‘Happy Days’ Star Don Most Always Knew He Wanted to Sing
Don Most is a legend. Not only did he play the beloved Ralph Malph on Happy Days but he is an accomplished musician, too! His newest single, “(I Love the Way) My Baby Sings the Blues,” offers a feel-good, toe-tapping, nostalgic beat that warms the heart.
The Brooklyn-raised Most, now 69, was perhaps destined for stardom from the start. He attended the prestigious Erasmus High, which is the alma mater for some other big names in the entertainment world, as well. “When I was going there, they had upwards of 8,000 people. Barbra Streisand, Neil Diamond, Clive Davis, famous ball players, and many others went to Erasmus High,” Most shares. “In terms of music, they had a program called Sing, where each grade would put on an original show with music. It was a competition that I participated in for two of the years that I went there. I always knew I wanted to sing.”
Here Don Most answers more of our questions on his music, his new Western Far Haven and what he wish he took from the set of Happy Days.
What inspired you to create your jazz album? Can you tell us more about it?
About 5 years ago, I came out with an album called D Most Mostly Swinging (Amazon). It was with an 18-piece big band and strings and it came out great. Shortly after releasing that album, I was introduced to a well-known producer in Nashville named Tony Mantor. We met and decided to do a more contemporary jazz configuration and feel for this next album. Tony brought in a great rhythm section of musicians from the Nashville area, and I was really happy with how it came out.
The second single that I just released is “(I Love the Way) My Baby Sings the Blues” (Spotify). It is a great song with a jump blues feel. The musicians did an amazing job at it and pulled me right into the groove for the vocals. It’s been getting a lot of airplay on the radio!
Are any tours in the works?
We’re looking into getting some live dates soon. Right now, we’re not looking at a full tour but scouting locations and dates after the full album is released. Stay tuned!
Can you tell us about this upcoming Western film you star in that we heard about?
Far Haven is the name of the project and it was very exciting for me! I have never done a western before, and Big Indie Pictures from North Carolina asked me to be part of it after I worked on a film with them last year called County Line: No Fear. For Far Haven, we shot on a set in Arizona in the middle of open land. With the wardrobe, the set, and the look of the mountains around me, I felt like I went back in time. All of the actors were wonderful to work with, and I’m looking forward to seeing the finished film when it comes out later this year.
Ralph Malph was such an iconic and beloved sitcom character (and still is!). I’m sure you get asked this a lot but people love to know little nuggets about some of our favorite episodes and why, could you share a few and what makes you smile thinking about them?
People ask me this a lot and it is hard to pick episodes. There are so many that stand out, but for me, it was an episode near the beginning of the third season when we started filming in front of a live audience. The episode was called “Motorcycle,” and it was the first one that featured my character specifically. In the first few seasons, my character was growing and became more integral with Richie (Ron Howard), Potsie (Anson Williams) and Fonzie (Henry Winkler), but this was the first episode where the storyline was around Ralph.
The episode focuses on Fonzie’s motorcycle getting demolished and he was out to get the person who did it. In the episode, Ralph panics and drives back and forth to destroy it completely and fears for his life that Fonzie would find out. I really got into my character and prepared heavily for that episode.
There are so many others that were funny it’s hard to mention all of them. Some of my fondest memories are conversations between scenes or during breaks in rehearsals. I remember connecting well with everyone and collaboration was great between the actors and the writers and producers.
With such an ensemble cast, who did you bond with first?
In the very beginning, Henry (Winkler) and I became very close and the network sent us out on a publicity tour together. Henry, Ron, Anson, me, and others all bonded together. After awhile, Ron (Howard) and I became tight. We both share a love of baseball and other sports and have a lot in common. Then later, Anson and I became very close. It was really like a family and we all got along famously.
Ron was already pretty established having played Opie – did you ever talk about your shared red hair as young teens? Could you share a little about your off-screen life with your Happy Days family?
The funny thing about working with Ron was that when I was a kid growing up in Brooklyn, people would call me Opie. People would kid me about it because of my red hair and similar features. When I stepped on set the first day, it was so surreal for me to meet him. I went right up to Ron and was very enthusiastic about it. He probably thought I was crazy but that changed quickly and we became good friends.
We did a lot of things together off-camera as a cast. Our director, Jerry Paris, would have parties and we would all play charades at his house. Then, Garry Marshall – the creator of Happy Days – started a softball team and we would play charity games before major league baseball games with the local radio stations. Getting to play on those fields and hanging out with the pro players was like a fantasy camp. As a group, we would fly out together and do everything together. It was above and beyond.
Did you ever try on Fonzie’s leather jacket or was that off-limits?
No, I never did. I don’t know whether it was off-limits or not. It never occurred to me to try it on. Given our relationship, I think Henry would have been cool with it.
What’s your relationship with Henry like today?
We are great friends. We don’t get a chance to see each other as much as we would like, but we stay in touch by email and phone and we get together for lunch in Los Angeles once in a while. Everybody is busy doing different things so it can be hard but we’re still connected.
Are you watching Barry?
I have watched several episodes and thought Henry was incredible. I have not seen all of the episodes yet, but I’m actually planning to binge-watch them soon. He’s great in that role. Henry tears it up!
Tell us about your final episode shooting Happy Days – as you and Ron left that same season – what was the day like for you? What do you wish you took from the set (or have from the set)?
At the time, when we shot the final episode of the seventh season, we didn’t know it would be the last one. It wasn’t until the hiatus, between the seasons, that those decisions were made. Our contract had come up and it was time to decide whether or not to renew. For various reasons, Ron wanted to pursue directing and I wanted to move on from playing the same character.
I wanted to have a career where I could continue to act in a wide variety of roles and didn’t want to be typecast. There were only three networks back in that day and you would be more associated with a role if you were on it for a long time. Creatively, it was time to move on too. We didn’t know it was the last episode. If I had known I would have taken some of the wardrobe, maybe my letterman jacket, maybe something from Arnold’s. I didn’t have that opportunity.
Which Happy Days costars do you stay in touch with? I saw that you supported Anson Williams‘ run for mayor.
Anson and I are still very close. We are best friends and he’s the one that I speak with on a regular basis. We see each other regularly and we talk all the time. I did support him in his run for mayor and it was interesting to me. I was very impressed with how he handled himself during the campaign and the results were very close – down to just a few votes. He feels like he can still do a lot in the community.
Besides working, how do you like to spend your free time these days?
I don’t have much free time right now. My wife, Morgan, and I love to spend time with our kids, go hiking in nature, and I like to play golf. It’s one of those activities that is a great escape for me and I hope to do more of that soon. And, the music of course! It’s kind of work-related but I love to work on things even when I don’t have shows planned. I hope you have a chance to listen to “(I Love the Way) My Baby Sings the Blues” and the rest of the album when it comes out later this year.