Born: September 19, 1916 | Died: April 21, 1998 Primary Instrument: Vocalist
Helen Ward was one of the most popular singers of the big band era, becoming a national sensation as vocalist for the Benny Goodman Orchestra.
Helen Ward was born in New York City on Sept. 19, 1916, studied piano as a child before taking up singing, and by her early teens was on radio in New York. When she was 17 she worked with the Latin band of violinist Enric Madriguera.
In 1934 she was working as a staff singer at NBC's studios where Benny Goodman was playing on the Nabisco Let's Dance radio show. When Goodman set out on his coast-to- coast tour, Ward joined up as the band's singer and was an vital part of his breakthrough in August 1935. However, by 1936 she had had enough of one-night stands and the other hassles of touring, and left the band in 1937.
She continued to make records with swing era bands and small groups, singing with Gene Krupa, Teddy Wilson (all ex-Goodman sidemen) and Red Norvo. In 1939 she appeared on the Camel Caravan radio program with Bob Crosby and recorded with Harry James in 1941. She later returned to full-time band work, joining Hal McIntyre in the early 1940s and reappearing with Harry James in 1943 and 1944.
She married impresario-producer Albert Marx who reputedly recorded Goodman's 1938 Carnegie Hall concert as a gift for his wife, a record that, since its release in the mid-50s, has never been out of catalogue.
Ward sang on through the 50s but then retired until the 80s and did some comeback recordings. Ward was a lively, engaging singer with an easy swing that demonstrated her rhythmical sense. Unlike some other big band singers, she stood the passage of time well and her records from the 30s are well worth hearing again. In later years she occasionally reunited with the King of Swing, eventually retiring to Falls Church, Virginia. Helen Ward passed away in 1998.
Source: James Nadal