Robin Ward is an alias for Jackie Ward (b. 1941), a veteran, prolific, and highly versatile studio singer most active during the 1960s-1980s who lent her vocals to numerous hit songs, commercial jingles, TV shows, and movies. As Robin Ward, she is best known for the dramatic and wistful 1963 hit romantic ballad, "Wonderful Summer," a girl group-styled oldies classic.
Born Jacqueline McDonnell in Hawaii to a military family and raised in Nebraska, she began singing in church at age 8 with her two older sisters. After the sibling trio won a national radio talent contest run by radio/TV personality Horace Heidt, the family moved to Los Angeles so that the girls could pursue music careers. In 1954, while still in her teens, Jackie was hired along with her sisters by TV station KTLA to perform then-popular hits on "Bandstand Review," where they worked for four years. By then known professionally under her married name, Jackie Ward, she then began recording demos and providing backing vocals. Her earliest credits include Pat Boone's 1962 novelty smash, "Speedy Gonzales," in which she can be heard singing the "la la la" parts. In 1963, she was hired by producer Perry Botkin Jr. to record a demo of a song he had written with Gil Garfield, "Wonderful Summer," in which he speeded up the recording to make her voice sound higher-pitched and also added surf and bird background noises. With backing by his orchestra, Botkin considered the finished product to be ready for release as a pop single, and Ward suggested using her daughter Robin's first name in the credits since her sped-up vocals made her sound younger than her actual age and she thought the Robin Ward moniker might be more appealing to a younger audience.
As Robin Ward, she debuted on the charts in late 1963 with "Wonderful Summer," which became a Pop/Rock Top 20 hit, made the R&B Top 40, and soon after went gold. This smash was followed soon after by the similarly-styled "Winter's Here" (1964), a minor hit. Other songs for which she is well known as Robin Ward include "In His Car" (1964) plus several duets with radio DJ Wink Martindale.
Ward's contributions to popular music under her real name (Jackie) include voicing the girl in the spoken passage from "Letter From Sherry" (1963), a Top 40 hit by male pop singer Dale Ward (no relation) released at around the same time as "Wonderful Summer." In addition, she sang with Barbra Streisand on her 1970 hit, "Stoney End," and provided backing vocals on hundreds of other recordings by such performing artists as Joan Baez, Nat "King" Cole, Bing Crosby, the Carpenters, Cass Elliot, Jimmie Rodgers, and Frank Sinatra. Ward served at various times as a member of The Anita Kerr Singers and The Ray Conniff Singers and was a longtime member of The Ron Hicklin Singers, a celebrated group of Los Angeles-area studio singers that provided backup vocals on thousands of songs and TV/movie themes and also served as (mostly uncredited) lead singers for countless radio and TV commercials. With lead singer David Cassidy and (on occasion) Shirley Jones, they provided all the actual backing vocals behind The Partridge Family hit records and TV show. They also sang the themes to such shows as "Flipper," "Batman," and "Love American Style."
Jackie Ward's other career milestones include being a set singer on "The Red Skelton Show," "The Danny Kaye Show," "The Carol Burnett Show," and "The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour." For over two decades, she was the voice of Rice-a-Roni (
the San Francisco treat) as well as scores of other TV commercials. She performed the singing voice-overs for Natalie Wood in "The Great Race" (1965) and "Inside Daisy Clover" (1965), Linda Evans in "Beach Blanket Bingo" (1965), and Janet Leigh in "An American Dream" (1966). Ward's numerous other movie credits include voicing Cindy Bear in "Hey There, It's Yogi Bear!" (1964).
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- Wonderful Summer 1963
(This song opens with the sounds of pounding ocean waves.)
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