John Ralph Fraser
July 3, 1925 – February 24, 2018
John Ralph Fraser (pianist, organist, vibraphonist, composer and arranger) was born on July 3, 1925 in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, Canada. Ralph was passionate about music and through that passion, he was able to enjoy a long, rewarding and successful career in music. Ralph’s journey started in 1946 when he moved to Toronto to study at the Toronto Conservatory of Music. He achieved his Associateship Degree by 1947. Ralph met several leading musicians while jamming around Toronto and was able to get work with Bob Kinsman’s Band, playing at the Aragon in Peterborough. After several years, Ralph returned to Toronto and joined a group at the Winchester Hotel – they were broadcast over CKEY twice a week. Throughout the 1950s, Ralph performed solo gigs in bars and restaurants. He worked with the CBC Jazz Unlimited Band and did various radio shows with them playing the piano, vibes and organ. It was at this time that he joined Cliff McKay’s TV program Holiday Ranch, performing on the piano, vibes and electric organ. He was called “Flying Fingers Fraser” by his peers. In the early 1960s, Ralph graduated from bars to hotels and from solo/trio gigs to bands. In 1967, he formed a two piano team with Patricia L’Heureux and they played at The Westbury Hotel in the Sky Lounge. Ralph then joined the Spring Thaw show and toured for six months all over Canada. Throughout his career, Ralph has played with some of the biggest names on the Canadian and international jazz scenes – on stage at Massey Hall, CBC, Chick ‘n’ Deli, Bourbon Street, Dooley’s, King Edward and the Walker House. He was also the pianist-arranger with the famed Moxie Whitney Orchestra in the Royal York Hotel’s Imperial Room for many years. Starting in 1973, Ralph was hired as the organist for the Toronto Maple Leaf hockey games. The next 10 years found him working at sporting events – continuing to play the organ for the Toronto Maple Leafs, plus the Toronto Blue Jays and the Toronto Argonauts. In between times he played the organ at the CNE horse show. In the mid-1980s, Ralph joined the Jim Galloway Group for a couple of jazz cruises on the Holland American ships. He later had a gig on the Noordam cruise ship as a solo pianist and then worked his way up to the Musical Director on that ship. In 1989, Ralph started his own 8-piece group and played on the Crown Odyssey cruise ship which sailed the Mediterranean, Atlantic and Pacific for four months. In the 1990s, Ralph was invited to join the Canadian Tribute to Glenn Miller Band. Also during this time, he was the pianist with Jim Galloway’s Wee Big Band as well as the featured pianist in three South of Toronto Jazz concerts at the Ontario Science Centre. He performed for the Du Maurier Jazz Festival and then accepted another cruise job on the Norwegian Crown for four months in South America. Ralph was a member of the Toronto Musicians’ Association and recently celebrated 70 years of membership in 2017. Music was his passion and he was lucky and talented enough to make a good living with it. Well, all good things must come to an end. Ralph passed away peacefully on Saturday, February 24, 2018 in his 93rd year with his loyal and loving partner Joyce Davison by his side. Ralph’s memory will carry on in the hearts of his children Cathy, John (Angela) and Rick (Doris) Fraser; grandchildren Mackenzie, Mitchell, Molly and Charlotte; and his brother Allister Fraser. Predeceased by his brother Allan and by his parents Catherine and John Fraser. Ralph’s musical talent, his amazing sense of humour and his lightning fast wit, will be lovingly remembered by his family, friends and musical peers.