Riding home with Sergio
On Fridays, most of us can’t wait to drive home and start the weekend. For one Winston-Salem resident, the Friday ride home is so sacred, that his radio show is solely dedicated to it. Sergio Ward is an employee of Wake Forest University, a personal trainer, filmmaker and of course, a radio personality for Guilford College’s WQFS- 90.9 FM. His show “The Friday Ride Home Show with Sergio” is from 4 to 5 p.m. every Friday and focuses on jazz ranging from the 1950s to now with a mix of pop standards and bossa nova. It has been on-air since 2015.
“My dream ever since I was a little kid was to do a jazz radio program,” he said. “It was a life-long dream that I never pursued and [in] 2014 a lot of life-changing things happened.”
One of those life-changing things was that his best friend and mother, Martha Ward-Scott, passed away. “This came out of nowhere,” he said. “My best friend is gone now so I put all my energy in hopefully doing a radio program.”
He hopes his show puts people in a better mood when they listen, and gets them excited for the weekend.
“When people listen to this program, I always thought as a kid that people would enjoy a show like this,” he said. “Frank Sinatra has an effect to make people happy. Jazz puts everybody in a happy mood. I get a lot of nice and positive feedback from the audience, when they say ‘man, we listen to this program, we’re in a good mood, we are motivated.’ It is kind of like a positive, feel-good Mister Rogers-moment for one hour.”
When he started “The Friday Ride Home Show,” he saw the opportunity to put his favorite feel-good artists back on the radio.
“People ask me, ‘where did you become a Frank Sinatra fan?’” he said. “What happened, I was 8 years old being the snotty little brother digging in my older brother’s music collection. I found Frank Sinatra’s A Man and His Music. I heard the brass, I heard the sound of Sinatra’s voice and I was hooked. Ever since then, Frank Sinatra has been my role model for life.”
Ward said he also listens to Branford Marsalis, Sammy Davis Jr., Tony Bennett and Sarah McKenzie. He also promotes local jazz artists and shows at the O. Henry Hotel in Greensboro. Some of those local artists have included Georgianna Penn and the Penn Family, Matt Kendrick, Benjamin Strickland and Emile Worthy.
Ward said he plans his shows on Wednesday evenings with a cigar in one hand and a black coffee in the other. Ward doesn’t resemble what a typical Frank Sinatra fan might look like. He looks more like he’s in a heavy metal band.
“It is weird, I do get that a lot,” he said of his style. “To where it doesn’t sound vain or anything, tell you the truth, you look at me and I am the angel of death, I dress eccentric from the black Italian shoes to the all-black attire, it is a persona. When people get to know me, they realize there is no pretension, I act the same around anyone.” His eccentricity, his exquisite taste in Italian footwear (of which he has over 70 pairs) and of course, his friendliness has earned him a sort of local celebrity status. So much so, that he even has his face on a T-shirt made by Banshee Screens. “I’ve been lucky enough to call him my friend,” wrote the owner of Banshee Screens and Ward’s long-time friend Carlos Bocanegra in a Facebook message.
Bocanegra said he met Ward when he was 15 and was intrigued with Ward’s outfit, which consisted of a Taxi Driver shirt, velvet pants and a long leather coat. He wrote that Ward “just radiated cool.”
“Sergio remains one of the most unforgettable and uniquely interesting individuals that I’ve ever come across in life. That same earnest charm that impacted my younger self still continues to inspire others to be their unique selves in a sea of mediocrity.”
Ward would describe himself as a loner who doesn’t mind being alone. In fact, he said he draws his creativity just from being alone. “I have done two art films in the past,” he said of his short films Thrill Killer and Soledad, which he described as poetry put with music. “I am hoping to do another art film in the future. To this day, even though I didn’t have any type of success with it, I am still proud of those babies.”
If you listen to “The Friday Ride Home Show” you are sure to hear Ward’s personal motto and his favorite Italian saying at the end of each program.
“In my lifetime, I have seen five people that I loved carried out on stretchers,” he said. “That is not morbid, that just shows that we are on borrowed time in this life. And that leads to my favorite Italian saying, ‘Vivi la vita al massimo.’ That means ‘live life to the fullest.’”
Katie Murawski is the editor of YES! Weekly. She is from Mooresville, North Carolina and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism with a minor in film studies from Appalachian State University in 2017.