Ralph Carney's musical career started out in his hometown of Akron, OH with a band named Tin Huey. They were a weird Frank Zappa/Captain Beefheart inspired poppunkfree jazz outfit. They released an album called Contents Dislodged During Shipment for Warner Brothers in 1979. It was pretty much the opposite of a huge success.

Carney went on to become one of Tom Waits most consistent sidemen. He plays saxophone, clarinet, harmonica, clarinet, keyboards, and everything else, including a wide variety of weird things that are blown that probably no one but him knows the name of. His first appearance with Waits was on 1985's Raindogs album. One of the real treats in the world is hearing or seeing him play the big ol' baritone saxophone. Big honkin' thing.

The band of Carney on horns, Marc Ribot on guitar, Michael Blair on percussion, and Larry Taylor on bass, were Waits' band documented on the 1988 live record & film Big Time (bass player Greg Cohen is also on the album, but not in the video). Carney has continued to play with Waits since, and appears on every one of his albums since Raindogs, including 1999's Mule Variations.

Recently Ralph was also in a band called Oranj Symphonette with other San Francisco musicians who have played with Waits (Joe Gore, Matt Brubeck). They play the music of Henry Mancini, Burt Bacharach, John Barry, and others. They recorded 2 great albums for Rykodisc. He also plays live around San Francisco with legendary swing scene singer Mr. Lucky.

Besides that Ralph has played sideman to the likes of the The B-52's, Elvis Costello, Galaxie 500, Bill Laswell, and Victoria Williams. And he two albums out in the last 3 years with his own band: Ralph Sounds & I Like You (A Lot).

After being a huge Waits fan for years and years and a big fan of Ralph's to boot, I met him a few years ago. He lives in Bernal Heights, here in San Francisco, with his wife and baby (son, I think). This past May I had the honor of having Mr. Lucky & his band, including Ralph, playing my 30th birthday party this year. That was about as cool as it gets.

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