RESTLESS: THE STORY OF BLACK & WARD
Black & Ward are a vocal soul/pop duo from Toronto; formed by Terry Black and Laurel Ward in late 1971. They released a number of singles throughout the 1970’s and a 6 song EP in 1981; having a few hits along the way. A number of these releases command three figure sums due to their “Northern Soul” status in the UK; many of the others are hidden gems waiting to be discovered.
Terry Black was born in Vancouver, BC on February 3rd 1949. He was made for the stage and screen and would begin performing in his youth; singing on various TV shows throughout BC. He was performing on a show known as “Teen Dance” in the early 1960’s, when he caught the attention of agent Buddy Clyde. His striking good looks, distinct vocal talent, and catchy songs made him a shoe-in for ARC Records upon Buddy bringing Terry to their attention. He’d capture the fascination of vice-president and sometimes producer Bill Gilliland; whose recent successes with Richie Knight and The Mid-Knights had him searching for another hit act to produce.
Terry signed with ARC Records in early 1964 (while he was still 15) and wasted no time releasing his first single. “Dry Bones/ Sinner Man” was released in April/May of that year and got decent airplay in a few markets but was not a significant hit. His follow-up “Unless You Care/Can’t We Go Somewhere,” would go on to become an international hit; reaching #2 on the RPM Top 40, CHUM charts, and a number of others throughout Canada, and squeaking into the Billboard hot 100 in the US at #99.
His success with his first two singles landed him an opening gig for Lonnie Mack, Billy J. Kramer & The Dakotas, and Gerry & The Pacemakers on the Canadian leg of their tour; which absolutely helped increase his popularity throughout the country. Following the end of the tour, he’d release “Everyone Can Tell/Say It Again,” to minor chart success.
The recent hits and successful supporting role on tour had him appearing on Dick Clark’s “American Bandstand” in late 1964. Wrapping up his perfect year, back in Canada, he won “Male Vocalist of The Year,” and released his debut album “The Black Plague” in December. This album featured different mixes of all his previously released singles.
1965 began with a bang! He’d release multiple singles that went top 20 across Canada; including "Little Liar," and a cover of Sam Cooke's "Only Sixteen." The success of these singles warranted another album. Interestingly, most of the songs are the same as his debut but in a different order. This was a decision based on the lacking sales of his debut; probably repackaged away from the "doom" feeling of the first albums art and title.
Around this period, his father was offered a job in California. This couldn’t have happened at a more perfect time; with the recent hit singles and successful second album, his star was bigger than ever! His management saw an opportunity here to make him a multi-faceted star. Like Sinatra and most recently with Elvis, Terry’s management sought to maximize on his star power by getting him into movies. Ironically, he was cast in a script as Elvis' brother, but the gig never materialized. Ultimately, after a few months, the family grew weary of the “hustle & bustle” of Hollywood life. They’d move back to Toronto in early 1966.
Terry wasted no time getting back into recording, upon arriving home. Touring and moving to L.A. had him weary of travelling, so at this time he decided he’d just release singles and perform in Toronto. By March, he’d release “Rainbow/There’s Something About You;” with the A-Side going Top 20 on the Canadian charts. He started doing the club circuit which gained him critical praise as a developing artist.
The following two years saw Terry performing throughout Toronto and parts of Ontario as well as releasing one more single “Wishing Star/Kick Me Charlie” in 1967. The single failed to chart but Terry, undeterred, continued playing live and tried to get into acting here in the city. His foray into acting and theatre saw him cast in the Toronto production of Hair in 1968; this is where he met Laurel Ward. The two hit it off instantly and would begin dating that year.
Laurel had moved to Toronto when she was around 17-18. Born and raised in Delta, Laurel’s father Peter was director of the wetlands research station as well as a noted wildlife artist. While still in high school at Portage Collegiate Institute in the mid-60s, Laurel was spotted singing and invited to guest on Oscar Brand’s nationally-televised Let’s Sing Out. In Toronto, she connected with Sid Dolgay of folk group The Travellers as well as record producer Bill Gilliland of ARC Records.
Prior to Hair, Laurel performed solo and as a duo with Gordon Lowe on the coffeehouse circuit in Toronto. Her connections with Bill Gilliland helped them get signed to his Yorkville Records where they released the stunning Folk-Psych album masterpiece “Prisms” in 1967. The album has spawned an audience in Asia where it’s been reissued on CD.
