged his musical abilities with classical piano lessons. When he was 16, Ferguson's interest transferred to the banjo. Along with his brother Tom, an accomplished fiddle player, he formed a bluegrass group called The Oat Hill Stump Straddlers including Michael Fondiler and Steve Fondiler. Ferguson was also a member of local garage bands, Western Union and The Red Roosters.
He also held part-time jobs at different points as a theater usher and an architect's assistant for his father John Ferguson, and taught piano in a music store and studied at UCLA after high school.
The band Spirit
Spirit was founded in the mid-1960s. Practically every musician of the time cited The Beatles and their music as an influence, and Ferguson was no exception. Reuniting with longtime musician friends Randy California and California's stepfather Ed Cassidy, Ferguson joined with them to form a jazz influenced rock group that was originally called Spirits Rebellious, after a Khalil Gibran passage. With the general consensus that the moniker was too long, they later shortened the name to Spirit. Ferguson was the last member to actually join the band and found himself in the position of lead vocalist and percussionist.
Ferguson shared singing and songwriting duties with California, writing most of the songs on their first album. Spirit began playing at various nightclubs and concerts in the Los Angeles area, especially the clubs along the Sunset Strip, including the Whiskey-a-Go-Go. At one of these shows, French film producer Jacques Demy saw Spirit perform and decided he wanted them in his next film. This led to a cameo role for the band and a short speaking part in which Ferguson played a character based loosely on himself in the film Model Shop. Spirit also provided much of the instrumental soundtrack. The band went on to tour and record several albums.
Jo Jo Gunne
Ferguson and Mark Andes decided to leave Spirit in the early 1970s and form their own band.
Ferguson was Jo Jo Gunne's only songwriter and only lead vocalist. Jo Jo Gunne became the second artists signed to the Asylum Records label. The band scored a moderate hit with "Run, Run, Run" from their debut album.
With the first record and some touring already completed, Andes decided to leave and join a band that would later become Firefall, with brother Matt staying behind with Jo Jo Gunne. Jimmie Randall, an Austin, Texas bassist was recruited in his place.
Jo Jo Gunne toured all over the US and Europe for the next three years, and recorded three more albums. Matt Andes left the band after the third album and was temporarily replaced with Star Donaldson on lead guitar, and then, later, John Staehely. After a four-year existence, the group split up in the mid-1970s. Jo Jo Gunne reformed in 2005, and recorded a new album, Big Chain, which included both new material and new versions of several old Gunne songs.
Ferguson took a year and a half off to rest, until record producer Bill Szymczyk asked Ferguson to come down to his Coconut Grove recording studio in Miami. Ferguson recorded three studio albums and a limited-run live album for Asylum. He scored a Top 10 hit with the title song on his second solo album, Thunder Island (1978), which peaked at #9 in the US, and which the Rolling Stones famously borrowed for "Start Me Up" (1981). Another hit was "Shakedown Cruise" from his last Asylum album, Real Life Ain't This Way. After his recording contract for Asylum was completed, Ferguson changed record labels, and recorded two more solo albums for Capitol Records.
In 1982, after his sixth and last solo album, White Noise, Ferguson decided to become a soundtrack composer for movies and television. To date, he has written music for over 15 feature films and for many TV shows. His most recognizable composition as a TV and film scorer is the theme to the NBC-TV version of The Office, which won him the 2007 Film & TV Music Award for Best Score for a Comedy Television Program. He recently begun producing CDs for other artists. He is the composer of "Pictures of You" from the soundtrack to The Terminator and of "Prologue/Elm Street Kids", the main theme from A Nightmare On Elm Street 5: The Dream Child. Ferguson is also the soundtrack composer for NCIS: Los Angeles.
- All Alone in the End Zone (Asylum Records, 1976)
- Jay Ferguson Live (Asylum, 1977) (promotional issue only)
- Thunder Island (Asylum, 1978) U.S. #72
- Real Life Ain't This Way (Asylum, 1979) U.S. #86
- Terms and Conditions (Capitol Records, 1980)
- White Noise (Capitol, 1982) U.S. #178