What most space age pop fans hear of
Ralph Carmichael's work is just the tip of the iceberg. What lies
beneath the surface, hidden to those listeners who fear to dive into icy
waters marked by that dreaded label, Christian music, is a prodigious
oeuvre as impressive and influential in its own genre as Duke
Ellington's was in jazz. And just as the genius of Ellington was shown
in the ease with which he moved in and out and around different styles
and types of music, so Carmichael has defied stereotypes by moving back
and forth between sacred and secular music.
A pastor's son, Carmichael lived in Illinois and North Dakota before
moving with his family to southern California in his teens. Carmichael's
father encouraged his musical talents, paying for private lessons
beginning at the age of four and letting him venture into a variety of
instruments. And he never censored his son's interest in popular as well
as classical and gospel music.
In 1944 Carmichael enrolled in Southern California Bible College. While
in college, he began appearing on a local television station leading a
big band playing gospel tunes on a show called "The Campus Christian
Hour," and won an early Emmy in 1949. After graduating, he went to work
as musical director at an L.A. Baptist church, and began a long-standing
partnership with World Wide Pictures, the motion picture arm of Billy
Graham's crusades. By the late 1970s, Carmichael had scored over 20
feature films for the studio, including "His Land," a 1970 drama
starring born again British rock star Cliff Richard.
The early World Wide scores were recorded at Capitol Records' studios in
Hollywood, and in the late 1950s, Carmichael began taking jobs
arranging, composing, and conducting for some of Capitol's top artists.
One of his earliest works was a Christmas album with Nat King Cole that
became one of the biggest sellers of that seasonal genre. Over the next
few years, Carmichael wrote and arranged tunes for Ella Fitzgerald ,
Bing Crosby, Sue Raney, Rosemary Clooney, Perry Como, Jack Jones,
Debbie Reynolds, Peggy Lee and others. He even served as the
musical director for "I Love Lucy" in the show's waning years and
composed for "Bonanza" and "The Danny Kaye Show." He also became
acquainted with another Capitol artist, Stan Kenton, who had a similar
disregard for genre stereotypes.
Throughout the 1960s, Carmichael also
worked with one of the decade's most successful space age pop
performers, pianist Roger Williams. He arranged over 20 albums for
Williams and earned a gold record credit for "Born Free." Williams'
label, Kapp, even signed Carmichael to record one of his very few pop
albums under his own name, Man With a Load of Music.
Yet all these music credits are dwarfed by the range and size of his
work in Christian music. He has written and recorded with virtually
every type of ensemble imaginable, from large choirs and string
orchestras to rock combos, from big bands to to Moog synthesizer to
small acapella groups. He has composed songs, hymns, carols, symphonies,
chorales, and suites. Several of his hymns have become standards--"He's
Everything to Me" has been recorded by Elvis and other pop singers.
Carmichael composed the popular hymn "The Savior Is Waiting and classic
songs like, "There Is A Quiet Place", and "Love Is Surrender". His
folk-rock Christian church musicals of the late 1960s played a major
role in the introduction of pop music styles into Christian music and
church services. During the 1960s he helped pioneer the rise of
contemporary gospel music by adding elements of contemporary pop, jazz,
and folk music to traditional gospel arrangements, and through his own
Light Records label gave boosts to the careers of Andrae Crouch, the
Winans, Walter and Tramaine Hawkins, Bryan Duncan and others.
Beginning in 1990, Carmichael served as
musical director for The Young Messiah, the highest-grossing Christian
musical tour ever mounted during the latter part of the decade After the
Young Messiah Tour, Carmichael returned to the big band format and
recorded a number of CDs containing jazz arrangements of popular
gospel tunes with, "The Ralph Carmichael Big Band" on the Brentwood
label. He won a Dove Award for “Instrumental Album of the Year” for his
1994 release, "Strike Up the Band". In recent recordings he has returned
to the music of the jazz swing era with several recording projects
including 1999's The Big Band Gospel Classics and Big Band Christmas.
Currently Ralph continues to create
music: "I don't know how many notes I've got left in my pencil, but I
know I want them used to glorify God and present His message to the
world." Ralph is keeping his pencil extremely busy working on four new
Hymn recordings for the London Symphony Orchestra! He is still arranging
Big Band charts as well as a limited amount of appearances with his own
Big Band (a select group of players from Southern California.)
Hear the Ralph Carmichael Interview
with CJA Network Founder David Arivett
Here's a few audio samples of Ralph
Carmichaels Compositions, Arrangements, and Big Band Recordings!
He's Everything To Me
Reach Out To Jesus
The Savior Is Waiting
To purchase recordings of
Ralph's Big Band CD's visit here!
To contact Ralph
regarding a Big Band Concert or a Symphony Concert in your community
please contact us via email at this address: