Beyond that “Wonderful Summer”
I always had a weakness for a couple of “girl group” solo tracks – and “Wonderful Summer” by Robin Ward was certainly one of them. I could easily conjure up an image of a Sweet Sixteen little darling fondly remembering the summer of her life – and could only imagine what a summer like that with this teen could have been!
I never saw her perform her big hit ( #14 on the Hot 100 – and oh yes – in the Winter of 1963-64 not the Summer). I never even saw a photo of her. There was a very good reason. Robin was not a teenager – she was in her early 20’s ( born in 1941). And Robin was not Robin – She was Jackie.
They pulled of a girl group coup with this one. Robin Ward was in reality Jackie Ward who agreed to sing in the style of a teenager and in doing so took on the name of her daughter Robin. Dot wanted a singer to rival Mercury’s Leslie Gore. I also always thought that maybe Robin Ward and Dale Ward were brother/sister or something – but no – just stable mates at Dot Records. Some claim that Jackie sang background on Dale’s recordings, but I a can’t verify that.
Jackie was born in 1941 – real name Jacqueline McDonald. At a very early age she entered show business with her sisters and after they both departed the performing world – Jackie stayed on. By the time “Wonderful Summer” charted, Jackie was already a 10-year veteran vocalist and performer.
Jackie’s career began in 1954 at the age of 13 after moving to Hollywood where she and her sisters sang hit songs of the day on a show called “Bandstand Revue” – much in the vein of the national show “Your Hit Parade”. They continued with this program for a few years and then her sisters both dropped out of the entertainment world. Jackie continued on. Before transforming into a “girl group singer” Jackie had worked as a group singer on the Red Skelton Show, The Carol Burnette Show, and the Danny Kaye Show.
In 1962 she made a vocal appearance on a Pat Boone hit “Speedy Gonzalez” taking on the “La La La…” plaintiff refrain of “Rosita” who has been somewhat abandoned by the wayfaring “Speedy”. (The cartoonish voice of Speedy is non-other than the master of voices – Mel Blanc).
So back to “Wonderful Summer” – Dot Records released three more singles in an effort to follow the success of the debut tune.
Each of those singles contained at least one “teen” oriented track including “Bobby”, “Johnny Come and Get Me” and “In His Car”. A long play was also released by Dot which contained 12 tracks, many being in the style of an older more sophisticated artist such as “Moon River”, “I Could Have Danced All Night“, and “Where The Blue Of The Night Meets The Gold Of The Day”. Interestingly this number was recorded and released in 1933 by Bing Crosby. Jackie had the honor of singing background on one of Bing’s final recordings.
An interesting side note – this from Wikipedia on the “Wonderful Summer” recording session: “…an experiment in which Botkin sped up the recording by wrapping splicing tape around the capstan of the recorder, he and Ward agreed that the finished recording (with bird and surf sound effects added) would not be just a demo but a recording to be released as a 45 revolutions-per-minute single. The “altered” recording resulted in the then 21-year-old woman sounding like a high school girl.”
A YouTube participant posted the song restoring the “pitch” (speed corrected) and can be heard here:
But Dot was not able to promote “Robin” the girl teen singer due to her age. So there were no tours, no television performances, no photos released including no photo on the very hard to find long play (that LP sold for more than $500 for a stereo copy this year on EBay). Jackie was a beautiful young woman, but simply not a 16-year-old teen dream girl.
So Jackie simply did what she does best, continued on singing background, performing in groups, doing tons of jingles (that’s her voice back then on all the Rice-A-Roni commercials) and often providing voice-over performances in the movies for stars who weren’t vocally inclined. These included singing for Natalie Wood in “Inside Daisy Clover” and “The Great Race” and for Janet Leigh in the movie “American Dream” performing the song “A Time for Love”.
She sang in the movie “Annie” and also backed the Carpenters, Nancy Wilson, Thelma Houston, Joan Baez and Gordon Lightfoot. Jackie estimates her movie/TV voice appearances to have topped 800 with the hugely successful “Grease” and “Hair” included.
Jackie was virtually everywhere for many years. Her credits include singing behind Sammy Davis Junior, Jimmie Rodgers, Nat King Cole, Barbara Streisand (on “Stoney End”), Frank Sinatra and with Wink Martindale also on Dot. She was the lead female voice on record and television for the Partridge Family. Partridge recording sessions sometimes included David (often his vocals were added separately) but no other members of the “TV Partridges”. Jackie does recall that Shirley Jones would sometimes be in the studio but that her contributing vocals were muted down significantly in the final mixes.
Jackie was a singing/appearing member of the Anita Kerr Singers and the Ray Coniff Singers. She sang on the theme songs for television shows including “Love American Style”, “Flipper”, “Batman” and “Maude”.
Below is another voice-over project from the movie “Beach Blanket Bingo” where Jackie provides the vocals on the song “He’s My New Love” for actress Linda Evans – with Frankie Avalon and Annette looking on (that’s the Hondells in the background). In addition to all of this, Jackie was often called upon to search out talent and put singing background groups together for various musical projects.
So my fantasy’s of spending a “Wonderful Summer” remained just that. The years would come and go. The “girl group sound enjoyed a good and productive run, but finally faded from the scene as the late 1960’s approached and the musical subject matter generally “matured”. But I will always reserve a placed in my memories for Tracey Dey, Bernadette Carroll, Marcie Blaine, and so many others – And I would still like to imagine that somewhere just down the block in my old West Denver neighborhood, was a pretty 16-year-old girl, sitting on the front steps of her home, fondly recalling that one very special “Wonderful Summer”.