Ferguson brings humour, hot pickin’

Wendell Ferguson is first and foremost a guitarist. He’s been playing since he was seven.

WENDELL FERGUSON performs Nov. 10 in the first of three Vancouver Island MusicFest-promoted concerts at the Cumberland Hotel in November.

WENDELL FERGUSON performs Nov. 10 in the first of three Vancouver Island MusicFest-promoted concerts at the Cumberland Hotel in November.

Wendell Ferguson is first and foremost a guitarist. He’s been playing since he was seven.

As he says, “It’s taken me over 40 years to become a child prodigy.” He’s played and recorded with some pretty big names in the business, straddling several genres of music. Shania Twain, the Dixie Chicks, Chely Wright, Gordon Lightfoot, Sylvia Tyson, Deana Carter, Keith Urban, Buddy Miller, Jane Siberry, Patty Loveless, Emmylou Harris, Tommy Hunter, George Fox, Duane Steele, Tracy Bird, Gary Allan, the Arrogant Worms, Quartette, Ian Tyson, James Keelaghan, Al Cherney, Lisa Brokop, Jason McCoy, Cindy

Church, the Bebop Cowboys, Mila Mason, Mindy McCready, Matraca Berg, Susan Werner, J.P. Cormier, Terri Clark, Gil Grand, Vance Gilbert, Carolyn Dawn Johnson, the Good Brothers, Tommy Emmanuel, Paul Brandt, Bob Snider, Murray McLauchlan, Katherine Wheatley, Suzie Vinnick, Lynn Miles, Prairie Oyster, George Canyon — the list is endless.

He also has become a very ‘in demand’ host/emcee. He co-hosted the 2005 CCMA Awards show on CBC with Paul Brandt and the show was nominated for a Genie Award.

He’s hosted the Crystal Awards, the Gilda Fund Gala, the CCMA Gala dinner, the Songwriter’s Tent at Big Valley Jamboree (2008 & 2009), the Canadian Comedy Awards (2009), the Songwriters Circle at Dauphin’s Countryfest (for the past eight years) and Live From The Rose telecasts from Brampton’s Rose Theatre.

He also hosts the All Star Band Awards every year at the CCMAs Country Music Week as well as countless corporate functions.

And then there are the songs.

He’s written four of the five top 40 hits that Coda The West released in the early ’90s. He’s had eight publishing deals in Nashville and has released five CDs and a DVD of his own material.

Nowadays rather than try and turn out mindless radio-friendly songs, he’s concentrating on his first loves — humour and and fancy guitar pickin’.

He’s become a staple in country and folk festivals across Canada. Appearing at Stanfest, Mariposa, Summerfolk, Countryfest, Big Valley Jamboree, Ottawa Folk Festival, Harbourfront, Eaglewood, Trout Forest, Home County, Brampton Folk Festival, Heritage River, Northern Lights, Filberg, Blissfest, Uptown Folk Club, Nickelodeon Folk Club, Full Moon Folk Club, Hugh’s Room, Toronto Roots Festival, Canterbury, Stewart Park, Canadian Armed Forces tours, Heartland Concerts as well as Home Routes and countless house concerts.

On radio he’s guested on CBC’s Fresh Air, Points North, Swingin’ On A Star, Basic Black, This Morning, Richardson’s Roundup, Madly Off in All Directions, Vinyl Cafe, Today’s Country, CIUT’s Acoustic Workshop, Ryerson’s Corby’s Orbit, McMaster’s Freewheelin’ Folk.

On TV, you might have seen him on CBC’s Hockeyville, Rita and Friends, Pamela Wallin, Global’s Entertainment Desk, CITY-TV’s Breakfast Television, Edmonton’s A Channel, CKUA’s How I Hear It with Monica Miller among others. On top of all that he’s been the musical director on countless television shows.

And he’s won his fair share of awards doing it.

He’s won the CCMA (Canadian Country Music Associations’) Guitar Player of the Year Award so many times they had to retire him from the running. Throw in a Juno nomination for his band Coda the West and a Lifetime Achievement Award for the Ontario Country Performer and Fan Association, His album The $#!T Hits The Fans was nominated for the 2006 Album of the Year at the CCMAs. As well as an earlier nomination for Vocal Collaboration of the

Year for a duet with Prairie Oyster’s Russell deCarle.

His DVD Wendell’s Cranky Christmas has placed first in both the Houston International Film Festival and the New York International Independent Film Festival. In both instances it won for Best Musical Short.

Most recently, his CD Menage A Moi won the Best Instrumental Album at the 2010 Canadian Folk Music Awards. This new CD is his first all-instrumental CD and it’s aptly named. He played

all the instruments on it himself and recorded it in his home studio.

Mastered by George Graves and mixed with the assistance of Dave Ferri it’s a throwback to his guitar heroes — Chet Atkins, Merle Travis and Jerry Reed, with just a hint of Lenny Breau.

It’s all original tunes with the focus on melody because as he says, “If you can’t sing it, whistle it or hum it, it ain’t much of a tune.”

For more info go to www.wendellferguson.com.

Ferguson performs Nov. 10 at the Cumberland Hotel. In other Vancouver Island MusicFest-promoted concerts at the hotel, BettySoo and Doug Cox entertain Nov. 17 and veteran bluesman

Tim Williams brings his guitar and a lot of songs Nov. 25.

For information about VIMF’s Cumberland Hotel concerts, visit www.islandmusicfest.com/news/musicfest-concerts.

— Vancouver Island MusicFest


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