Ralph Records was an independent record label founded by Residents, Uninc. in 1972. In 1976, management of the company was taken over by The Cryptic Corporation, who proceeded to lead it into a period of success from the late 1970s to the mid 1980s.
Ralph Records ceased functioning officially in 1988, though it has since operated in various forms and guises intermittently to the present day. Its current incarnation is New Ralph Too, founded in 2017.
Founding by Residents, Uninc. (1972-1976)
In 1972, the group known as Residents, Uninc. moved from their small apartment in San Mateo, California, to a two-floor studio space on Sycamore Street in San Francisco. Shortly after, the group founded an independent record label, Ralph Records, the name being derived from the colorful phrase "calling Ralph on the porcelain telephone".
After releasing their first album Meet The Residents to little attention in 1974, The Residents decided they wanted to focus solely on their recording projects. To this end, they unincorporated themselves as Residents, Uninc., handing the day to day operations of Ralph over to four friends; Homer Flynn (who had already operated the group's graphic design wing, Porno Graphics, for some years), Hardy Fox (the primary engineer of their recordings), Jay Clem and John Kennedy.
The four also assisted The Residents with their work on the troubled film production Vileness Fats, directing, building sets, and acting in various roles until the project was abandoned completely in 1976.
Founding of The Cryptic Corporation (1976-1977)
Shortly before the abandonment of Vileness Fats and the release of The Residents' third album The Third Reich 'n Roll in 1976, The Cryptic Corporation was formed by Flynn, Fox, Clem and Kennedy, to manage The Residents, operate Ralph, and pursue other business interests (as well as act as a tax haven for the independently wealthy Kennedy).
One of the Cryptics' first actions as managers of Ralph was to move The Residents and Ralph Records out of the Sycamore Street studio to a larger warehouse at 444 Grove Street in Hays Valley. They hired more employees for Ralph, and found other artists to sign to the label. The first artists other than The Residents to release music on Ralph Records were Schwump with the single "Aphids In The Hall", featuring production and musical accompaniment by The Residents, in 1976) and The Residents' frequent collaborator Snakefinger, who released a single, "The Spot" in 1978, followed by an album, Chewing Hides The Sound in 1979. Both releases were also produced by The Residents.
Peak success (1977-1988)
In February 1977, Ralph published a catalog listing albums, singles, and merchandise (including Meet The Residents t-shirts and the limited edition Third Reich 'n Roll box set). It included a small card which the customer could return to the label to get information on upcoming releases. The catalog was a success, with Ralph having to reprint it in April due to the demand. By that time, there were no copies of Santa Dog, "Satisfaction" or "Aphids in the Hall" left in stock.
The second catalog came out in August and featured the new single The Beatles Play The Residents and The Residents Play The Beatles. Ralph also made up a Residents sampler called Please Do Not Steal It! which they mailed out to about 850 radio stations, increasing their air play, and arranged a Residents Radio Festival on KBOO-FM in Portland, Oregon, which helped promote awareness of the band.
At its peak from the late 1970s until the mid 1980s, Ralph boasted a large stable of respected, experimental artists other than The Residents, including Renaldo & The Loaf, Fred Frith, Tuxedomoon, and Yello.
New Ralph, Ralph America and Euro Ralph (1983-1993)
Ralph Records ceased operation as a proper independent record label in 1988 after being managed for a few years by Tom Timony.
Revival and New Ralph Too (2010-present)
Ralph Records operated again briefly from 2010 to 2011. It was then dormant again until 2017, when it reappeared as New Ralph Too following the retirement of Hardy Fox from The Cryptic Corporation in 2016 and his sale of his part of the company to Cherry Red Records and MVD Audio.
List of releases
- 20 Sycamore Street, San Francisco (1972-1976)
- 444 Grove Street, San Francisco (1976-1984)
- 109 Minna Street, San Francisco (1984-1988)
- The Cryptic Corporation
- Pore Know Graphix
- Buy! Or Die
- Ralph America
- Psycho-Acoustic Sounds
- Euro Ralph
- New Ralph Too
- Psychofon Records
- Cherry Red Records
- MVD Audio