Wednesday 13 December 2017

Audrienne Ferguson

Motown songstress who toured world with reincarnation of The Marvelettes

Audrienne Ferguson, who died on June 1 aged 69, was lead singer with a reincarnation of The Marvelettes, Motown's first successful girl group.

The original Marvelettes had passed their peak and effectively disbanded by the time Ferguson joined the reinvented group as lead singer in 1970.

There would be no more albums but Ferguson went on to tour the world, belting out The Marvelettes' most famous hit Please Mr Postman thousands of times over the years, often appearing on the same bill as other acts including Fats Domino, Marvin Gaye, The Coasters and The Drifters.

Her new-look Marvelettes became particularly sought after to cheer up troops at military bases around Britain and Europe .

In 1979, while playing in London, she fell in love with the city and remained in and around it for the rest of her life, giving up touring, marrying a British businessman and singing for fun in less glamorous pubs and clubs, latterly in Richmond-upon-Thames.

Of Please Mr Postman, the famous and much-requested Marvelettes song, she admitted: "Nowadays, every time I see a postman, I just want to slap his face."

Ferguson was born in Wilmington, North Carolina, on September 15, 1942, and was said to have been the first black baby born in the town's white-run hospital. Her father was a descendant of black slaves, her mother a part-black native American.

She married a hospital administrator, Ronnie Smith, in 1962, and took Audrienne Ferguson-Smith as her stage name when she joined The Marvelettes.

The original Marvelettes had essentially disbanded in 1969, after the release of their album In Full Bloom. A would-be comeback album, The Return of the Marvelettes, featured only one of their original singers, Wanda Young-Rogers, and did not take off. It was then that Ferguson joined and became lead singer on the group's tours.

After marrying a British businessman, Peter Ashtead-Long, in 1986, Ferguson joined him in his various enterprises, notably a lawn care company in Molesey, Surrey, and a firm which sold quadricycles. The marriage ended in the mid-Nineties.

Famously volatile, she liked a glass and threw the odd one when upset. Barred from one Richmond pub, she simply turned up with a folding stool and a bag full of drinks, sat outside beyond the landlord's jurisdiction and continued to shoot the breeze with her friends.

She is survived by her daughter. Another daughter predeceased her in 1996.

Sunday Independent

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