This group was sometimes billed as the Dominoes, or Billy Ward And His Dominoes.
Billy Ward (b. 19 September 1921, Los Angeles, California, USA), a songwriter, arranger, singer and pianist, studied music as a child in Los Angeles, and at the age of 14 won a nationwide contest with his composition "Dejection".
During a spell in the US Army in the early 40s he took up boxing, and continued with the sport when he was released.
After working as a sports columnist for the Transradio Express, and spending some time with a New York advertising agency, Ward became a vocal coach in his own studio at Carnegie Hall, and founded the Dominoes in 1950.
The vocal quintet originally consisted of Clyde McPhatter (b. Clyde Lensley McPhatter, 15 November 1932, Durham, North Carolina, USA, d. 13 June 1972, New York City, New York, USA), Charlie White (b. 1930, Washington, DC, USA; second tenor), Joe Lamont (baritone), Bill Brown (bass) and Ward on piano. Ward rarely sang, but over the years, was the only constant member of the group.
Important changes in personnel came in 1952 when White was replaced by James Van Loan, and Bill Brown by David McNeil; and in 1953, when Jackie Wilson (b. 9 June 1934, Detroit, Michigan, USA, d. 21 January 1984, New Jersey, USA) took over from McPhatter, who went on to found his own group, the Drifters.
Ward originally formed the group as a gospel unit, and as such, they appeared on the Arthur Godfrey Talent Show. However, they began singing more blues numbers, and in the early 50s, made the R&B charts with "Do Something For Me", "Sixty Minute Man" (written by Ward and regarded by many as the prototype rock 'n' roll record, featuring a scorching lead vocal from McPhatter), "I Am With You", "Have Mercy Baby", "I'd Be Satisfied", "One Mint Julep", "That's What You're Doing To Me", "The Bells", "Rags To Riches" and "These Foolish Things".
By 1956, when Billy Ward And The Dominoes was released, the group's personnel consisted of Gene Mumford, Milton Merle, Milton Grayson, Cliff Owens and Ward. In the late 50s they had US Top 20 hits with "St. Therese Of The Roses", "Deep Purple" and "Star Dust", which sold over a million copies. Afterwards, the recorded hits dried up, but the Dominoes, regarded as one of the important, pioneering R&B vocal groups of the 50s, continued to be a popular US concert attraction throughout the 60s.