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Clifford T Ward
Home Thoughts and Gaye
by John Combe
Local music historian John Combe writes about the solo career of Clifford T Ward.
Clifford T Ward
Clifford T Ward died in 2001 aged 57 after a long illness.
He had suffered from multiple sclerosis, and died from pneumonia.
His songs had been recorded by performers such as Art Garfunkel and Ringo Starr.
He had only had two chart singles - the biggest hit Gaye reached number eight in the charts.
He finished above the Beatles in a poll on the best music of the Queen's reign - the Radio 2 poll saw Ward's Home Thoughts From Abroad come 4th, despite failing to get into the charts as a single.
The beginning of 1968 saw Cliff studying hard at Worcester Teacher Training College, although he hadn't given up his musical interests.
He had been demo-ing his new single for CBS, 'Naughty Boy', with the help of Ken Wright and Bev Pegg.
Unbeknown to Ken, he even formed another 'Simons Secrets', which was the old 'Bridge St Jump Band', including Ian Simmonds on guitar and Rob Elcock on drums.
The single was released in April, followed by a second single 'Keeping My Head Above Water', which was released at the end of the year.
Neither record did very much, and the year brought to an end the many incarnations of Cliffs beat groups.
Undeterred, Cliff kept on making demos at Bev's studio in Kinver, and in autumn 1970 took up a full time teaching post at Bromsgrove High School.
Cliff still had a publishing contract with Blue Mountain Music and was writing songs for 'Bronco' with Kevyn Gammond, including 'A Matter Of Perspective', B-side of a single, and 'Misfit On Your Stair', on their 'Country Home' album.
The Peel connection
Meanwhile, loyal and helpful friend Ken Wright had moved to London and got a job as an accountant at the BBC.
He passed one of Cliff's tapes on to John Peel's producer, John Walters, who in turn passed it on to Clive Selwood, former head of Electra Records in the UK, who had formed Dandelion Records with John Peel in October 1971.
They started the label to promote new artists and Clive was particularly keen on Cliff's songs.
Cliff became Dandelion's latest signing, under the signature of Clifford T Ward.
They started recording almost straight away, at the Marquee studios in London in January 1972, and got in Richard Hewson to do the string arrangement.
Richard had worked with James Taylor and the Beatles, so he had quite a pedigree.
The album was called 'Singer-Songwriter' and was launched with a small promotional gig at the Speakeasy with Derek Thomas, Kevyn Gammond and Johnny Pasternak in the backing group.
In spite of heavy publicity and Radio One shows like Johnny Walker and Sounds of the 70s, the two singles released, 'Carrie' and then 'Coathanger' did not generate large sales.
Even so, Clive Selwood's enthusiasm was undiminished, and Cliff's second album was half-recorded when Clive and John Peel decided to close down Dandelion Records.
Clive Selwood managed to place Cliff with Charisma Records, and so in January 1973, Cliff found himself on a major label with half an album already completed.
After listening to a demo of 'Home Thoughts' the second album's title, Tony Stratton-Smith, the owner of Charisma Records, was enthusiastic about Cliff's "pure English voice", and was right behind the record.
Recording continued with Derek Thomas on guitar, who was a reporter on the Kidderminster Shuttle.
He had been with Cliff for some time, and was joined by ex-'Crawling Kingsnakes' and 'Bonehead' bassist Terry Edwards.
Ken Wright was on drums and Richard Hewson came in again for the string arrangement.
They did another John Peel radio session where they played 'Gaye' and other tracks off the forthcoming album.
The recording was finished in February, and after various remixes and a recutting, 'Home Thoughts' was eventually released in April 1973, to ecstatic reviews in the music press.
The single 'Gaye' was released first and was slow to move, but with extensive playing and nationwide publicity, using the schoolteacher angle, it reached the Top 50 in June, eventually rising to number eight.
Although never a huge hit 'Home Thoughts' is a classic album and has sold well over many years.
All this success brought an abrupt end to Cliff's teaching career, and he gave his notice in at Bromsgrove High School.
The media circus began for Cliff with rounds of radio and TV spots including two appearances on Top of the Pops.
He was not so keen on live performances and only had one high profile gig at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London, where he appeared supporting Twiggy.
'Gaye' was even a number five later in Brazil, but was never materialised on.
The musicians on the album, Derek Thomas, Ken Wright and Terry Edwards, all went on to successful careers in their various ways.
As for Cliff, all those years of one night stands and countless hours of songwriting and recording had finally paid off, and he had an interesting career ahead of him, until he was struck down by multiple sclerosis in the mid-80s, which led to a premature death in 2001.
last updated: 23/09/2009 at 16:12