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A native of California, Bob Ralston attended Wheaton College on a full music scholarship but later returned home to attend the University of Southern California, where he graduated with a degree in music composition and accompaniment. He received his Bachelor of Music degree from USC in 1964. During his years in college, he played six nights a week with the Freddy Martin orchestra (1959-1962) at Los Angeles's Coconut Grove nightclub, where in 1962, Welk invited him on his show as a guest musician. That lasted until the summer of 1963 when he was hired on a permanent basis. The Welk TV shows feature Bob Ralston's piano and organ solos, but they frequently include his performances as a singer, dancer, and comedian. He arranged music and continued to perform for the Music Makers live and on television until 1982 when Welk retired from active performing.
Throughout his career, Ralston has recorded several hundred albums; many of them as a solo artist or with bandleaders such as Welk, Ray Conniff and Billy Vaughn. He has also been active in the preservation of theater pipe organs across America and has been a guest conductor for several symphony orchestras.
Ralston and his Dutch-born wife Fiejte have been married since March 3, 1963. They live in Southern California and have two adult children, Dianne and Randy. Ralston still holds regular concerts in his home with various guest vocalists.
- Ralston often played a Thomas Organ on The Lawrence Welk Show.
- Bob Ralston was discovered on his 15th birthday, July 2, 1953, when he appeared on a TV show called "Hollywood Opportunity". He won first prize - a brand new Dodge car - and Lawrence Welk was one of the judges.
- Bob Ralston’s mother, Marjorie Norton, was the original voice of Minnie Mouse; when she began work with Walt Disney in 1927, she was his 13th employee, supervising a team of “inkers” (artists coloring cells).
- Bob Ralston's aunt, Esther Ralston, was a famous motion picture star in the 1920s & 1930's.
- Bob Ralston's grandson, Field Cate, is a celebrity child actor of TV and film.
- Bob Ralston was the music director for the globally telecast Hollywood Bowl Easter Sunrise Service from 1989 to 2005.
- He, Bob Hope, and Wayne Newton are the only honored lifetime members of the Fifteenth Air Force Association
- Ralston hosted the program, Gee Dad! It's a Wurlitzer! on KPCC public radio from 1996 to 2000
- During more than 40 years in show business, Bob Ralston has given his unique support as pianist/organist/arranger to a great variety of top name vocalists. He has been musical director and/or accompanist to scores of famous artists, including the following (in alphabetical order):
Ralph Blane (composer of “The Boy Next Door,” “The Trolley Song,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and many, many others), Nat “King” Cole, The Ray Conniff Singers, Phyllis Diller, Eddie Fisher, Rhonda Fleming, Gogi Grant, Robert Guillaume, Jerome Hines, Shirley Jones, Sheila & Gordon MacRae, Gisele MacKenzie, Freddy Martin, Tom Netherton, Andy Williams, Lawrence Welk, and Norma Zimmer.
- For 17 years, Bob assisted in producing and directing the annual Festival of Sacred Music in Birmingham, Alabama. He was also pianist, orchestrator, and guest conductor for the Alabama Symphony.
- He was the conductor of the Hayward Symphony Orchestra from 1976 to 1977.
- An alumnus of Illinois’ Wheaton College (alma mater of Dr. Billy Graham, a devout Ralston fan), Bob has been involved in Christian music all of his adult life.
- Since 1988, he has been senior staff organist at the Founder’s Church of Religious Science in Los Angeles (performing on their 4-manual, 31-rank WurliTzer pipe organ, the largest installed in any church in the world).
- Ralston is a member of MENSA, the High I.Q. society
- Ralston’s hobbies include logic problems, linguistics, and the study of sixteen foreign languages.
- He does all of his arrangements and compositions on the latest Macintosh computers.
- He continues to work as a pianist, theatre pipe organist, show producer, arranger, conductor, composer, teacher, and recording artist.
- He is president of the Society for the Preservation of Theatre Organ Music in America (SPOTOMA).
- In February 2005, Bob was featured organist on the huge 109-rank tracker pipe organ at the newly constructed Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles.
- “Bob Ralston’s the greatest,” said legendary singer Eddie Fisher, when he and Bob entertained at the Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles for then Mayor Richard Riordan. Fisher first hired Ralston as his Musical Director for the “Earthquake Victims Benefit Concert” in San Francisco in 1989. They have since worked cruise ships and other engagements together.
- In 1990, Bob did a command performance at the home of the late Tom Bradley when he was mayor of Los Angeles. Bradley originally wanted to hear Bob play “just a few Gershwin tunes,” but the mayor and his 12 guests were so enchanted with Bob’s piano stylings that the evening turned into a four-hour marathon with Bob playing dozens of medleys of the music of George Gershwin, Jerome Kern, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Cole Porter, and other great composers.
- Bob Ralston knows more than three thousand songs by memory.
- Bob Ralston's latest piano album, "A PERFECT DAY -- 31 nostalgic parlor songs played on a magnificent concert grand" was released in 2011.
- Brooks, Tim; Marsh, Earle (2003). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows, 1946-Present. Random House Digital, Inc. p. 669. ISBN 9780345455420. Retrieved 17 August 2011.