Ferguson was among the most prolific composers of TV-movie scores in the past 40 years. Six of his eight Emmy nominations were for 1980s movies and miniseries, including “Ivanhoe,” “Master of the Game,” “The Last Days of Patton,” “April Morning” and “Pancho Barnes.”
He won in 1985 for “Camille,” one of nearly 20 classic-literature remakes he scored for producer Norman Rosemont. Others included “The Count of Monte Cristo,” “The Man in the Iron Mask,” “Captains Courageous,” “Les Miserables,” “Little Lord Fauntleroy” and “A Tale of Two Cities.”
Ferguson was partnered throughout the 1970s with composer Jack Elliott. Together they scored dozens of episodes of “The Rookies,” “Starsky and Hutch,” “S.W.A.T.” and other series, but it was their themes and weekly scores for the popular “Charlie’s Angels” and “Barney Miller” that were best-known. Henry Mancini’s recording of “Charlie’s Angels” became a top-50 hit.
Also in TV, Ferguson served as musical director for the Kennedy Center Honors and American Movie Awards (each of which earned him an Emmy nomination) as well as, at various times in the 1970s and ’80s, the Grammy, Oscar and Emmy kudofests.
Ferguson scored the feature “Avalanche Express” and, in partnership with Elliott, “Support Your Local Gunfighter” and “Get to Know Your Rabbit.”
Born in San Jose, Calif., Ferguson graduated from San Jose State and went on to study in Paris with Nadia Boulanger and at Tanglewood with Aaron Copland. In the late 1950s he formed the Chamber Jazz Sextet which combined classical and jazz influences, and in 1963 released “Pictures at an Exhibition: Framed in Jazz,” a big-band version of the Mussorgsky classic.
Ferguson’s arrangements of Duke Ellington tunes were also featured on the 1998 Grammy-winning “Count Plays Duke” album. Ferguson arranged for a variety of jazz artists including Sarah Vaughan, Stan Kenton and Buddy Rich; and served as musical director for pop singers including Johnny Mathis, Julie Andrews, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme.
Ferguson and Elliott created the Foundation for New American Music and its performing group, The Orchestra, in 1978. The Orchestra, later known as the New American Orchestra, commissioned and performed numerous new symphonic works with jazz influences. Later he helped develop, and taught at, the Grove School of Music in Los Angeles.
Survivors include his wife, Joline; three children; six grandchildren; and a sister. A memorial celebration will be announced at a later date. Donations may be made to the Foundation for Contemporary Music Education, 12941 Moorpark St., No. 4, Studio City, CA 91604.