Ralph Johnson grew up listening to various genres of music as a kid, but he mainly gravitated towards jazz and the popular Motown sound. He remembers watching a local variety show, “The Johnny Otis Show”, and patting his hands together to various beats. His father bought him a pair of drum sticks, which was soon followed by a drum. Soon more drums followed, and he began to take drum lessons.
By 1968 Ralph became involved with a local veteran showcase called, Maverick Splash. He then joined a local band called, The Master’s Children. With that band he vigorously played and honed his drumming skills throughout this formal period.
One night Maurice and Verdine White dropped by and checked out Ralph’s performance; they were impressed. By late 1971, Ralph received a phone call from Michael Beale; Earth, Wind & Fire’s then guitar player. Ralph auditioned with Michael Beale and Verdine White, at Michael’s house in Baldwin Hills.
In 1972 Ralph Johnson joined the legendary band as their drummer-percussionist-vocalist.
In 1972, Earth, Wind & Fire signed with Columbia Records, and hit the music charts with their first single entitled, “Mighty, Mighty”. This was followed by yet another hit, “Shining Star” and “Sun Goddess” (a Ramsey Lewis contribution).
Next, the band explored the arena of film, by creating a soundtrack for the movie entitled, “That’s The Way of The World”. Though the film fell to reach the masses, the music from the soundtrack became an instant commercial hit amongst listeners. The film’s title song, “That’s The Way of The World”, would become the band’s official anthem.
Ralph fondly remembers working with the late co-founder of the band, Charles Stephey, and discussing arrangements and music theory. He further credits Maurice White for influencing the young musicians to keep their minds open by exploring the music possibilities around them.
In 1984, when Earth, Wind & Fire took a hiatus from the music industry, the group members split and began to work on various projects. Ralph Johnson and Al McKay worked with Motown and produced the Temptations hit single, “Treat Her Like A Lady”.
The band re-grouped in 1987, and hit the music charts with the hit single, “System of Survival”. For seven years, the band toured and played many countries around the globe. By 1994, Maurice White decided that he would retire from touring with Earth, Wind & Fire. Maurice White used his creative energy to form Magnetic Visions to began work on in-house Earth, Wind & Fire collaborations, and more studio productions.
With Maurice’s blessing, the newly reformed band took Earth, Wind & Fire on the road without their legendary leader. The fans embraced their arrival with great excitement and anticipation. The band has now incorporated a variety of other musicians and dancers to the show.
After thirty years of performing with the group, Ralph can now be found at center stage. Adding his own brand of slick choreography and smooth vocal stylist artistry to support Earth, Wind & Fire’s signature vocal sound that their fans have grown to love for over the past thirty years.
Ralph is no stranger to the music industry, as his resume reads like a who’s who of music royalty. Besides performing and recording with Earth, Wind & Fire; Ralph has produced and performed on several artists compilations such as: 1978s “Kinsman Dazz” (co-produced), 1978s BLUE MAGIC “Message From The Magic” (played drums), 1981s STANLEY TURRENTINE “Tender Togetherness” (played percussion), 1984s TEMPTATIONS “Truly For You” and “Treat Her Like A Lady” (co-produced), 1993s JOHNNY ADAMS “Good Morning Heartache” (played saxophone), 1993s CHUCK CARBO “Drawers Trouble” (played saxophone), 1994s TEMPTATIONS “Emperors of Soul” (producer and played percussion), 1997s TEMPTATIONS “Ultimate Collection” (producer), and 1998s TAPE BEATLES “Subtle Bouyance of Pulse”.