Ralph Carmichael


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!

Here's a few audio samples of Ralph Carmichaels Compositions, Arrangements, and Big Band Recordings!

He's Everything To Me     

Quiet Place  

Reach Out To Jesus  

The Savior Is Waiting

Big Band Swing Classics Vol. 1

Strike Up The Band

David Boyer - The Swing Sessions  Ralph Carmichael Big Band



Other Recordings!


Ralph Carmichael and Friends Live



To purchase recordings of Ralph's Big Band CD's visit  here!

To contact Ralph Carmichael:

For information regarding a Big Band Concert or a Symphony Concert in your community please contact us via email at this address:



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