singer who was born into a musical (and military) family in Hawaii, where
her dad served in the Navy.
They eventually moved to Nebraska, where Jackie and her two sisters sang
in church, eventually dubbing themselves The McDonnell Sisters and winning
a national talent competition in Yangton, South
Dakota. So impressed were their
parents that they pulled up stakes and moved to L.A. Jackie was still in school when she
and her sisters were hired to sing on the TV program, Bandstand Revue. It
was a gig that lasted around four years.
eventually disbanded, but Jackie decided she wanted to pursue music. Unfortunately, she could not
sight-read music, so she enrolled in City College to study it. It turned out to be a good
move. One of her early breaks
was being recruited for The Red
Skelton Show. This led to
other opportunities, like The Carol
Burnett Show and The Danny Kaye
Show. While working with
Red Skelton, Jackie won an acting role in the television movie of Cinderella, the Rodgers &
Hammerstein version starring Lesley Ann Warren and Stuart Damon.
session career took off. She
found herself singing with Joan Baez, Pat Boone (she is the voice of the
infamous rodent, “Speedy Gonzales”), The Carpenters, Mama Cass,
Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, Jimmie Rodgers, Frank Sinatra, and Barbra
work continued to roll in, as well:
Jackie can be heard on the theme songs of Batman, Flipper, Love, American Style, and Maude, which also featured a young
Donny Hathaway. Hoyt Curtin
hired Jackie to do the singing voice of Cindy Bear in the animated feature
film, Hey There! It’s Yogi Bear!
versatile voice led to the recording of her first solo album, Wonderful Summer. The title track cracked the top ten
in 1963. It was a bit of a
novelty record, as Jackie billed herself as Robin Ward (her
daughter’s name) and did a voice: The gimmick was that she could make
herself sound like a teen pop singer.
Of course, there was no way to actually go out and promote the
album, and Jackie soon found herself deluged with teen fan mail.
She had also
made herself valuable to studios with her bendable voice, and movie work
followed: Twice she dubbed the
singing voice of Natalie Wood, in The
Great Race and Inside Daisy
Clover. In the latter, her
director actually told her that her singing was too good—the film is
about an up-and-coming singer—and she had to do another take and
essentially dumb down her singing.
Jackie can even sing badly if need be. She also dubbed Janet Leigh’s
singing voice in American Dream,
and was part of the chorus on Grease
beckoned again in the form of another gimmicky TV show, The Partridge Family, a manufactured
group of family singers loosely based on The Cowsills. When you listen to a Partridge
Family record, or watch the TV show, chances are you are hearing David
Cassidy plus Jackie Ward and three tenors.
At the same
time, she was moonlighting with The Anita Kerr Singers. Their a
cappella song “A House is Not a Home” took home The Grand Gala
Award in 1971. (The Grand Gala
Awards are roughly the equivalent of the NARAS Awards in the States, and
take place annually in Holland.)
One of Jackie’s
most famous turns was as the voice on the famous Rice-A-Roni
commercials. She also did
several tours of duty on The Sonny
& Cher Show, and it led to work on their albums. Recently, and ironically, she teamed
up with David Cassidy to lend her backing vocals to made-for-TV movie, The David Cassidy Story.
served on AFTRA’s National Board of
Directors and chairs the AFTRA/SAG Federal Credit Union’s Board of
Directors. Her Greatest Hits were released in 1988.