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How I Got Over Clara Ward and the World-Famous Ward Singers by Willa Ward-Royster

How I Got Over Clara Ward and the World-Famous Ward Singers


How I Got Over Clara Ward and the World-Famous Ward Singers by Willa Ward-Royster

In 1931, Gertrude Murphy Ward was pressing clothes in a Philadelphia dry cleaning establishment when a voice said to her, \u0022Go sing my Gospel and help save dying and lost men and women.\u0022 With her two daughters, Clara and Willa, she went on to found the group that became the world-famous Ward Singers. By 1970, it took fifty police officers to control the crowds that greeted the Ward sisters at one of their concerts. Lavishly illustrated with 60 photographs from the author's collection, How I Got Over chronicles the Wards' story from rural Anderson, South Carolina, to the streets of North Philadelphia and beyond. Told by Gertude's oldest daughter, Willa, with the assistance of musician and writer Toni Rose, the Wards' story ranges over the joys and frustrations, triumphs and agonies of what it means to be simultaneously a family, an entertainment business enterprise, and a group with a mission to spread God's word. Like many other gospel singers, the Wards grew up in poverty. Willa remembers living in twenty-four different homes before she was nineteen. This was especially true after Gertrude quit her job to sing for goodwill offerings. By the time of Clara's death in 1973, however, the group was performing all over the world. They appeared on television with Dinah Shore, Steve Allen, Ed Sullivan, Johnny Carson, and many others and recorded the first million-seller hit by a gospel group, \u0022Surely God Is Able.\u0022 From Ma Hannah, matriarch of the Murphy family, to Marion Williams, Mahalia Jackson, and C. L. Franklin, How I Got Over brings to life an unforgettable group of people, some famous, some unknown, as they are vividly recollected by a woman who was there. In her telling of heart-warming family scenes, childhood escapades, triumphant performances, Willa Ward-Royster re-creates a career and a way of life that will remain in the reader's memory.


This is the story not only of a talented singing group but also of an extended family who mirror the black American experience in the 20th century.... The book contains details on everything from successful performances on the stage of the Apollo, major TV variety shows, and international tours to top sales of hit recordings and friendships with such luminaries as Mahalia Jackson. For readers who enjoy gospel music, American autobiography, and human-interest stories this is highly recommended reading. -Library Journal The poignant memoir of a group of women who dominated gospel music in the United States for decades, this story of an ambitious and sometimes greedy and vain mother exploiting her sweet , talented daughter could be a classic tragedy or a really bad movie script. However, the 'other
daughter, Willa Ward

-Royster, is a fair and articulate witness, providing historical detail about road trips, concerts, recording sessions, and celebrity sightings .... Readers will be grateful to the author for a courageous and genuinely gracious book. -The Bloomsbury Review

About the Author

Willa Ward-Royster performed with the Clara Ward Singers as a solo artist and as head of several of her own groups. Though semi-retired, she still appears in combination with such former Ward Singers as Frances Steadman, Kitty Parham, and Esther Ford and performs in area supper clubs, cursing homes, and senior centers.

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Book Info

Publication date

18th April 2000


Willa Ward-Royster

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Temple University Press,U.S.


263 pages


Biography: arts & entertainment
Individual composers & musicians, specific bands & groups



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