The Partridge Family
Jackie Ward or Sally Stevens?
Singing with Ray Conniff
Singing with Anita Kerr
Jackie "ROCKS" with Tom Bahler
The Sonny & Cher Show
Recording with the Bahlers, 1999
GH: What is meant when you "double track" a song?
JW: We always double-tracked. Sometimes we even triple-tracked. Basically, we recorded the same part two or three times. We would sing the exact same part or maybe a harmony to it, but we always overdubbed.
GH: Why would that be done?
JW: It gives you a sound. At that time, itís what everybody did. It wasn't† something done just for the Partridges. Every group that recorded that had a background group, was at least double-tracked. Sometimes they would sweeten - singing something different, like a harmony or a counter melody.
GH: In the beginning, David was unhappy with the way his voice was recorded. Tom explained that it was a common practice to record at a slightly higher pitch. Were you aware of the conflict David had with Wes over this?
JW: I wasnít there when that took place, but Tomís right when he said that it was a common practice back then. Not just David, but everybody did it. It gave the record a little more brilliance and it gave the singer a little more of a bite Ė more of an edge. And that was what everybody was trying to achieve. Wes was trying for what we call a "street sound" -- something that the common ear likes to hear. And he had a definite talent for being able to hear what would sell.
GH: You mentioned your earlier recordings were always done live with the orchestras. How did that differ from how you worked with The Partridge Family?
JW: The singing was always overdubbed. It was never done live with the band. We were never there when the musicians were there. They would lay down the tracks and in some cases David would sing first and then we would sing. But when it was a "feel" thing -- rhythmically -- that Wes wanted, often times the group would lay it down first and David would have to go with us. But generally he would go first and we would follow him and his phrasing.
GH: Tom also mentioned that Shirley Jones may not have been used very much on any records. Can you elaborate on that at all?
JW: Shirley was never intended to be on any of those records. If she came in to record, it was understood that she was going to be mixed into the TV versions of the songs if needed. We knew it and Wes knew it. I donít know what Shirley knew, but I think she would know, if she listened to the records, that she wasnít in there. Or if she was, she was mixed very low.†
GH: Were you singing the female parts in the pilot song, "Let The Good Times In"?
JW: To be honest, I donít remember if it was Sally Stevens or me.
GH: When you recorded the songs, were you aware that certain takes were for the TV version versus the record version?
JW: Yes. I remember Wes talking about that, but there was so little difference in what we did. When you do a blunt ending, itís usually for the TV version, and a fade would be for the album. I didnít pay much attention to where it was going to go, because I was performing it the same way, with whatever cuts and changes he (Wes) would make.†
GH: Changes werenít necessarily for TV versus record, but simply because Wes didnít like it?
JW: Thatís right. When the arrangements came in, many times he would just cut out things he didnít like and add things. He might sing a line the way he wanted it, which was always funny because he didnít have a voice at all. In fact, he talked with a thick Brooklyn accent. But he would warble something and John would have to know what he was talking about! Strangely enough, John understood what he was trying to do and Wes would say, "Yeah Ė Datís it! You goddit!"† Wes was a strange, funny guy in many respects but I always respected him because he knew it when he heard it, and he knew when it was right. He would always call it. He would hear something and say, "Thatís gonna be our hit." And he was right. He had, what we call in the business, a "common touch". He knew what the people would respond to.
GH: There were some recording sessions where you recorded up to 13 songs. Was that a normal day?
JW: That is not normal at all. Back then, they would come in and do the rhythm tracks at 8 oíclock and theyíd be done by 11 or 12 oíclock, and many times they would expect the singers to start at midnight. It was dreadful. We rarely did that as The Partridge Family. The only time we would have done that is if we had 13 songs, as you say we did. We would start in the afternoon and go into the night. We probably did that to accommodate a deadline or someoneís schedule.
GH: When you went into the studio, were you aware that you were recording for a particular album or just a bunch of songs that would be disbursed later on?
JW: My understanding was we were doing a TV show, but also records. The music we recorded had to be record quality, because everything could eventually end up on album. Some never made it to record. Wes picked the songs that he thought would work and every one he did was given a lot of attention. Occasionally there would be a song that might have been a throw-away Ė maybe to fill a slot on the album.†
GH: Were you happy with the quality of The Partridge Family songs?
JW: We were very proud of what we did because we knew we had a winning sound and it was a very successful production. We knew it wouldnít last forever because it was based on a TV show. How long can it stay hot?
