Sheila Ferguson

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Sheila Ferguson
Sheila Ferguson (singer).jpg
Born (1947-10-08) October 8, 1947 (age 69)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Residence Majorca
Occupation Singer, songwriter, actress, author
Spouse(s) Chris Robinson (m. 1980; div. 2004)
Children 2
Website sheilaferguson.com

Sheila Diana Ferguson (born October 8, 1947) is an American singer, songwriter, actress, and author. She was the second longest-serving member of the 1970s American female soul music group The Three Degrees, singing lead vocals on most of the group's biggest hits, most notably "When Will I See You Again", which was a huge international success topping the UK Singles Chart[1] and peaked at #2 in the US.

Following her departure from The Three Degrees in 1986, Ferguson went on to have her own solo singing career, touring internationally, making multiple TV appearances, and releasing a solo album, A New Kind of Medicine. She has forged a prolific stage and screen career in the UK, starring in numerous musicals, soul legend tours, and her own sitcom, Land of Hope and Gloria. She is also the best-selling author of Soul Food: Classic Cuisine from the Deep South.[2]

Early life[edit]

Sheila Diana Ferguson was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Despite attending more than 10 schools as a child, she was academically gifted and had originally wanted to become a psychologist.[3] However, a teenage crush on the singer Marvin Gaye led her to try her hand at singing in the hope that, by doing so, she would be able to meet him. She achieved this dream some time later when, appearing at the Apollo Theatre, she talked to Gaye in his dressing room.

While at high school, Ferguson was introduced by her teacher to Richard Barrett, who had previously been a singer with a group called The Valentines, and had later gone on to become a manager. Barrett signed Ferguson to Swan Records which enabled her to record her first solo single, "Little Red Riding Hood". Ferguson also recorded the first two songs she wrote herself, "I Weep For You" and "Don't Leave Me Lover".

Other solo songs she recorded were "How Did That Happen", written by Lamont Dozier (later to write many of The Supremes' hits), "And In Return" and "Are You Satisfied", written by General Johnson (later to become known to the world as the lead singer of Chairmen Of The Board).

Ferguson went on to record two up-tempo numbers written for her by a talented up and coming songwriter by the name of Leon Huff. Huff would later team up with the gifted and prolific Kenny Gamble to form the legendary Philadelphia International Records. These were "Heartbroken Memories" and "Signs Of Love".

The Three Degrees[edit]

Although Barrett signed Ferguson as a solo artist he was already in the process of creating a group called The Three Degrees with the line up of Fayette Pinkney, Shirley Porter and Linda Turner. By 1966 the line up had changed to be Fayette Pinkney, Helen Scott and Janet Harmon. However, Scott announced she would be leaving the group in order to get married. Having previously appeared with the group as a cover when one of the girls fell ill, Ferguson was asked by Pinkney and Harmon to become a permanent member. Shortly after, in 1967, Harmon left the group and was replaced by Valerie Holiday. Barrett signed them to several record labels and by 1970 they were signed to Roulette Records and released their first album Maybe, the title song of which reached #4 in the US R&B charts. The singles "I Do Take You" and "You're the Fool" followed, as did a second album, So Much Love.

In 1971 the group appeared in the Oscar-winning film The French Connection (film) singing "Everybody gets to go to the Moon" and in 1973 they appeared in the US hit sitcom Sanford and Son singing "I Didn't Know".

It was during this year that The Three Degrees enjoyed their greatest success when signed by Philadelphia International Records and working with one of the aforementioned greatest song-writing teams of all time, Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. This magnificent writing team was responsible for creating what became known to the world as ‘The Philly Sound’. Their first song under this label was "TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia)", which was the theme song for Soul Train. Under this label the group began to tour internationally. The self-titled The Three Degrees was released in 1973 and yielded such hits as "Dirty Ol' Man" (which went to #13 in the UK Singles Chart) and "Year of Decision" (which went to gold in the Netherlands and Belgium).

However, it was undeniably the subsequent release of "When Will I See You Again" that ensured international recognition when the song became #1 in the UK charts for 2 weeks in August 1974 (the first time this had been achieved by an all female group since The Supremes). Following an appearance on Top of the Pops, other countries followed suit and "When Will I See You Again" did extremely well worldwide reaching #2 in the US where it sold over two million copies and earned the group a gold record in 1974.

The group went on to record two live albums in 1975 and a further studio album, The Three Degrees International. This album was called Take Good Care of Yourself in the UK, the title song of which reached the top 10 in the same country. The album itself reached #6 in the UK Albums Chart.

In 1976 they released the album, A Toast of Love (for the Far East market), the title song of which was released internationally. This was the year that Fayette Pinkney left and was replaced by former member, Helen Scott. They then released a further album, Standing Up For Love, in 1977.

