#Clara Ward is known for being the lead singer of “Clara and The #Ward Singers.” Ward and the singers were known for being one of the greatest gospel singers and entertainers of their time. Ward’s mother, Gertrude Ward was the founded the group in 1931. The group first consisted of Gertrude Ward, youngest daughter Clara, and oldest daughter Willarene (Willa). The group went by two other names as they were just getting started, “The Consecrated Gospel Singers” or “The Ward Trio.”
The Ward Singers began touring nationally in 1943, following a memorable appearance at the National Baptist Convention held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, earlier that year. Henrietta Waddy later joined the group in 1947, after Willa Ward retired. Waddy brought a new fresh sound to the group and was noted for having a raspy alto sound. Not only was the group known for their “fancy up do hairstyles” but they also were quite glitzy in their choice of clothing.
By the 1949, Clara and the Ward Singers were highly well-known. They toured the country by driving and made many appearances on national television programs. In 1950, Clara Ward and the Famous Ward Singers of Philadelphia made their first Carnegie Hall appearance on a gospel program titled Negro Music Festival, produced by gospel music pioneer, Joe Bostic, sharing the stage with Mahalia Jackson, appearing at the famed venue for Bostic’s program in 1952, as well.
Later the group began to tour with the Reverend C.L Franklin of Detroit; the father of Aretha Franklin. In 1958, they took their music in a different direction. They began performing at nightclubs, Las Vegas and even Disneyland. The original group soon split up because of financial issues. Gertrude and Clara Ward were allegedly underpaying the singers, and charging them for just about everything.
In 1963, Clara Ward was the second gospel singer to sing gospel songs on Broadway in Langston Hughes’ play Tambourines To Glory. She was also the play’s musical director. Clara Ward was the first gospel singer to sing with a 100-piece symphony orchestra in the 1960s. They recorded an album together on the Verve label, V-5019, The Heart, The Faith, The Soul of Clara Ward, and the Ward Singers performed their music live in Philadelphia with the city’s legendary symphony and the Golden Voices Ensemble. Ward died in 1973 after suffering two strokes. In July 1998, in recognition of Clara Ward’s status as one of the most famous and loved gospel singers in the world, the United States Postal Service issued a 32-cent stamp with her image.