GH: Do you think The Partridge Family would have been as successful without David?
JW: No. Youíve got to have someone who is the focal point in whatever you are doing. In our case, the focus was David. He was basically the sound, and we came in with a wall of sound to compliment him.
GH: I think many would agree you did more than that.
JW: True, but if you took David away I think you have a great sound, but itís not as commercially sustainable. Even with the four of us, we didnít have a lead singer being focused on.
GH: It is amazing that you record a #1 hit song and album, yet the background singers never shared in any royalties. Nobody seems to be upset over that when the stories are told.
JW: Well, I hear what you are saying, but in those days it was such a common thing to be a background singer on many hit records. You got your session fee -- period. It may be the biggest song ever, but you didnít get royalties. I recorded with Barbra Streisand on "Stony End".† That was her first major success in that new contemporary style. It was a monster hit and the background singers were a vital part of that song and contributed a great deal to the sound of the record. But we didnít get anything other than the session fee. That was what studio singers did. We worked every day. When the recording industry was jumping for studio singers back then, it would not be uncommon to have 2 or 3 sessions per day.
GH: Did you work with Barbra Streisand on Hello Dolly!?
JW: Yes, I was in the chorus of that. I did Annie as well. Gosh, Iíve done hundreds and hundreds of movies Ė maybe 800 of them Ė in different capacities. To try and remember them all is impossible. Iím sure Ron would tell you the same.
GH: Your list of credits is simply amazing. Youíve worked with The Carpenters, Joan Baez, Nancy Wilson, Gordon Lightfoot, Thelma Houston, Ray Conniff, etc.
JW: Right. I sang with The Ray Conniff Singers. In fact I did a lot of solos on his stuff. I did that for a long time. I am on the soundtracks to Grease and Hair too.
GH: Itís amazing how diverse all these styles of music are, yet you are able to adapt to them all.
JW: You have to! While I was doing The Partridge Family, I was also singing with The Anita Kerr Singers. Anita Kerr was a well-known singer who had a quartet of 2 girls and 2 guys. This was probably the late 60s/early 70s. In 1971 we went to Holland to appear at The Grand Gala Awards, which is to Europe what the NARAS Awards are to the United States. We had recorded an album called "Anita Kerr Reflects on the Music of Burt Bacharach and Hal David" and we won for a song called "A House Is Not A Home" It was sung totally accapella.
GH: What else did you do after The Partridge Family ended?
JW: Gosh, I worked all the time. Lots of commercials. For over 20 years I was the voice of Rice-a-Roni. I did all the jingle singing. There are so many I canít even remember. Like I said, I did so many movies I canít even count them!
GH: Did you get involved with any other TV variety shows?
JW: Oh, sure. I did The Sonny & Cher Show. That was off-camera but anytime they needed background singers, we would go in and do that. I recorded on many of their albums, too.
GH: You recently returned to the studio to record for Davidís TV Movie, The David Cassidy Story.† Can you tell us a bit about that?
JW: Tom Bahler called and asked if I was interested in trying it again. I wasnít sure because I hadnít sung like that in years, but I thought it would be fun to try. Ron was in Europe so he was unable to do it, but I was there with John and Tom Bahler and Randy Crenshaw took Ronís place. I thought the movie was done very well -† unlike the ABC version, which I didnít care for. In the original show, the background vocals were much more in the front than in Davidís TV movie. I found that rather interesting. It was mixed very differently.
GH: Did you remember any of the songs?
JW: Most of it I remembered, but there were a couple of songs that I flat-out didnít remember at all. But it was fun to see everybody. We recorded it in the same studio that the originals were recorded in. David was around a lot, which was really neat because we got to see him, hear him, and talk. It was fun because we hadnít had the opportunity to do that before.
GH: Besides continuing to record, what are you currently working on?
JW: Currently I am
the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the AFTRA/SAG Federal Credit
Union. And I am still on the National Board of Directors of AFTRA.
www.cmongethappy.com would like to give their thanks to the following passengers for their contributions to this interview: Jackie Ward, Thomas-Kevin Bahler, Ramon Aninag. Stay tuned for our continuing series of interviews with cast and crew members, as we celebrate 30 happy years with The Partridge Family!† Up next: Itís a surprise, and we arenít telling!!
©2000 Scott Awley for www.cmongethappy.com and respective copyright holders (photos). All rights reserved. No portion of the text of this article may be produced in any form without the written permission of the author.†