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Saturday, 19 September 2015

Helen Ward born 19 September 1913

Helen Ward (born September 19, 1913, New York City – died April 21, 1998, Arlington, Virginia) was one of the finest vocalists of the swing era. Her sweet and easily swinging style could be adapted to any band format, and it seems a lot of band leaders shared that opinion as she was hardly out of work from 1934 on. Although she originally retired quite early and at the peak of her fame, fortunately she returned to music many times in later years.

Ward was taught piano as a child by her father, and took up singing as a teenager, working in a duo with the songwriter and pianist Burton Lane, whom she met because his aunt played bridge with her mother. The exposure brought her to the notice of a number of bandleaders around New York, and she established a considerable local reputation with various 'sweet' bands of the day. She started performing in bands led by Nye Mayhew, Eddie Duchin, Dave Rubinoff, Nat Brandwynne and Will Osborne; she also appeared on radio programs on WOR and WNBC, where she became a staff musician. 

She was singing with Enrique Madriguera's Latin Band in 1934 when the Goodman band was auditioning for an engagement at the Billy Rose Music Hall; she sang with the band at its second audition, and it got the job, although she did not join the Goodman band until a few months later. She also sang with the Goodman band on the radio program ''Let's Dance'' from December 1934 to May 1935.
She was one of the first such 'girl singers' (as they were always known, regardless of age) to make a real popular impact with the swing bands. Her unaffected vocal style and supple swing proved vital to the band's initial success, and she was also something of a sex symbol for the college students which provided the central core of the band's audience. Her untrained style, while technically deficient in some respects, was highly assured, and that kind of "natural" voice -- which would dominate pop music in the ensuing decades -- was just becoming fashionable at that period. 

With the Goodman band, she recorded songs including ''Goody Goody,'' ''You Turned the Tables on Me,'' ''It's Been So Long'' and the million-seller ''These Foolish Things.'' She recorded ''All My Life'' and ''Too Good to Be True'' with the Goodman trio. Often, she would be handed the sheet music for a song the same day she performed it.  

While performing with Benny Goodman she and Benny had a brief romance and he came very close to proposing marriage to her in either 1935 or 1936. However, according to Ward in the documentary Adventures in the Kingdom of Swing, he called it off at the last minute, citing his career. She married financier Albert Marx the following year and left the band. In 1938, Marx arranged for Goodman's Carnegie Hall concert to be recorded for her as an anniversary present. That recording was later released as a dual LP set by Columbia Records in 1950. 
After leaving the Goodman band, Ms. Ward turned to recording, appearing on albums with Teddy Wilson, Gene Krupa, Bob Crosby, Joe Sullivan and Harry James. She toured with the band led by Hal McIntyre in 1942 and 1943, and recorded with Red Norvo, Harry James, Wild Bill Davison and Peanuts Hucko. In 1944 she joined Harry James's band. In 1946-47 she produced musical variety shows on WMGM in New York City.  

After her marriage to Marx ended, Ward later married the audio engineer Bill Savory. Ward continued to do sporadic studio work and also worked briefly with Peanuts Hucko.

She retired from regular performing in the late 1940's but rejoined Goodman for tours and recordings in 1953, 1957 and 1958. In 1979, she came out of retirement, performing at clubs including the Waldorf-Astoria's Starlight Roof and the Rainbow Room in New York City, and she made ''The Helen Ward Song Book'' in 1981. There never was a Vol. 2.  

At one point during the 1980’s, she moved to Arlington, Virginia and when she passed away in April 1998 many people were surprised to hear that the legendary band singer was still around. Her Virginia years seem to have been spent very privately, as she never gave interviews or made any public appearances.  (info edited from Wikipedia & NY Times)

1 comment:

boppinbob said...

For “Helen Ward the Queen of Big band Swing” go here: