|Robin Ward (solo)|
|Widely regarded as a "one-hit wonder" due to her 1963 million-selling smash "A Wonderful Summer," Robin Ward was also a session singer (under her real name, Jackie Ward) whose voice can be heard in several popular U.S. television series and motion pictures since the 1950s
Born in 1941 to a military family in Hawaii (her father served in the U.S. Navy), Jacqueline McDonnell was raised in Nebraska. Her first public singing performances were with her two sisters in a Nebraska church - she was eight years old at the time. After the trio won a national talent search run by Horace Heidt, they moved to Los Angeles to look for work in the music industry.
At the age of 13, she was hired by television station KTLA to sing on a Your Hit Parade-like program, Bandstand Revue, in which she sang popular hits for four years as part of the house singing ensemble. After she parted ways with KTLA, she started a career of singing in demo recordings for various LA-based songwriters and session singing for several California-based record companies and producers. One result of her session work was the recording for her voice singing the "La la la" parts in Pat Boone's last million-selling single, "Speedy Gonzales", in 1962 (Elton John stated that the "hook" in his best-selling single, "Crocodile Rock" was inspired by his listening to Jackie Ward's vocal on "Speedy Gonzales")
In 1963, songwriter-producer Perry Botkin needed a session singer to make a demo recording of "A Wonderful Summer," a song that he wrote with his co-writer and co-producer, Gil Garfield. A now-married Jackie Ward agreed to record it in Gold Star Studios (three years later, Brian Wilson used the same studio to start work on the beginning of the landmark Beach Boys single "Good Vibrations"). After 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 sound like a high school girl; so Jackie Ward suggested changing her name on the record label to that of her daughter, Robin. That fall, "A Wonderful Summer" was released on Dot Records. Sales were spectacular, with over one million copies sold in the United States alone; the overwhelming popularity propelled the recording to the #14 position on Billboard magazine's "Hot 100" singles chart the week before the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
An album followed, to limited success, before a duet with Wink Martindale, another Dot artist. "A Wonderful Summer" remains the only hit for "Robin Ward" on the Hot 100.
While "Robin Ward" was disappearing from the record charts, Jackie Ward's session singing career was becoming quite lucrative. In the early to mid 1960s she was one of the stable of singers for The Red Skelton Show; at roughly the same time, she performed the same job for The Danny Kaye Show, and, later, The Carol Burnett Show. In the 1970s she worked similarly for The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour.
Her voice is heard in dozens of television theme songs, amongst which were Flipper, Batman, Love, American Style, Maude (with Donny Hathaway providing the lead vocal), and The Partridge Family. She has sung in hundreds of television commercials, most notably those for Rice-a-Roni ("The San Francisco treat").
Possibly her most memorable performance is the eerie solo soprano on the original Star Trek theme.
The theme song was not the only recording that she did for The Partridge Family: she was one of a group of three women and four men to record all the music for television play and record release while "posing" as the Partridge Family (only two members of the TV series - Shirley Jones and David Cassidy - recorded with them, and Shirley Jones' voice was mixed so far back that she could be barely heard, if at all).
By her own estimate, Jackie Ward's voice can be heard in "maybe 800" films. Some of the more notable instances include her voice being dubbed over Natalie Wood's "singing" in The Great Race and Inside Daisy Clover, doing the same for Janet Leigh in American Dream, and providing the singing voice for Cindy Bear in Hey There, It's Yogi Bear!
For much of the mid-to-late 1960s, Jackie Ward was a member of the Ray Conniff Singers, an ensemble that is most remembered for their #10 hit, "Somewhere My Love," from the motion picture Doctor Zhivago, in 1966. In the early 1970s, she was also a member of the Anita Kerr Singers, which won a Grand Gala Award in 1971 for their recording of "A House Is Not a Home". She remained as a regular member of the Conniff studio session singers from 1971 to 1979, performing solos in several albums of the orchestra.
After "A Wonderful Summer," she kept extremely busy with not only television and motion picture session work, but hundreds of recordings for the music industry, including backing Barbra Streisand on "Stoney End," broadcast recordings of Hair, Grease, Annie, and Hello Dolly; and backup singing for dozens of major recording artists, including Nat "King" Cole, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Gordon Lightfoot, The Carpenters, Cass Elliott, and Joan Baez.