Ralph was founded in 1972, shortly after the Residents had moved to San Francisco, when they realized that it was the only entity that would be willing to publish their work. They "unincorporated" themselves as the Residents Uninc. and managed the new company under that name. One of the group's members could draw, so they gave the company a graphic design wing called Porno Graphics, a.k.a. Pore-Know Graphics, a.k.a. Poor No Graphics, a.k.a. Porneaugraphics, etc., and the whole operation was run out of their new two-story building at 18 Sycamore St. in the Mission District. The band named its studio El Ralpho, spoofing Sun Ra who had named his El Saturn.
Ralph's first release was December 1972's Santa Dog (RR-1272), a two-disc single that was mailed out free to about three hundred people—friends, radio stations, and even Richard Nixon and Frank Zappa were sent copies (though Zappa's was returned—he had moved). This was followed by the band's first album, Meet the Residents (RR-0274), which was recorded in 1973 and released in 1974. The band had trouble with distribution and made up 4,000 seven-minute flexi-disks based on the album with which to promote it. The flexi was included in the February 1974 issue of File, a Canadian art magazine.
Over the years Ralph moved to other artists besides the Residents. The first was Schwump, a friend from Portland, Oregon, who in 1976 released a single called "Aphids in the Hall" (RRX-0776). The Residents' best friend and guitarist, Snakefinger, released a single called "The Spot" (RR-7802) in 1978 and went on to release four albums.
In 1976, the Cryptic Corporation took over control of Ralph Records and maintained it until 1985, when it handed it over to sales manager Tom Timony. The Residents left the label in 1987, after which Timony ran it under license and folded it into his own label, TEC Tones, until reverting control to Ralph in 1992. Ralph Records has not really operated since 1987. Since 1992, it has operated as EuroRalphAmerica, the Residents' mail-order company.
In August 2010 Ralph Records announced its closing "due to the general state of the music business and the expanding cost of creating physical products. It's been a great ride. Thanks for all your support over the past 11 years". Notices were sent on Twitter saying that it would sell out their stock of various limited Residents releases and have a sale on all the other items offered online.
Artists who released records on Ralph
- Art Bears (2 releases)
- Eugene Chadbourne (1)
- Chrome (only 3 tracks on Subterranean Modern compilation)
- Club Foot Orchestra (2)
- Freshly Wrapped Candies (1)
- Fred Frith (4)
- Frank Harris and Maria Marquez (1)
- King Kurt (1)
- MX-80 Sound (5)
- Nash the Slash (1)
- Michael Perilstein (1)
- Renaldo and the Loaf (4)
- The Residents (31)
- Rhythm & Noise (2)
- Schwump (1)
- Snakefinger (11)
- Bill Spooner (1)
- Suckdog (1)
- Hajime Tachibana (1)
- Tuxedomoon (7)
- Voice Farm (2)
- Yello (2)
- Buckley, P.: The Rough Guide to Rock, Rough Guides, November 2003.
- Penn Jillette spends 6 days reviewing