Banjoist Wade Ward To Be Remembered

Wade Ward with his RB11 Gibson Banjo
Wade Ward with his RB11 Gibson Banjo
Wade Ward with his RB11 Gibson Banjo

On Sunday, October 13th, 2013, at 2pm the Blue Ridge Music Center has organized a tribute to one of the most notable banjoists to ever come out of the Blue Ridge. Due to the government shutdown this performance-talk will be moved to Chestnut Creek School of the Arts at 100 N Main Street in Galax, Virginia. 

Benjamine “Wade” Ward (1892 to 1971) from Independence VA was renowned for his clawhammer banjo playing. He received letters from fans around the world – many expressing that his version of “Chilly Winds” and other tunes could not be beat.

Ward is said to have embodied the “Galax style of banjo.” He made his living as a farmer and musician and is now buried at Saddle creek Primitive Baptist church in Independence.

Wade Ward played an RB11 Gibson banjo and this instrument helped him achieve his unique sound. After an earlier recording attempt he was able to release two recordings for Okeh records in 1929.

The Lomax family recorded Ward at the Galax Old Fiddlers Convention for the Library of Congress and on subsequent trips between 1937 and 1959. Collectors, Mike Seeger and Peter Hoover also recorded Ward in 1950’s and ‘60’s.

Nearly 200 recordings of Wade Ward’s music are stored today in the Library of Congress, American Folklife Center and his banjo and derby hat are now housed in the Smithsonian Institution.

Those who met Ward always mention how good-natured he was and how he always welcomed guests to his home whenever they came, and wherever they came from.

One of those visitors was Pete Parrish from England who lived with Wade off and on for two years in an effort to learn the master’s banjo style. Pete, along with the Edmonds family of Galax, performed with Wade in a group called the Buck Mountain Band. Forty years later- Parish, Jimmy and Patsy Edmonds are the last living members of the original Buck Mountain Band.

Pete Parish will be participating in this event and he will share stories and tunes from Wade during this special performance-talk. Also performing will be banjoist and fiddler Paul Brown who is an excellent performer of Wade Ward’s music but also knew nephew Field’s Ward.

Tribute to Wade Ward performance-talk starts at 2pm on Sunday, October 13th, 2013. Reservations are highly recommended as seating is limited. Admission is free. To reserve your seats call (276) 237-6866 and please show up by 1:45pm to keep your reservation. At 2pm any open seats are given to drop-in visitors.