21 April 1924, Pennsylvania, USA, d. 16 January 1973, Los Angeles, California, USA. Like so many of her contemporaries, Ward gained her first musical experience singing in church. As gospel music began to reach a wider audience, she formed a group, the Clara Ward Singers, that became enormously popular. Featuring such outstanding individuals as Marion Williams, the Ward Singers were a superb act and appealed to audiences both sacred and secular. In the 50s the group was at the height of its power, appearing at the 1957 Newport Jazz Festival and other prestigious venues. Under Wards direction the group later broadened its appeal and became very showbiz-orientated. Eventually, as bookings continued to flood in, she formed several groups to sing under the Clara Ward banner. The Singers toured extensively, appearing in the Middle and Far East. In the early 60s, by which time Williams had moved on to form the Stars Of Faith, Ward accepted engagements at the Village Vanguard in New York and in a Las Vegas casino, the latter kind of establishment usually being shunned by gospel singers, for obvious religious reasons. In these unlikely surroundings, Ward was a huge success and her contract was regularly extended.
Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.