In 1978 & 1979 they released two disco-styled albums, New Dimensions and 3D. From these albums they had four top 20 hits in the UK with "Givin' Up, Givin' In", "Woman in Love", "The Runner" (co-written by Ferguson) and "My Simple Heart". They also released a compilation album, A Collection of their 20 greatest hits.

The group performed at Prince Charles' 30th birthday party and, in 1979, filmed their own TV special The Three Degrees at The Royal Albert Hall with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

In 1980 they released another compilation album, Gold which reached the top 10 in the UK Album Charts and in 1982 they recorded a further TV show for the BBC (Take Three Degrees), performing their greatest hits. They then released two further albums, Album of Love and Live in the UK. The single "Liar", co-written by Ferguson, was also released and in 1985 they released "The Heaven I Need", produced by Stock, Aitken and Waterman.

Ferguson left The Three Degrees in 1986.

Solo singing career[edit]

In 1994, Ferguson appeared as a solo artist in the UK Singles Chart with her remake of her Three Degrees' hit, "When Will I See You Again". It spent one week in that listing at #60.[4]

In 2004, Ferguson released her debut solo album, A New Kind of Medicine. She is also a lead on the original cast recording of Always and recorded two other albums, Misty Blue...And More and Songs from Oh! What a Night.

She featured in Star Alliance's recording of "He's a Runner" in 2006 and recorded "Fool of the Year", for the album Disco 2008, produced by Ian Levine.

Ferguson has recently performed in multiple soul legend tours, David Gest's Soul Legends Live In Concert!, produced by David Gest, and appeared as the Acid Queen at the 50th anniversary of The Who at the O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire in November 2014.[5]

She then starred in David Gest's (I've Had) The Time Of My Life Tour! across September and October 2015, culminating in a performance at the Connaught Rooms, London, followed by performing at "The Legends of Soul Weekender" with Mary Wilson, Thelma Houston, Gwen Dickey and Jackie Graham in Skegness.

In June 2016 Ferguson performed in a series of soul gigs ("A Night of Soul") in Cyprus with Andy Abraham.

Theatrical career[edit]

Ferguson has starred in numerous musicals and pantomimes in the UK.

Her first musical was Always in 1997 at the Victoria Palace, London, which also starred Shani Wallis. She then went on to star in Soul Train (The Musical) with Danny John-Jules, Oh What a Night, playing Roxia, and Thoroughly Modern Millie (musical) with Maureen Lipman, Anita Dobson and Amanda Holden, playing Muzzy Van Hossmere.

In 2005 Ferguson starred in the premiere of the West End musical Behind The Iron Mask at the Duchess Theatre following which she toured alongside Marti Webb and Rula Lenska in Hot Flush, a musical based on the menopause. In 2008 she starred in Sister Act-Songs From The Film with Rowetta.

In 2010 Ferguson joined the cast of the Irish National Tour of Fame the Musical playing the strict head teacher Miss Sherman.[6]

Most recently she starred in the West End musical celebration Respect La Diva with Zoe Birkett at the Garrick Theatre and in Daddy Cool as Pearl.

Ferguson has also appeared as the Fairy Godmother and Wicked Queen in numerous pantomimes including Dick Whittington, Cinderella, Aladdin, and Beauty and the Beast.

From December 2012 to January 2013 Ferguson appeared in Cinderella at the Nottingham Theatre Royal as the Fairy Godmother,[7] a role she reprised at the Theatre Royal Norwich, from December 2013 to January 2014.[6][8][9] She then starred as the Wicked Queen in Beauty and the Beast at the Theatre Royal, Windsor from December 2014 to January 2015 followed by appearing as the Fairy Godmother in "Cinderella" at The Sands Centre, Carlisle in December 2015.

Ferguson most recently headlined Ipswich Regent Theatre's pantomime, playing the Wicked Fairy in "Sleeping Beauty" across December 2016- January 2017.

TV career & appearances[edit]

Ferguson is the first, and only, black woman to star in her own sitcom in the UK. She played the lead role, Gloria Hepburn, in the TV sitcom Land of Hope and Gloria which ran for six episodes in 1992 and was her first acting venture. She also wrote and sang the title song, of the same name, for the series. The first episode aired on 24 June and the sixth on 29 July. Although a second series was planned, the idea was shelved after the death of co-star Joan Sanderson when Ferguson and John Howard Davies decided not to recast and do a further series.

She has appeared in the British sitcom Desmond's, playing nightclub owner Rochelle Jackson, and the British soap opera Brookside, playing Susan Robinson.

Ferguson has given numerous TV performances and interviews on TV programmes such as GMTV, This Morning, Loose Women and several news channels. She has also appeared on such shows as Des O'Connor Tonight, Wogan, The Brian Conley Show, Happy Birthday Shirley and several An Audience With.

