Jessie Lee Ferguson
I’m aware of just the three 45 that Jessie Lee Ferguson recorded with his band The Outer Limits but all feature his exciting rough tough vocals and hard hitting approach. His first release appeared in 1969 on Metromedia and coupled the funky horn laden “New Shoes” with the equally upbeat “Puttin’ It On Puttin’ It Off” which features an uncredited female voice. These tracks were cut in Memphis by ex-Hombres keyboard player B B Cunningham (sadly recently deceased) who put out Ferguson’s second 45 on his own House of Cunningham label.
“(You Threw) Water On A Drowning Man” is more strutting Memphis southern funk, co-written by the wonderful Don Varner, with some super horn charts courtesy of veteran Fred Ford. But my pick is the flip, a version of the old war horse St Louis Blues on which Ferguson really cuts loose, howling and screaming like a man in the throes of a personal crisis. Great stuff.
Later on in the 70s Ferguson spent a lot of time in Florida with the Outer Limits and with the Gospel Jazz Singers, playing the clubs in the state, especially in Miami. While he was there he recorded another fine 45 for the tiny Twelve O’Clock label which had an address in Opalocka, Fl. I like One Sided Deal a lot, for although Ferguson isn’t so much “in your face” on the track, his level of intensity is if anything rather higher. The restrained accompaniment makes this a fine slice of southern soul.
UPDATE ~ John Smith has very kindly been in touch with some more info about this fine singer. John writes to say that:- Jessie Lee Ferguson was based out of Florida from an early point. Jessie Lee originally led the Gospel Jazz Singers who included Barry Smith, and Patti Jo (Demps) amongst it's members (both went on to record as solo artists. I don't know if they were in the group when they were cutting as the Outer Limits). To get ahead & help secure a recording contract, he changed their name to Jessie Lee Ferguson & the Outer Limits. I have numerous club ads for the outfit, both in Miami / Florida black clubs & in Miami Beach 'visitor' clubs. For instance ....
In May 66, Jesse Ferguson (Mr. Excitement) & the Gospel Jazz Singers were playing the New Parisian Room in Miami (a black club). The ad says they had come straight from gigs at the Castaways (no doubt the Miami Beach hotel) & the Copabacana in New York. In May 69 (as the Outer Limits featuring Jessie Ferguson) they had a week long engagement at the (black) Continental Club. The group were appearing at the Wreck Bar -- Castaways Hotel for a 'white audience' show on Miami Beach in September 1970. Jesse Lee Ferguson had got tired of his group being the Outer Limits by that time and they had become the Jet Setters (don't know if the personnel was still the same). In 1971, the group were back at the Wreck Bar but this time under their original name; JLF & the Gospel Jazz Singers."
John also provided the lovely picture ad for a Jesse gig in Florida. I'm really grateful to John for the info and the pic.
New shoes / Puttin’ it on puttin’ iyt off ~ METROMEDIA 111 (1969)
St Louis blues / (You threw) water on a drwoning man ~ HOUSE OF CUNNINGHAM 701 (early 70s?)
One sided deal / Pt 2 ~ TWELVE O’CLOCK ~ 1002 (early 70s?)