Ward Allen

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From the Barn Dance Museum, Wingham, Ontario North Huron Museum, Wingham, Ontario.

Ward Allen: Canadian Classic ...

Ward Allen and Mel Lavigne replaced the Golden Prairie Cowboys on Barn Dance. Ward Allen was from Kirkton. They became masters of two part harmony and both went on to become Canadian Old Time Fiddle Champions at Shelbourne. Ward also obtained a measure of fame as a composer, one of his top hits being "Maple Sugar" which is still a favourite of old time fiddlers everywhere. Personally I (Bob Carbert) have fond memories of Ward and his brother who was also an excellent fiddler, playing for dances in the Hibbert Township Hall in Staffa and in other local community halls where I was raised, long before I became interested in a career with CKNX. It was after Mel, Ward and some of the other boys decided to take a run at a career in eastern Ontario, working out of Ottawa that Al Cherny arrived as a young man from Alberta to take their place in the hearts of western Ontario and eventually all Canadian listeners. (Carbert essay, 1995)p.5

Warden A. Allen gained immortality through his composition, "Maple Sugar" which is a 'must play' for every fiddler that's come down the pike. "Maple Sugar" is probably the most famous of all fiddle tunes with the possible exception of The Orange Blossom Special. Ward's name will live on in the company of such elite composers as Stephen Foster. Wilf Carter suggested the title, Maple Sugar, and Ward liked the idea, especially the Canadianism of the title. WWVA radio in Wheeling, West Virginia adopted it as their theme song.

Ward started playing fiddle by ear at the age of 4 and was good on the piano as well. His mother was a pianist and his father, a step dancer. His older brother Lorne was a well known local old time fiddler in the Kirkton and Needham area. By the time Ward was 12, Lorne took him along to play either fiddle or piano. As young man he often teamed up to play with Earl Heywood and in 1950 he joined Earl and the Barn Dance as a professional musician. By this time, he had won several fiddle competitions including the prestigious CNE fiddling championship. He shared fiddle duties with Mel Lavigne on CKNX. In 1953, he left and won the Shelburne Cup at the Canadian Fiddle Championships in Shelburne. From CKNX he went to CFRA radio where he became the fiddler with The Happy Wanderers along with Bob King and Joe Brown. In 1954, he joined the Wilf Carter Cross Canada Tour while on leave from CFRA. Here he worked with CKNX compatriots Jack Kingston and Bill Mankiss.

In 1956, Ward met and married Ann McLean from Ottawa. They had two sons, Wade and Randy. (BD-20, 2006)