Willie Ward

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Guitarist Willie Ward released several well-remembered singles under various guises during the late 1950s. Born Ward Darby in Bluefield, WV, in the late 1930s, he was a natural guitarist from an early…
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Guitarist Willie Ward released several well-remembered singles under various guises during the late 1950s. Born Ward Darby in Bluefield, WV, in the late 1930s, he was a natural guitarist from an early age, and at 16 had already made a name for himself locally, playing country & western. When rock & roll came along a few years later, he made the transition easily enough, bending his strings in the best T-Bone Walker-cum-Chuck Berry style, and proved equally adept at that sound. He was contracted to King Records in Pittsburgh for a time, but later signed with Joe Averbach's Fee Bee label, and got his first single out on the latter's subsidiary label, Star Records, in the summer of 1958. That record, "Come Walk with Me" b/w "Emotions," was credited to the Guitar Twins, which was comprised of Ward Darby and fellow guitarist Jimmy Robinette. His next record, "Iggy Joe," released the next month, featured Willie Ward backed by Chuck Jackson and the Five Playboys, with Sam "The Man" Taylor on saxophone. Ward closed out his career on Fee Bee with a couple of instrumentals, "Safari" and "WHAM-O," of which "Safari" managed to chart nationally and get a parallel release through Dot Records. One of the problems keeping up with his career, apart from instances in which he played on others' sessions, lies in the various names under which his records were released -- some were issued credited to Willie Ward, some to Ward Darby (and some to "Ward Darby & the Raves"), and others to Willie Ward Darby.