In 2003 she appeared on The Royal Variety Performance with the cast of Thoroughly Modern Millie and she has also appeared on Live At Her Majesty's.

Ferguson was a panelist in Les Dawson's first hosting of the quiz show Blankety Blank in 1984 and more recently has appeared on the TV show Never Mind The Buzzcocks several times, three times as a panelist and once dressed as a pirate in the celebrity line up. She has also appeared on Comic Relief In Da Bungalow.

In 2004 Ferguson was a contestant on the fourth series of I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!, followed by being a contestant in the first series of Celebrity MasterChef in 2006. In May 2011 she starred in the second series of Channel 4s Celebrity Five Go To, in which the celebrities visited South Africa.[10]

She has appeared as a celebrity contestant on The Weakest Link, Who Wants to be a Millionaire? and Pointless Celebrities (in both 2013 and 2014).

Ferguson appeared in the second BBC series of The Real Marigold Hotel, and spent a month in India with seven other celebrities.[11]

Presenter[edit]

Ferguson presented the documentary The Philadelphia Records Story for Smooth FM in the UK on March 22, 2009.

On April 11, 2012, Ferguson co-hosted Newcastle-based charity, Toma Fund's EurovisionReunited event alongside Christopher Biggins. The event also featured internationally known acts including Brotherhood of Man and Anne-Marie David.

Author[edit]

In 1989, Ferguson published a cook book inspired by recipes from her American background, Soul Food: Classic Cuisine from the Deep South.[2]

Ferguson is currently writing her autobiography.

Awards[edit]

In 2013 Ferguson was awarded the Variety Legends of Industry Award for services to music.[12]

She was awarded an Ethnic Minority Business Foundation national achievement award by the Bank of England and its Governor Eddie George in 1999 and was awarded the City of Compton California Book Award for her book Soul Food: Classic Cuisine from the Deep South.

Philanthropy[edit]

Ferguson is a patron of the theatre charity The Music Hall Guild of Great Britain and America and has long been a supporter of the Combined Theatrical Charities taking part in the launch of its Acting for Others campaign in 2003. She has been a patron of the national parenting charity, Parentalk, from 1997, raising over £70K for the charity through celebrity appearances. She is also a supporter of WaterAid and appeared in their 2014 To Be A Girl campaign launch.

She has appeared on two charity singles, It's A Live-In World for the Anti Heroin Project in 1986, and Give Give Give produced by Paul Hardcastle under the title Disco Aid in 1986, followed by a re-production by Stock, Aitken & Waterman under the title Dance Aid in 1987 to support multiple sclerosis research.

Ferguson has been an active supporter of artists rights through her membership and work for both the Phonographic Performance Ltd and the Performing Rights Society. The board of PPL voted unanimously to make Ferguson a Lifetime Guardian Member of the organisation after merging with the Performing Artists Media Rights Organisation (of which she was a founder member on the original board) in 2006. She has been an Equity (trade union) Councillor and an events speaker at and on behalf of Equity. Ferguson has also been a judge at the Race In Media Awards on several occasions.

She has been an Ambassador for The Prince's Trust since 2008.

Personal life[edit]

After marrying property businessman Chris Robinson in 1980, Ferguson settled in Bray, Berkshire.[13] Ferguson and Robinson had twin daughters, Alicia and Alexandria, before divorcing in 2004.

Ferguson currently resides in Majorca, where she settled with her partner, Jon Curry, prior to his death in 2010. Following her experience in The Real Marigold Hotel she is looking to relocate back to the U.K., in order to be nearer to family and friends.

Discography with The Three Degrees[edit]

• 1970: Maybe

• 1973: The Three Degrees

• 1975: International

• 1975: The Three Degrees Live in Japan

• 1976: A Toast of Love

• 1976: The Three Degrees Live

• 1977: Standing Up for Love

• 1978: New Dimensions

• 1979: 3D

• 1982: Album of Love

• 1985: Live in the UK

Solo discography[edit]

• 2004: A New Kind of Medicine

Theatre[edit]

• 1992: Bobby Davro: Summer Season

• 1996: Rock with Laughter (Cannon & Ball)

• 1997: Always

• 2000/1: Soul Train (The Musical)

• 2002/3: Oh! What a Night

• 2003/4: Thoroughly Modern Millie

• 2005: Behind The Iron Mask

• 2006: Cinderella (pantomime)

• 2007: Hot Flush

• 2007: The Songs of Sister Act

• 2007: Snow White (pantomime)

• 2008: Aladdin (pantomime)

• 2009: Dick Whittington (pantomime)

• 2010: Fame, The Musical

• 2011: The Hot 100 (Dubai)

• 2011: Respect La Diva

• 2011: Cinderella (pantomime)

• 2012: Daddy Cool

• 2012: The Music & Magic Ball

• 2012: Cinderella (pantomime)

