Robert Ward Biography

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15 October 1938, Luthersville, Georgia, USA. Ward’s rediscovery in 1990 is a rare instance of a ‘legend’ returning from more than a decade of obscurity with his talent undiminished. A self-taught guitarist, he formed his first band, the Brassettes, in Avon Park, Florida, in 1959 after two years’ army service. Returning to Georgia, he pawned a Gibson Les Paul in order to afford the move to Dayton, Ohio, where he lived with an aunt. His next group, the Ohio Untouchables, was the quintessential R&B garage band, its celebrity owing, in large part, to Ward’s use of a Magnatone amplifier with its distinctive vibrato effect. The group made a number of singles for the Detroit-based Lupine label, most famously ‘Forgive Me Darling’, an extended guitar showcase loosely based on Bo Diddley’s ‘I’m Sorry’. Producer Robert West used them to back the Falcons’ ‘I Found A Love’, with Wilson Pickett as lead vocalist. When Pickett set out on a solo career, Ward went with him, while the other Untouchables eventually mutated into the Ohio Players. Further live and session work for the Temptations and the Undisputed Truth kept Ward out of the public eye. Following the deaths of his wife and mother in 1977, he abandoned music and returned to Dry Branch, Georgia. He was rediscovered by Black Top producer Hammond Scott after a two-year search. Fear No Evil, featuring re-recordings of ‘Forgive Me Darling’ and ‘Your Love Is Real’, was a resounding critical success, bringing Ward a measure of international celebrity and established him as a popular artist at festivals in America and Europe. Rhythm Of The People is slightly less focused but did introduce his wife Roberta, who regularly appears singing gospel songs with him. Black Bottom was a mixture of regular blues with redolent 60s soul music, featuring Mark ‘Kaz’ Kazanoff (tenor and baritone saxophone), Ward Smith (tenor and baritone saxophone), Ernest Youngblood Jnr. (tenor saxophone), Steve Howard (trumpet), Rick Trolsen (trombone) and Jimmy Weber (trumpet). This brass section perfectly complements Ward’s frequently thin-sounding Fender Telecaster.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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