Former Director of Bands for the University of Memphis Dr. Thomas C. Ferguson will
always be remembered for his contributions to the University of Memphis. Dr. Ferguson
passed away August 2013 in Las Vegas, Nevada, where he lived with his wife, Trude
McMahon. He was 81.
In his time at then Memphis State University (1962-1974), Dr. Ferguson was responsible
for a variety of traditions that those connected with the University of Memphis continue
to enjoy today.
At the beginning of his tenure, Dr. Ferguson decided it was time for a new fight song,
which was a revamped version of Northwestern University’s fight song. Containing jazz
elements, the new song, “Go! Tigers, Go!” was unlike others of that time.
Written by Edwin Hubbard, the original was modified slightly from “”Shout for dear
old MSU” to “Shout for dear old Memphis U” in 1994 because of the University’s name
Also in the 60s, Dr. Ferguson merged his love of music and Tiger basketball with the
formation of a consistent pep band for home games. At the end of one basketball season,
the team was the only southern team to be asked to attend the National Invitational
Tournament at Madison Square Garden in New York. He wanted to take the pep band.
Dr. Ferguson asked permission of the NIT officials because no pep band had ever played
there before After they were cleared to be the first NIT band, he loaded 19 pep band
members on a bus for New York draped with a bed sheet sign with the words “The Might
Sound of the South” written in marker. The words were meant to be a funny description
of their modest group. It is now a more accurate representation of the major marching
band that represents The Rudi E. Scheidt School of Music today.
In 1963, he created the Midsouth Invitational held at Whitehaven Stadium. After the
first year, it was held at Crump Stadium before moving to the Liberty Bowl in the
80s and then Halle Stadium in East Memphis for a few years. The invitational hosted
bands from Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas, Kentucky and Alabama. Revised in 1999,
it moved to its permanent home at The Liberty Bowl. Currently, it is called The Bandmasters Championship
and attracts more than 30 bands and thousands of fans each year.
Forever the innovator, Dr. Ferguson along with Art Theil recruited Sam Shaw, music
major, in 1975 to start the “Bengal Lancers,” the first collegiate color guards in
the South. Originally, color guards were a part of military bands. This move to college
bands led others in the Midsouth to follow suit later spreading throughout the country.
To this day, collegiate color guards carry equipment that descended from military
color guards, such as flags, rifles and sabres.
Dr. Ferguson became a full professor in 1971. After leaving the University of Memphis
in 1978, he became a professor of music and director of jazz studies at Arizona State
University until 1981. He left there to pursue a professional career in Las Vegas,
where he formed the Tom Ferguson Trio with bassist Bob Badgely and drummer Carmen
In addition to his wife, Ferguson leaves his two daughters, Shari Paris of Phoenix,
Ariz., and Terry Shade of Seattle, Wash., and five grandchildren.