The Musician’s Muse: The Many Ralphs

 

His name is Ralph Sima and along with his friends Mike and Ross are known as The Rhythm Roosters – a great band that enjoys performing mostly oldies from the fifties and sixties. Ralph plays bass guitar and sings. And while his bass guitar playing is very good it is his talent as a vocalist that separates him from the pack. It might be described as smoky, or perhaps raspy. When Ralph is performing it’s easy to close your eyes and imagine that Sam Cooke is right in front of you. His renditions of Cupid, You Send Me and Twistin’ the Night Away are remarkable.

Sam Cooke was one of the early pioneers of soul music. He was a wonderful writer and had a prolific career cut short at the age of thirty-three. He was an influence on the likes of Aretha Franklin, Al Green, Curtis Mayfield, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Billy Preston and, of course, more recently, our man Ralph.

In reality there aren’t a lot of celebrities, or musicians for that matter, named Ralph. You know, it’s just not that popular a name. I mean, not like John, Paul, George and Ringo or guys like that. But, in the land of fantasy, where some of us happen to dwell, a couple Ralphs come to mind rather readily.

The first would be Ralph Kramden, of The Honeymooners, of course. The character and the television show were created by The Great One himself, Jackie Gleason. In the mid-fifties it was hugely successful. And of Ralph they say, “He was frustrated by his lack of success. He often develops get-rich-quick schemes. He is short tempered and resorts to bellowing, making insults and hollow threats. He is proficient at bowling and playing pool and likes to brag about his non-existent golf skills.”

Some of us might be less aware of how successful Mr. Gleason was in the music world. The albums that he released sold well into the millions. And in response to being asked why his records were so popular he responded, “Every time I ever watched Clark Gable do a love scene in the movies, I’d hear this really pretty music, real romantic, come up behind him and help set the mood. So I’m figuring that if Clark Gable needs that kinda help, then a guy in Canarsie has gotta be dyin’ for somethin’ like this!”

Later in the fifties two fellows named Hanna and Barbera decided to capitalize on the success of The Honeymooners. They would create an animated show mimicking what Gleason had achieved. Basically, they would just rip him off. The show they created was The Flintstones and it went on to tremendous success.

The Flintstones were an obvious exploitation of The Honeymooners. It no doubt pissed Gleason off to the point of taking the matter to court but part of him probably enjoyed it as a compliment. After all, as Oscar Wilde once said, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness.”

However, that is probably not the reason that Mr. Gleason did not sue. Apparently, his publicist told him something like, “Do you really want to be known as the guy who took Fred Flintstone off television?” Oscar Wilde certainly had some interesting quotes. My favourite is perhaps what he supposedly said on his deathbed, “This wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. Either it goes or I do.” Kind of like my little story here, you might say.

Another Ralph that comes to mind in the world of illusion and delusion is King Ralph. That movie that came out in 1991 and starred John Goodman. He played the role of a Las Vegas lounge singer who inadvertently becomes the King of England. He doesn’t really like being the king and eventually gives up the throne to become a simple Duke. In 1994 Goodman went on to star in the film The Flintstones. It was another massively successful project and based of course in the town of Bedrock. And by now you must be asking yourself what this has to do with anything?

Well, a long, long time ago, in the town of La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, there was a popular place called Bedrock which hosted live music. And then sometime during the last century it was taken over by a young couple, Barry and Ana. They promptly changed the name to Ana Bananas and it quickly became a mecca for live music. Every notable musician in Banderas Bay has performed there at one time or another. And they have live music at least four or five nights a week as well as one of the best dance floors around. While you’re there you might want to pick up one of their souvenir tee shirts imprinted:

La Cruz de Huanacaxtle
A Sleepy Little
Drinking Village
With a
Fishing Problem

As it happens, Ralph and The Rhythm Roosters perform at Ana Bananas on Sunday evenings and will be performing at the Calgary Blue Festival in August.

And what would Sam Cooke say…

Let me tell you ‘bout a place
Down around Banderas Bay
Where the people are so gay
Twistin’ the night away…

Salud!