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Billy Ward & The Dominoes

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One of the most popular vocal groups of the early 1950s, Billy Ward and His Dominoes owed their success to three men: Clyde McPhatter, Jackie Wilson and Billy Ward. It was Ward’s group - he organized it, masterminded in promotion, wrote the songs and arrangements and dictated every stage move right from the beginning. Billy Ward is a gifted musician, a former child prodigy trained in the classics, voice and composition. Born in Los Angeles on September 19, 1921, to a preacher father and choir-directing mother, Ward moved with his family to Philadelphia in the mid-1920s. He played the organ in church and at the age of 14 won an award from composer Dr. Walter Damrosch for an original piano composition.

During World War II, Ward was a commissioned officer and led the Coast Artillery Choir at Ford Eustis in Virginia. After the war he resumed his studies at the Chicago Art Institute and The Juilliard School in New York City. While pursuing a career as a vocal coach and part-time arranger on Broadway, he met talent agent Rose Marks, and they decided to form a vocal group from the ranks of his students; Clyde McPharrer, first tenor; Charlie White, second tenor: William Joseph Lamont, baritone; and Bill Brown, bass. In October 1950 they took first prize on the Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts television show. The Dominoes caught the ear of Ralph Bass of Federal Records, a new subsidiary of King. After coming up with original R&B material at the request of Bass, The Dominoes signed a contract with him.

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