Joseph Middleton of The Golden Era Gospel Blog reports the passing of Viola Crowley of the famed Clara Ward Singers. Crowley sang lead on several of the group’s songs including “Traveling Shoes” and “We’re Marching to Zion,” in addition to serving as the group’s pianist for a time. Read The Golden Era Gospel Blog’s announcement here: R.I.P., Viola Crowley of the Clara Ward Singers.
GMF sends its condolences to the family of Viola Crowley.
Libra Nicole Boyd, PhD is a musician, award-winning author, gospel music aficionado, and the founder and editor of Gospel Music Fever™. Her commitment to journalistic integrity includes bringing you reliable gospel music content that uplifts and advances the art form. Libra is presently working on several scholarly projects about gospel music in the media as well as gospel music in social movements.
4 Replies to “Viola Crowley of the Clara Ward Singers has passed”
Hello GMF, I would like to know who the male next to Vermetta Royster? I think this may be David Riddick who was the pianist of the group in the past. Would you be so kind to let me know. Thank you.
Hi Alex, according to the caption in the biography of the Clara Ward Singers, it’s their pianist Alton Williams. Left to right: Mavelyn Statham, Geraldine Jones, Clara Ward, Elvis Presley, Viola Crawley, Mildred Means, Vermida Royster, and Alton Williams.
Libra, thank you for this. Always great to see Classic photos of the greats from the past. Just an fyi – the year here was 1964, not '69. It's often misquoted as 1969… not huge deal but historically inaccurate. This was at the time Elvis was filming Viva Las Vegas in '64 at the same time the Ward Sisters were performing there.
This was such a lovely meeting. I wish it was videotaped. A biographer of Clara's documented that Elvis & Clara's voices harmonized together accapella on gospel songs during their meeting was incredible to the ears of all standing there listening.
There was talk between them of doing an album together but Elvis' manager shot it down… to Elvis & Clara's regret. Similar thing happened when Elvis & James Brown met. Sadly the times were different, the record company and Elvis' manager said the country wasn't ready for an integrated album of that calliber and would be potential threats. Sad when we think of it now but was what it was.
But we can use our imaginations at how they must have sounded with them singing together at this meeting.
Yes indeed, video footage of this meeting would be wonderful. I'm sure it was unforgettable for those who witnessed! Thank you so much for sharing these notes. Thanks also for noting the date discrepancy; 1969 is widely quoted and is in fact the date that the biography, How I Got Over: Clara Ward and the World Famous Ward Singers (Ward-Royster & Rose, 1997, p. 208) gives for this picture.
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