steve ferguson, 1948-2009

steve ferguson.

steve ferguson.

In the midst of what has been an especially active October for live music, we lost an often neglected artistic neighbor. Steve Ferguson, founding guitarist for NRBQ and a longtime staple and elder of the Louisville music scene, died last week after an extended battle with cancer. He was 60.

A Louisville native, Ferguson’s tenure with the acclaimed NRBQ was brief. He stayed for two albums – a self-titled debut recording (noted for its crackup cover of Sun Ra’s Rocket Number Nine, a tune that would pop up in NRBQ’s stage shows well into the ‘90s) and Boppin’ the Blues (a collaboration with rock ‘n’ roll forefather Carl Perkins) – before leaving the band in 1970. But an extraordinary live document of Ferguson’s NRBQ days was offered in 2006 thanks to a concert recording pulled from the archives of shows held at Cincinnati’s fabled Ludlow Garage.

Over the past two decades, especially, Ferguson became a fixture in Louisville clubs with his band the Midwest Creole Ensemble. Stabs were made at forging a similar following in Lexington. But aside from a few slimly attended shows at the defunct Lynagh’s Music Club, such an audience never materialized.

The NRBQ link remained strong enough, however, for Ferguson and fellow NRBQ founder Terry Adams to reunite for a 2006 studio album called Louisville Sluggers. But slip on Ludlow Garage 1970 and you will hear the splendidly ragged guitar speak of Flat Flew Flewzy and the wonderful rootsy corrosion of Wan Do. Within the playing are seeds of the wondrous groove Ferguson would explore so inventively later with his own bands.

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