circa 1951 - l to r: bill brown, billy ward (front), clyde mcphatter, charlie white and joe lamont
Billy Ward and the Dominoes comprised of:
Billy Ward (a.k.a. Robert Williams. b. 19th September 1921, Savannah, Georgia, U.S.A. d. 16th February 2002, Inglewood, California, U.S.A.). (songwriter, arranger, singer and pianist)
Clyde McPhatter (b. Clyde Lensley McPhatter, 15th November 1932, Durham, North Carolina, U.S.A., d. 13th June 1972)
Charlie White (b. 1930, Washington, D.C., U.S.A.; second tenor)
Joe Lamont (baritone)
Bill Brown (bass)
Billy Ward grew up in Philadelphia and was the second of three sons of Charles Williams and Cora Bates Williams.
He won an award for a piano composition at the age of 14.
Following a stint in the U.S. Army he studied music in Chicago.
Billy then attended the Juilliard School of Music in New York.
billy ward and rose marks
There he met a talent agent called Rose Marks, who became his business associate and songwriting partner.
The duo put together various groups, including the Ques, whose line-up comprised of Clyde McPhatter (lead tenor), Charlie White (tenor), Joe Lamont (baritone), and Bill Brown (bass).
Billy played keyboards for the group, as well as working on the groups business affairs.
circa 1950 - l to r: charlie white, clyde mcphatter, bill brown, joe lamont and billy ward (on keys)
In 1950, Rene Hall recommended them to Ralph Bass of Federal Records, and they were signed, renaming themselves The Dominoes.
do something for me - 1950 / sixty minute man - 1951
Their first single release was entitled, ‘Do Something For Me’, which climbed the R&B charts in 1950.
The group released ‘Sixty Minute Man’, which reached number 1 on the R&B chart in 1951 and remained there for 14 weeks.
pedal pushin' papa b/w the bells - 1952 / rags to riches b/w don't thank me - 1953
Whilst the group toured, the group began enduring internal disputes.
Whilst Jackie Wilson was part of the group, he stated that Billy was a strict disciplinarian.
The Dominoes group name was owned by Billy and Rose, who had control over all of the members salaries.
Clyde McPhatter was paid poorly, rumours stating that Billy paid his singers $100 a week, deducting amounts for various expenses.
Charlie White and Bill Brown both left the group in 1951 to form The Checkers.
They were replaced by James Van Loan and David McNeil (previously of The Larks).
In 1952, the Dominoes hits continued, with ‘Have Mercy Baby’ reaching number 1 in the R&B charts for 10 weeks in 1952.
Further records were credited to ‘Billy Ward and His Dominoes’.
In early 1953, Clyde McPhatter left to form The Drifters.
His replacement was Jackie Wilson, who had been coached by Clyde.
Joe Lamont and David McNeil then left and were replaced by Milton Merle and Cliff Givens.
With Jackie sang lead on ‘You Can't Keep A Good Man Down’.
In 1954, Billy relocated the group to the Jubilee imprint, later relocating to the Decca label.
The group had a number 27 pop hit with ‘St. Therese of the Roses’, with Jackie on tenor.
billy ward and his dominoes featuring clyde mcphatter - 1955 / billy ward and his dominoes - 1956
sea of glass - 1957 / clyde mcphatter with billy ward and his dominoes - 1956
The Dominoes went through a succession of personnel changes.
In 1957, Jackie left for a solo career and was replaced by Gene Mumford of The Larks.
They then relocated to the Liberty Records imprint, and scored a number 13 pop hit with ‘Stardust’, which reached number 13 in the U.K. Singles Chart in 1957.
yours forever - 1958 / pagan love song - 1959
The song proved to be their last major success, although various line-ups of the group continued recording and performing into the 1960s.
They were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2006.
Billy Ward died in Los Angeles, California on the 16th February 2002 at the Centinela Park Convalescent Hospital.
the dominoes featuring jackie wilson (right)
Billy Ward, Barry Williams and his father in 1948
Billy Ward, Barry D. Williams & Inga Daniels - April 2001
Billy Ward And His Dominoes (Federal Records 1955)
Clyde McPhatter With Billy Ward (Federal Records 1956)
24 Songs (King Records 1956)
Sea Of Glass (Liberty Records 1957)
Yours Forever (Liberty Records 1958)
Pagan Love Song (Liberty Records 1959)