Agnes Jackson of the Clara Ward Singers has died

Agnes Jackson

Alice Houston of the Clara Ward Singers informed GMF’s Libra Boyd this morning that the Clara Ward Singers’ Agnes Jackson passed Sunday, May 12.  GMF extends deepest condolences.

Jackson joined the legendary group in the late 1960s and was the featured soloist on several of the Clara Ward Singers’ songs including “Up Above My Head,” “It Is Well With My Soul,” “The Lord’s Prayer,” “His Eye Is On The Sparrow,” and “I Believe.”

Jackson was 87.  

Homegoing information is as follows:


Monday, May 20, 2019
10 – 11 AM
Reliable Funeral Home
3958 Washington Blvd
St. Louis, MO  63108

Funeral Service

Monday, May 20, 2019
11 AM
Reliable Funeral Home
3958 Washington Blvd
St. Louis, MO  63108

Watch Lady Agnes Jackson with the Clara Ward Singers on The Flip Wilson Show (1971) here.  She is featured on “His Eye Is On The Sparrow.”

Clara Ward and the Famous Ward Singers Recordings 1949-1958

Clara Ward and the Famous Ward Singers
Recordings 1949-1958
Gospel Friend (2013) 

Clara Ward and the Ward Singer cd cover

By Libra Boyd, Founder & Editor
Gospel Music Fever

Fans of Golden Era gospel will enjoy the current release on the Gospel Friend imprint, Clara Ward and the Famous Ward Singers. Strolling, strutting, and sometimes shouting down Memory Lane with Clara Ward and the ladies presents 25 reasons “famous” managed to work its way into the group’s name.

Step back at least 55 years, and you will hear gospel singing at its finest. Prior to the days of heavy studio overdubs, electronic instruments, and pitch correction software, there were skilled voices honed from raw talent. Frances Steadman, Henrietta Waddy, Thelma Jackson, Willa Ward Royster (to whom the CD is dedicated), Marion Williams, and Clara were all top-notch lead vocalists. On this particular CD, Marion Williams–the only bona fide gospel artist to date to receive a Kennedy Center Honor–leads several of the numbers, including one of their hits, W.H. Brewster’s “I’m Climbing Higher and Higher” and her self-written “I’ll Be There.”  In contrast to Marion’s robust delivery is Clara’s refined soprano on Robert Anderson’s “Prayer Changes Things,” as well as Willa’s recognizable timbre on “Glory, Glory Hallelujah” and Frances Steadman’s stirring near-baritone on “God’s Amazing Love.”

As I said earlier, forget about the presence of the studio enhancements that give a lot of today’s gospel its marketable sound.  You won’t find them on this CD. What you’ll find are pure and piping unobstructed vocals complemented by piano and organ on the earliest dated tracks, and then drums and “sacred steel” guitar as the 1950s ushers in additional musical accompaniment.

I do not own Clara Ward and the Famous Ward Singers on vinyl, so I am ecstatic that producer Per Notini of Sweden has made this collection available in a format that gospel music aficionados can enjoy for years to come. If this reissue is ice cream, then the cherry on top is Robert Sacré’s comprehensive liner notes with photos interspersed.

In the United States, Clara Ward and the Famous Ward Singers is available at

“Prayer Changes Things” – “God’s Amazing Love” 

Fever Meter
SMOKIN’ (4 of 5 Stars)

Passings: Gladys Beamon Gregory and Willa Ward Royster

These are the news items that really sadden me to pass along.  

My friend Bob Marovich of The Black Gospel Blog has reported that Gladys Beamon Gregory of the acclaimed Little Lucy Smith Singers and Willa Ward Royster, sister of Clara Ward and member of the famous Ward Singers have entered into eternal rest.  They died yesterday and today, respectively.
Born in 1925, Gregory was a member of the original Lucy Smith Trio, which later became the Little Lucy Smith Singers.  One of the group’s biggest hits was “Somebody Bigger Than You and I.”
Royster, her sister Clara, and other members of the Ward Singers traveled all over the country and overseas, working capacity crowds into frenzies in their heyday.  At various points, she had her own groups also: the Willa Ward Singers, the Willa Moultrie Singers, the Gay Charmers (later performing as the Sophisticates), the Willettes, the Willa Ward Trio, and the Willa Ward Duo.  She was 92.
The Black Gospel Blog will post additional information on Gregory and Royster as it becomes available. 

Chicago Tribune also remembers Gladys Beamon Gregory with an informative news piece.

GMF extends sincere condolences to the families and friends of these two gospel greats and prays the circle of gospel pioneers and legends will be unbroken by and by.

Above left:  The Little Lucy Smith Singers, whose members were Little Lucy Smith, Gladys Beamon Gregory, Catherine Campbell, and Sarah McKissick.

Above right: Willa Ward Royster during a 2009 interview with Casey Snyder, Mari Saito and Julio Nunez.

David Peaston of R&B and gospel acclaim has died

David Peaston, son of the Clara Ward Singers’ Martha Bass and brother of soul singer Fontella Bass (“Rescue Me”), died Wednesday from complications of diabetes.  He was 54.
Photo credit: Ian Dickson/Redferns
Peaston is probably most known for his songs, “Two Wrongs (Don’t Make It Right)” and “Can I?” which came following his big break on Showtime at the Apollo in the late 1980’s.
In the early 1990’s, the Soul Train Award winner recorded a gospel album with his mother and sister called Promises: A Family Portrait Of Faith. 
GMF sends condolences to Peaston’s family, friends, and supporters.

You can read more about his career at