A native of Louisville, KY, Larry Ferguson has spent virtually his entire life in music. His father was a well-renowned guitarist that also owned The House of Guitars, a vintage guitar shop that welcomed many celebrity clients over the years. Larry's parents divorced when he was 6 years old, and he spent a lot of time with both his maternal and paternal grandmothers. Each loved country music, so Larry was introduced to all the legendary country artists from yesteryear.
"Being an only child, my grandmothers were like my friends,” says Larry. “I was very blessed to have them in my life. I was the favorite grandkid on both sides, so that was even more fun. They spoiled me rotten. But the greatest gift they gave me was this introduction to traditional country music that I would have never heard had it not been for them. They really shaped me into who I am today and I'm a mixture of both my grandmothers more than anyone else."
At age 12 Ferguson became a born again Christian, and was introduced to Gospel music which would play a major role in his life. As a teenager he became a model for the Alix Adams Modeling Agency, and was the first and only teen to co-host WHAS's Louisville Tonight Live . Larry began helping others promote gospel music concerts, an endeavor that eventually crossed over into country music concerts and Larry Ferguson Promotions.
Through his concert promotion business Ferguson began to work with one his childhood heroes; Grammy award winning singer/songwriter Dottie Rambo, the Queen of Gospel Music. The two developed a great respect and friendship which lead to Larry promoting Ms. Rambo, booking numerous tour and media dates. Dottie eventually asked him to move to Nashville and manage her career full time. "Just meeting Dottie was a thrill of my life,” Ferguson remarks. “But then later to know her, work with her, manage her, and adopt each other as family was beyond my expectations. I sometimes just ask myself why God and Dottie chose me for this honor, but I cherish every second of the time I had with Dottie. We were family."
Dottie Rambo made a major comeback during her time with Ferguson, recording her first solo project in over 12 years entitled Stand by the River . The title cut from the album featured a duet with Dolly Parton that went #1 on the Christian Country Music Charts and received many industry awards and nominations. That hit single was followed by another #1 I'm Gonna Leave Here Shoutin' . In 2004 Ferguson was co-creator and one of the producers of the television special, We Shall Behold Him: An All Star Tribute to Dottie Rambo . The special was hosted by Barbara Mandrell and featured performances by Larry Gatlin, Crystal Gayle, Dolly Parton, Vestal Goodman, The Crabb Family, Jessy Dixon, The Jordanaires, Barbara Fairchild and many others. The special earned an NRB Award nomination, and is available on CD and DVD.
A natural storyteller, Ferguson would entertain Dottie's guests backstage at the end of concerts with his stories as she asked the guests to gather around. Dottie loved this so much she asked Larry to start writing them down. Ferguson was already writing a column for the US Gospel News entitled Driving Ms Dottie , and Ms. Rambo loved the column so much that she was determined he should write a book of the stories from the road. His book Driving Ms Dottie was released by Woodland Press in 2006, and has since been re-printed with another special edition in the works. It includes a forward from Dottie Rambo herself, and was endorsed with acknowledgements by Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin, Barbara Mandrell, and Crystal Gayle; to mention only a few.
In 2008 after departing from a concert in Illinois and heading to Texas, Dottie's tour bus flew off the road and over a 90 ft embankment. The bus crash injured the driver, two helpers, Larry, and his children. Sadly, Dottie was killed instantly. The news left Larry devastated. His physical injuries required multiple surgeries, and he had to learn to walk all over again. But it was Ms. Rambo's death that was the biggest blow to Larry.
"I have allowed only a few people into my heart,” Dottie Rambo had once remarked. “When I met Larry Ferguson, I somehow realized immediately I could trust him and allowed him access to my heart, ministry, and life. I couldn't have hand-picked a son that would have been as loving, devoted and loyal to me if I tried. I adopted Larry and his family a long time ago. I love him."
Ferguson was deeply traumatized, but still driven to do God's will and honor Dottie's legacy. He immediately began producing musical projects for indie artists and his own Ferguson Music Label including projects with Broadway icon Carol Channing and film star Mamie Van Doren. He began a tribute project of the music of Dottie Rambo that is tentatively scheduled for 2017, featuring 30 artists in various capacities and 18 of Dottie's timeless songs. His former assistant Chris Barnes asked to be a financial partner on this project, and as a result they formed Homesick Entertainment, releasing an album of standard rock and pop songs titled At Last by Lulu Roman. Critics and fans alike agree it's the greatest recording of her career.
The future of Homesick Entertainment is unknown after the release of the upcoming Dottie Rambo project, but Ferguson Music is something he plans to continue from now on. "It is such a great feeling to create music and art,” Ferguson relates. “To see an idea through to its completion and know it's touching someone somewhere and never goes away. That's an amazing feeling to me".
George and Nancy Jones had hand-picked Larry for what they knew would be his last recorded album, but it was not meant to be. "Knowing George and Nancy trusted me enough to produce that particular album meant more than any Grammy could,” says Larry. “It's an honor to have been considered to help deliver a final piece in the legacy of such a beloved icon of country music.”
With his new talk show series Mr Nashville Talks, Ferguson wants to bring back the 20-30 minute sit-down interview that was popular for decades. “Today talk shows are many individual segments,” remarks Ferguson. “You only get talking points out of the subject, and you really don't learn the heart of the person.” Ferguson plans to give platforms to artists and entertainers that are outside of the mega –mainstream, such as Miley Cyrus. “But I'll take Miley if she wants to do it,” Larry says with a chuckle.
Bio by Ronna Callahan Therrell
Photo by Alan Mercer