Beloved Saxophonist Ralph Carney Dies at 61


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An Akron native, saxophonist and multi-instrumentalist Ralph Carney's career stretches back to the mid-'70s when he played with local proto-punks Tin Huey. During his 30-plus years of playing, Carney performed with the likes of Elvis Costello, the B-52's, Les Claypool and They Might Be Giants.

Most famously, he was Tom Waits' sax man on classic albums like Rain Dogs, Bone Machine and Mule Variations.

Sadly, Carney, who lived in Portland, Oregon, passed away over the weekend. He was 61. He had just played a Portland club last week with the band Smut City Jellyroll Society.

Former bandmates, friends and fans have posted their heartfelt condolences  on Carney's Facebook page, suggesting the degree to which the very friendly and funny musician was beloved.

"There's the bad swing bands, and then there's the Wynton Marsalis super-super-precious re-creations," he said of his musical interests in a Scene interview from 2011. "I'm somewhere in the middle, I guess. I like avant-garde and [Captain] Beefheart and stuff that stretches boundaries. But I also like things that give me goosebumps. The songs we play do that to me. I can see people who aren't really listening, thinking, 'Oh, they're just another Big Bad Voodoo Daddy,' It's not that at all. Some of it's the same kind of music, but nobody's required to wear vintage clothes."

Carney inspired his nephew Patrick, one-half of the Black Keys, and played flute on the Keys' 2008 album Attack & Release. He and Patrick also wrote the theme song for Bojack Horseman together, and Carney participated in several Tin Huey reunion shows over the years.


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