According to Matt Sebastion of the Boulder Daily Camera, “If it wasn’t for Ralph Sharon, crooner Tony Bennett might never have left his heart in San Francisco.” Sharon was born in London in 1923, the son of an American woman who moved to England and married a British man. After moving to the United States, his mother was a pianist who provided accompaniment for silent movies in New York and his father owned a laundry.
Sharon began listening to records by pianists Fats Waller, Art Tatum and Earl Hines. During his late teens, his mother entered him in talent competitions, and he performed at weddings and other events. In his spare time, Sharon wrote music reviews for the now-defunct Melody Maker Magazine. His writing skills would later lead Sharon to pen liner notes for Bennett, and co-author a book about the singer’s paintings.
At age 23, Sharon got his first break--a spot in Ted Heath’s big band, considered one of the premier swing-era orchestras in 1950s England. He would spend four years as Heath’s pianist. One day in 1956, Sharon got a phone call from a rising Pop sensation named Tony Bennett. “I have to admit, I was so steeped in Jazz that I didn’t really know his music,” Sharon says. “But I went to meet him and he asked me to play a few things. Just on a handshake, I ended up being his musical director.” Hiring Sharon “was one of the best career moves I’ve ever made,” Bennett has said.