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In Memoriam: Dr. Thomas C. Ferguson

Ferguson directing the band during practiceFormer 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 change.

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 Castaldi.

In addition to his wife, Ferguson leaves his two daughters, Shari Paris of Phoenix, Ariz., and Terry Shade of Seattle, Wash., and five grandchildren.

Go Tigers Go, Go
On To Victory,
Be A Winner Thru And Thru;
Fight Tigers, Fight Cause
We’re Going All The Way —
Fight, Fight
For The Blue And Gray
And Say —
Let’s Go Tigers Go,
Go On To Victory.
See Our Colors Bright
And True;
It’s Fight Now Without A Fear,
Fight Now Let’s Shout A Cheer,
Shout For Dear Memphis U.
Go Tigers Go!
Go Tigers Go!
Yea — Tiger Go!
Hope to see
(and hear) you
on Saturday!

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