Bob Ralston

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Not to be confused with Robert Ralston (1761–1836), Philadelphia merchant and philanthropist.

Robert "Bob" Ralston (born 1938 San Bernardino County, California) is an American pianist and organist who performed on television's The Lawrence Welk Show from 1963-82.[1]


A native of Southern California, Ralston graduated from Montebello High School around 1955 and went on to Wheaton College on a full music scholarship. Before finishing his degree, he transferred to the University of Southern California, where, in 1964, he earned a Bachelor of Music degree in composition and accompanying. During his college years, Ralston 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 one of Welk's original pianists, Jerry Burke, fell ill (Burke died not long after) and Ralston was hired on a permanent basis. The Welk TV shows feature 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. Since 1988 he has been the pianist and organist for the Founders Church of Religious Science in Los Angeles, an affiliate of the Centers for Spiritual Living.[2]

Throughout his career, Ralston has recorded several hundred albums; many of them as a solo artist or with bandleaders, including 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 appeared as host in a 1999 PBS rerun of Lawrence Welk's "Time" show. He still holds regular concerts in his home with various guest vocalists.


Ralston and his Dutch-born wife, Fietje (née Josephine C. Tangel; born 1946) have been married fifty-four years — since March 3, 1963. They have a son and daughter, Randy Ralston (age 52) and Dianne Cate (age 50). Ralston's 19-year-old grandson, Field Cate, is an actor.[3]

Ralston's only sibling, Frederick Carleton Ralston (born 1941) founded Crazy Shirts based on Honolulu. Ralston's mother, Marjorie Elizabeth Ralston (née Norton; 1911–98) was an early cartoonist for Walt Disney. In 1928, Disney hired her as an inker. She was the 13th employee hired by Disney. Among his mother's distinctions with Disney, she was the second voice actor for Minnie Mouse in the 1929 series Wild Waves.[4] Disney, himself, in 1928, was the first voice of Minnie Mouse.[3] Two of Ralston's paternal siblings, Esther Ralston and Howard Ralston, were also actors.


  1. ^ The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows, 1946-Present, by Tim Brooks, Earle Marsh, Ballantine Books (2003), pg. 669; OCLC 53228840; ISBN 978-0345455420 (retrieved August 17, 2011)
  2. ^ "Musicians". Founders Church of Religious Science. Retrieved 7 January 2015. 
  3. ^ a b "Marjorie Ralston Biography," IMDb ( (retrieved May 13, 2016)
  4. ^ "Voice of Minnie Mouse Leaves Legacy of Art" (obituary), by Lori Tighe, Star-Bulletin, August 4, 1998.

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