His father and an older brother and sister worked in polyester research. 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. At age 15 he started to play saxophone.
He also worked in the 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 heads 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 on the Steev Richter album Beloved in 2016. 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. A documentary film has been in the works for the past few years about him called This Is! Ralph Carney, which is named after his 2003 album. Carney's nephew Patrick Carney is the drummer for the Black Keys.
The two collaborated on the theme music to the Netflix original series BoJack Horseman. Discography Solo albums 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) Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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