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Fields Ward

Fields Ward was a talented singer and guitarist best known for his association with the Bog Trotters Band during the '30s,'40s, and the folk revival of the early '60s. Ward was born in Buck Mountain, Virginia to a distinguished musical family; his father was a talented fiddler with a great repertoire of traditional mountain songs, and his mother was a talented ballad singer. He learned to play guitar -- still a relatively new instrument to mountain musicians -- directly from Alec "Eck" Dunford and indirectly from Riley Puckett, whose recordings greatly influenced Ward's playing style. He began recording in 1927 at age 16 with his father and brothers for Okeh. In 1929, he recorded again with the Railsplitters for the Gennett Record Company. These sessions became Ward's favorites but were never released, which left a bad taste in his mouth, and he didn't record again until the 1960s. (Portions of this session were eventually released decades later.) He joined the Buck Mountain String Band in the 1930s and later Wade Ward and his Bogtrotters, a band very popular at local festivals. After recording a Library of Congress session with Alan Lomax in 1937, they worked on CBS's American School of the Air in 1940. Ward did have one chance to become a star when John Lair, who helmed the esteemed Renfro Valley Barn Dance, offered him a regular solo gig, but Ward turned him down because he didn't want to play without his bandmates. The Bogtrotters disbanded in the mid-'40s, and Ward played music mostly for friends and family until being rediscovered in the early 1960s, and recorded several albums. Towards the end of the '60s, Ward suffered assorted health problems, including diabetes, emphysema, and hypertension, but continued performing through the early 1980s. ~ Sandra Brennan
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