Ward, Elder Jack – Already Made – New LP
This week, Bible & Tire announced it would be putting out a new project from another D-Vine veteran, Elder Jack Ward. The 83-year-old Ward's first recording in more than 50 years, "Already Made," will be released by Bible & Tire on Aug. 20.
A native of Itta Bena, Mississippi, Ward was raised on blues and R&B but ultimately chose gospel as his musical calling. “I can just about sing anything anyone else sings,” said Ward, who is founder and pastor of North Memphis’ Earth Temple Holiness Church, where he performs weekly with his family band.
“I never bragged on myself but this was a gift from God, and the Bible says, ‘A gift comes without repentance.’ In other words, you don’t have to be a Christian to be able to sing. If you’ve got that God-given gift you can do it — your choice if you want to sing rock ‘n’ roll, blues, gospel — but I choose the right side.”
Ward first came to Memphis in the early 1960s, and is perhaps best known for his work with the Christian Harmonizers. The group's 1964 recording of “I Don’t Need No Doctor” — featuring a young Isaac Hayes on piano — was a hit for the Stax Records subsidiary Chalice.
Ward also briefly replaced gospel/soul legend O.V. Wright in the Sunset Travelers, before going on to record several singles — including collector favorites “Another Day’s Journey” and “God’s Going To Blow Out The Sun” — for Peacock Records’ Song Bird imprint.
Ward later formed his own group, The Gospel Four, and cut a series of memorable sides — including “The Last Road” and “A Change Is Gonna Come” — for the D-Vine label in 1969. Ward eventually moved on from music and worked as a mechanic.
Earlier this year, Watson — who has been intent on making new recordings with some of the still-living members of the D-Vine roster — released the first new album by Elizabeth King in half a century.
“When we were transferring all the tapes from D-Vine, the two artists that stood out to me were Elizabeth and Elder Ward,” says Watson. “His voice was so amazing on those recordings. And when we connected with him [last year] and heard him, his voice was still amazing. He can still really hit those high notes. He definitely fits in the whole sacred soul genre. But there’s a little more country and blues influence in what he does along with the soul influence.”
Ward’s 11-track “Already Made” was cut at Watson’s Delta-Sonic Studios this past winter. The album features backing by Bible & Tire's house band, the Sacred Soul Sound Section: album co-producer and lead guitarist Will Sexton, Grammy-winning engineer Matt Ross-Spang on rhythm guitar, bassist Mark Edgar Stuart, and drummer George Sluppick. Alex Greene of the Reigning Sound also adds keyboards, while Bible & Tire artists the Sensational Barnes Brothers and King also guest on vocals.
The title track to “Already Made” — which has just been released as a single — also features Ward's daughters. The song, like all 11 tracks on the record, are Ward originals.
“He has hundreds of songs. He had this notebook with all these things he’s written,” says Watson. “When [co-producer] Will Sexton and I sat down with him, he would start singing all these different songs to us and we were pretty blown away. The fact that he writes his own songs is fairly unique. Most gospel artists, they’re doing traditional numbers. But he actually writes. So it really brings a different element to what he’s expressing.”
Although Ward performs at his church regularly, he hasn’t made any public concert appearances yet. Watson hopes to present Ward — along with King and some of the other Bible & Tire artists — as part of a revue-style show in the fall in Memphis, and possibly take the package to other cities in the region.All songs by Elder Jack Ward
Produced by Bruce Watson & Will Sexton
Recorded and mixed by Bruce Watson @ Delta-Sonic Studio. Memphis, TN
Mastered by Clay Jones @ Pete's Room
Photographs by Matt White
Design by Kerri Mahoney
The Sacred Soul Sound Section:
Will Sexton - Guitar
Mark Stuart - Bass
George Sluppick - Drums & Percussion
Matt Ross-Spang - Guitar
The Elder Ward Company Singers:
Rick Steff - Organ & Piano
Alex Greene - Organ
Elizabeth King - Vocals
Chris Barnes - Vocals
Courtney Barnes - Vocals & Drums