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Robert ‘H-Bomb’ Ferguson, 77; bluesman ushered in rock ‘n’ roll

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From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Robert “H-Bomb” Ferguson, 77, a bluesman and pianist who urged listeners to “rock baby rock” at the dawn of the rock ‘n’ roll era, died Sunday at a Cincinnati hospice of complications from emphysema and cardiopulmonary disease.

Ferguson, who got his Cold War-era nickname from his booming voice, sang and played piano in a flamboyant style, wearing colorful wigs. He was said to own dozens.

His early works were featured in the recent reissue “H-Bomb Ferguson: Big City Blues, 1951-54.” It includes the hit “Good Lovin’ ” and “Rock H-Bomb Rock,” both from 1952.

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“Rock H-Bomb Rock” also was included last year in the elaborate box set called “Atomic Platters: Cold War Music From the Golden Age of Homeland Security.” According to the website of Conelrad, the record label, the lyrics go: “I said rock, rock and rock, rock baby rock.... Tell me, do you feel that rockin’ bomb? Oh yeah, let’s rock.”

It wasn’t until 1955 that rock ‘n’ roll became a mainstream sensation, when Bill Haley and the Comets’ version of “Rock Around the Clock” became a hit.

A native of Charleston, S.C., and the 11th of 12 children, Ferguson said his interest in the blues dated to his childhood.

His father, a Baptist pastor, paid for piano lessons “and wanted me to do religious stuff,” he told the Washington Post in 1988. But after church was over, while everyone was standing outside, “me and my friends would run back inside and I’d play the blues on the piano.”

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