Dr. T. R. Bryan Wilkes Heritage Music Award:  Ward Eller

Ward Eller

Ward Eller was born in Wilkes County on May 24, 1930 and began playing the guitar and singing as a teenager with his cousins, the Church Brothers, Bill, Edwin and Ralph Church. Their professional music career began using the name “The Blue Ridge Ramblers.” This group performed on the local radio stations WILX and WKBC in North Wilkesboro. They did many public appearances in schools, theaters and other venues in western North Carolina.

In 1949 the band, using the name “The Church Brothers” signed a five year contract with Rich-R-Tone Record Company in Johnson City, TN. Several records were cut with this label.
Later the Rich-R-Tone contract was purchased by Blue Ridge Label in North Wilkesboro. Ward Eller recorded his solo record entitled “You’re Still the Rose of my Heart” under this label.

Ward served his country in the army during the Korean War from 1951-53. After his discharge, he earned a BS degree from Appalachian State University and a MA from East Tennessee State University.

He spent 33 years serving as a teacher, coach and principal. Ward represented his professional organization, North Carolina Teachers’ Association, at two national conventions.
In 2008 Ward was recognized as a Bluegrass Pioneer for his early recordings. He received life membership in the International Bluegrass Music Museum Association in ceremonies at the International Bluegrass Museum in Owensboro, Kentucky.
Ward continues his music career weekly with the house band at the VFW Hall in North Wilkesboro. This had its beginning in 1955 and continues to be the longest continuous country music entertainment in the area, occurring every Saturday night.

Ward lives in the Mount Pleasant Community with his wife Kate. They have two children, a son, Douglas Eller and wife Alisa, and a daughter Karen, and husband Ty Worley, and three grandchildren, Kendall, and husband Travis Steelman, Brittany Eller and TJ Worley.


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