Laurel and Terry would continue to date after the production of Hair wrapped up. Terry however, was restless from his lack of recording and wanted to reinvent himself. Not only reinvent himself, but write more powerful, important songs that reflected the socio-political struggles of the time; something he couldn’t do with his “squeaky clean” teen idol image. That year he’d adopt the alias “Terence” and release an album of Psych-Rock tinged, socially conscious songs. “An Eye for An Ear” was released on Decca Records in the U.S. in 1969. The album was also released with a different cover by MCA Records in Germany, but it went unreleased in Canada and few, if any, copies were distributed there. Unfortunately, the album would go nowhere. The irony is it probably would have sold much better if he had released it under his own name.
1971 would see the two team up as “Terry Black & Laurel Ward” (shortened to Black & Ward for all subsequent singles) at the suggestion of friend Bill Gilliland. Bill secured the pair a Canadian recording deal with his Yorkville label as well as international distribution for their debut single “Goin' Down (On The Road To L.A.)/Oh Babe.” Recorded in the UK in early-1971 at George Martin’s Air Studios, the single would have minor success, albeit not until February of the following year; barely cracking the Canadian charts at #99, and reaching #57 on Billboard in the U.S.
By the time their single became a hit in 1972 they had already joined a band. Sometime during mid-1971, the duo would be asked to join Doug Riley’s newly founded band “Dr. Music.” They’d stay with Dr. Music for just over two years; touring as well as releasing eight singles and two albums during their time with the band.
Upon the original failure of “Goin' Down (On The Road To L.A.)” Terry would record another solo single; this time for GRT. “Ridin’ A Daydream/Boutique” was released in October 1971 to coincide with the film “Foxy Lady” (From which it was taken). The single failed to chart and Terry again set his sights on the duo’s career.
After the success of “Goin' Down (On The Road To L.A.)” in February 1972, the pair would quickly release a follow-up single. “Warm Days, Warm Nights/Love Is Gone” was released under the newly christened “Black &Ward” name, but failed to chart. The B-Side is a song taken from Laurel’s LP outing with Gordon Lowe from 1967.
The rest of 1972 was mostly busied by the various live and studio engagements they’d perform with Dr. Music. But by 1973, they’d try once again to break into the market with another single of their own. Recently married, the two put out the aptly titled “Love Is The Feelin’/Now’s The Time” in mid-1973. The single was a minor success reaching #87 on the Canadian charts that year.
During their time with Dr. Music, a number of opportunities would be made available to the duo. Most notable being part of the vocal group for Keith Hampshire’s revival of the “Music Machine” variety T.V. show in 1973. They’d perform this role for the show’s first season (September 22nd 1973-June 22nd 1974) alongside a cast of amazing Canadian vocal talent; including Sharon Lee Williams, Rhonda Silver, Dianne Brooks, Wayne St. John and Jason King.
After leaving Dr. Music in late 1973, and then finally leaving the cast of Music Machine in June 1974, the pair were once again on their own; taking a short break for some R&R.
As 1974 turned to 1975, the pair would sign a deal with RCA and release 3 singles. Black & Ward were once again in the studio trying to find chart success. First out of the gate was the funky, soul-tinged “It’s Your Love/Delight.” The single failed to chart but has since garnered popularity among collectors. Next up was “Back Up (Against Your Persuasion)/This Is My Confusion” which would go on to be the group’s biggest hit; reaching #35 on the Canadian charts. Finally around October-November they released “Long Time/Restless” which failed to chart. These three singles have garnered a cult following among Soul/Funk collectors as well as UK DJ’s obsessed with dance floor magnetizing Northern Soul; driving the prices up into the three-figure range.
The remainder of the 70’s saw the duo temporarily disband the group, instead choosing to focus on commercial and jingle writing. Laurel would also do some touring and session work, most notably touring with Anne Murray as backup singer. Terry would in addition to his multiple commercial/jingle credits, once again contribute songs to a movie soundtrack; this time for Ivan Reitman’s “Meatballs” in 1979. The song was an original composition titled Moondust.
The 1980’s saw Terry Black do jingles for beer and car advertisements while trying to reinvent himself as a country artist. This would take a backseat however to the reformation of Black & Ward. The duo got back together in early 1981; recording an EP in 1981 and a solo single for Terry in 1982. Neither charted and the two releases essentially sunk like a stone. This represented a tough time in their careers and to a lesser degree their marriage. They’d again disband the group and would mostly focus on commercial/jingle work for the remainder of the decade.
Black & Ward are no more than a footnote in Canadian music history today which is a real shame. They released multiple great singles over their time together and performed with multiple notable performers. Known for their breakout hit, the group deserves re-examination by those concerned with great music or Canadian music history.
WRITTEN & RESEARCHED BY: AARON LUSCH