January 23, 1956|
Akron, Ohio, U.S.
December 16, 2017 (aged 61)|
Portland, Oregon, U.S.
Ralph Carney (January 23, 1956 – December 16, 2017) was an American singer, composer, and multi-instrumentalist. While his primary instruments were various saxophones and clarinets, Carney also collected and played many instruments, often unusual or obscure ones.
Carney got his start as a professional musician as a founding member of the band Tin Huey. He is perhaps best known for his long association with singer Tom Waits, and worked with a vast number of others as a session musician.
Carney grew up in Akron, Ohio, and listened to music on a windup record player. He was the youngest of three siblings. His older brother, James - Jim - Carney, is a retired longtime Akron Beacon Journal reporter. His sister, Patsy Carney, died in 1997 after a long battle with breast cancer. His father, William Carney, worked in polyester research for Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., headquartered in Akron. Ralph Carney showed an early interest in art, but turned to music in the eighth grade. He started learning five string banjo, violin, and harmonica and played bluegrass and country blues. His father, as well as his mother, Madge Carney, encouraged his interest in music. At age 15 he started to play saxophone. He also worked in a mall record store.
In addition to work with Tin Huey in the 1970s and Tom Waits from the 1980s to present, Carney has also recorded or performed with Dieselhed, Marc Ribot, The B-52's, Elvis Costello, Jonathan Richman, Les Claypool, Stan Ridgway, Medeski Martin & Wood, Jed Davis, Bill Laswell, and HowellDevine, among others. Carney has released several solo albums and was a member of the Oranj Symphonette with fellow Waits alumni Joe Gore and Matt Brubeck. He also headed up San Francisco's Carneyball Johnson, playing on saxophones, Turkish clarinet, piccolo, trumpet, percussion and vocals.
Carney collaborated with the Black Keys on their album Attack & Release. He occasionally joined them on stage when they toured that record. In 2014, he collaborated with his nephew Patrick for the BoJack Horseman theme song. He toured with They Might Be Giants in the fall of 2009. He recorded and performed with Black Francis in 2008 a score for the Silent film Der Golem, he guested with Yo La Tengo and Medeski Martin & Wood for live shows in 2010 and 2011. He recorded on a T Bone Burnett-produced project the Ghost Brothers of Darkland County with Marc Ribot and Elvis Costello, as yet unreleased. He performed on many Hal Willner-produced shows at UCLA's Royce Hall including a Tribute to Harry Smith in 2001, with a huge number of performers including Todd Rundgren, Phillip Glass, and David Johanson.
Carney composed music for two poetry records on Paris Records (both yet to be released). One was with poet Robert Creeley called Really!. He also did music for an Ira Cohen record called the Stauffenberg Cycle. In 1994 Ralph performed on the Kathy Acker record Redoing Childhood (Paris Records). He did some songs for some flash Web Premiere Toons cartoons on CartoonNetwork.com in 2001. His old band Tin Huey put out a compilation CD of unreleased material in 2009 on Smog Veil Records. He did a collaboration with David Greenberger who puts out the Duplex Planet called Oh Pa that came out in late 2011. Since 2009 he has been recording and playing gigs with his Ralph Carney's Serious Jass Project. A new record Seriously was issued in July 2011 on Smog Veil Records.
Carney died on December 17, 2017, at the age of 61, from head injuries sustained falling down steps in his home in Portland, Oregon the previous day.  He was survived by his ex-wife Deena Zacharin and their daughter, Hedda, as well as his soulmate Megan Hinchliffe.
- Happiness Finally Came to Them (1987)
- Black Power (1994)
- Ralph Sounds (1997)
- I Like You (A Lot) (1999)
- This Is! Ralph Carney (2003)
- Ralph Carney's Serious Jass Project (2009)
- Secret Language, with David Coulter (2012)
- "Ralph Carney Dies at 61: Saxophonist, Composer, Tom Waits Collaborator". 2.kqed.org. Retrieved 17 December 2017.
- "Akron Cracker". Akroncracker.com. Retrieved 12 February 2016.
- "Ralph Carney Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 12 February 2016.
- Sandy, Eric (25 August 2014). "The Black Keys' Pat Carney Wrote the Theme to Netflix's 'BoJack Horseman' With His Uncle". Clevescene.com. Retrieved 12 February 2016.
- Outsight Radio Hours. "Ralph Carney on Outsight Radio Hours". Archive.org. Retrieved 17 December 2017 – via Internet Archive.
- "Currently in production: This is Ralph Carney". Littleredmenace.com. Retrieved 12 February 2016.
- Butler, Will (December 17, 2017). "'Bojack Horseman' and Tom Waits saxophonist Ralph Carney dies aged 61". NME. Retrieved 17 December 2017.
- "Ralph Carney, Akron native and internationally renowned musician, has died". cleveland.com. Retrieved 2017-12-18.