Thursday June 7
No doubt about it, everything he plays and sings and writes and produces is so beautiful because it comes out of his lifelong love affair with music. He was born into it. Bill’s mother Marguerite and his two aunts were called the Davis Sisters, a sweet harmony singing trio from the Thirties who recorded for Columbia Records and were quite well known throughout the South, playing for WIOD out of Miami. So when listeners hear Bill’s blues-inflected baritone, his crystal-clear enunciation, his vocal command and his love of soaring harmonies, he’s proud to credit both his genes and his mother’s instruction to sing from the heart.
Bill Ward never set out to defy musical categories. “I just love all kinds of music,” he says, shrugging at the labels that critics and industry-insiders have put on his unique sound, “country, gospel, opera, classical, jazz, blues, you name it. That’s how I grew up.” Leaving a classical career on French horn in favor of composing and conducting, Bill plays just about every instrument in the orchestra. “I still want to learn violin,” he said on his forty-seventh birthday. He started out at age five on piano and guitar, instruments he still plays at most shows, but expanded to French horn in high school, trumpet in a marching band and later the organ as choir director.
Perhaps Austin critic Cathy Franklin said it best in her review, which comments on his forty-year career as a performer.
“Unlike most of the acts at South by Southwest, Bill Ward is no overnight, one-hit, MTV flavor-of-the-minute. Let’s put it this way: if music were food, Bill Ward’s songs would be a banquet.