• 2013/14: David Gest's soul legends live

• 2013: Cinderella (pantomime)

• 2014: Beauty and the Beast (pantomime)

Filmography[edit]

• 1970: The French Connection

Television[edit]

• 1992: Land of Hope and Gloria, Gloria Hepburn

• 1992: Brookside, Susan Robinson

• 1992: Desmonds, Rochelle Jackson

Television appearances[edit]

• 1970: The Tonight Show

• 1970: The Ed Sullivan Show

• 1972: Soul Train

• 1973: Sanford & Son

• 1973: Wheetappers & Shunters Social Club

• 1974: It's Cliff Richard

• 1974-1979: Top of the Pops

• 1974: Musical Time Machine

• 1974: Sunday Night at the London Palladium

• 1974: The Golden Shot

• 1975: The Les Dawson Show

• 1975: The Three Degrees (BBC Special)

• 1975: They Sold a Million

• 1976: Seaside Special

• 1976: Saturday Night at the Mill

• 1976: The Shirley Bassey Show

• 1976: Bring on the Girls

• 1976: 'Wednesday at Eight

• 1976: The Tommy Cooper Show

• 1977: The Marti Caine Show

• 1977: Supersonic

• 1977: Saturday Banana

• 1977: The Bernard Manning Show

• 1978: Ronnie Corbett's Sunday Special

• 1978: Mike Yarwood in Persons

• 1979: The Des O'Connor Show

• 1979: An Evening with The Three Degrees (Live at the Royal Albert Hall)

• 1979: The Shirley Bassey Show

• 1982: There's Something Wrong in Paradise

• 1982: Take Three Degrees (BBC TV Special)

• 1984: Sunday Sunday (with Gloria Hunniford)

• 1984: Cannon & Ball

• 1985/86: Blankety Blank

• 1985: Tonight with Des O'Connor

• 1985: Wogan

• 1985: Soul Train (UK)

• 1987: Hudson & Halls

• 1992: Live at Her Majesty's

• 1992: The Brian Conley Show

• 1994: Blue Peter

• 1994: London Tonight

• 1994: GMTV

• 1996: Happy Birthday Shirley

• 1996: An Audience with Freddie Starr

• 1997: Countdown

• 2000: Night Fever

• 2002: Celebrity Weakest Link

• 2003: The Royal Variety Performance

• 2004: This Morning

• 2004: Discomania

• 2004: I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here!

• 2005: An Audience with Joe Pasquale

• 2005: Comic Relief in Da Bungalow

• 2005: An Audience with Al Murray

• 2005: Hell's Kitchen

• 2005: Avenue of the Stars

• 2005: Brainiac

• 2002/4/6: Never Mind the Buzzcocks

• 2006: Celebrity Who Wants To Be A Millionaire

• 2006: Be My Baby (The Girl Group Story)

• 2006: Celebrity Masterchef

• 2007: Loose Women

• 2008: Grumpy Old Women

• 2008: GMTV

• 2011: Celebrity Five Go To

• 2011: Sing If You Can

• 2012: Hotel GB and David Gest

• 2013 & 2014: Pointless Celebrities

• 2016: The Real Marigold Hotel

References[edit]

  1. ^ Allmusic.com. Retrieved 9 February 2009. Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 351. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
  2. ^ a b Ferguson, Sheila (1989). Soul Food: Classic Cuisine from the Deep South. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson. p. 208. ISBN 0-297-79703-4. 
  3. ^ "Sheila Ferguson Biography". Sheilaferguson.com. Retrieved 15 Sep 2013. 
  4. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 198. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
  5. ^ Ian Gittins. "The Who review – even at 50, still too spiky to be national treasures | Music". The Guardian. Retrieved 2016-03-16. 
  6. ^ a b "News". Sheilaferguson.com. Retrieved 15 Sep 2013. 
  7. ^ "Cinderella - TRCH". Stapleford-notts.co.uk. Retrieved 8 March 2013. 
  8. ^ "Former Three Degrees star set to cast her magic on Norwich Theatre Royal pantomime". Eveningnews24.co.uk. Retrieved 15 Sep 2013. 
  9. ^ "BBC Radio Norfolk - Stephen Bumfrey interviews Sheila Ferguson". Bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 15 Sep 2013. 
  10. ^ "Celebrity Five Go To...". Channel4.com. Retrieved 25 May 2011. 
  11. ^ Radio Times, 11-17 February 2017 , pp. 32-33
  12. ^ "News | Variety, the Children's Charity". Variety.org.uk. Retrieved 2016-03-16. 
  13. ^ "Sheila Ferguson and Chris Robinson on their wedding day" (JPG). Mailpictures.newsprints.co.uk. Retrieved 15 September 2013. 

External links[edit]