Something of a prodigy, his music career began when, while still in high school, he signed the first of two recording contracts with CBS Records.
Leaving music for a while, he took over the job once held by R. Crumb at the American Greetings card company back in his native Cleveland.
Transferring to live comedy, he formed a team with Phil Baron and, as Willio and Phillio, they became Midwestern favorites, with radio shows and a regular gig on PM Magazine. Songs they recorded on the 'Wizard' label included "All Winter Long", "The Cleveland Stroll", "It Sure Feels Like Love" and the holiday-themed "Hail to Thee O' Christmas Tree" and "Christmas Roundelay". Ryan and Baron later paired up again voicing characters of best friends Teddy Ruxpin (Baron) and Grubby the Octopede (Ryan) in the Teddy Ruxpin book & tape series as well as the 1987 television show The Adventures of Teddy Ruxpin.
Willio and Phillio brought Ryan back into the field of music and after relocating to California, he began to write and record wacky songs for Disney, becoming one of its most popular and versatile voice actors. He provided the voice of Rabbit, Tigger, and Eeyore in the Disney Channel's Welcome to Pooh Corner and in many other Pooh cartoons. He also portrayed the voice of Barnaby the Dog on Dumbo's Circus among many others. Since 1988 he has provided the voice of Eugene Meltsner (and other characters: Harlow Doyle, Officer O'Ryan, Officer David Harley, etc.) for the Focus on the Family radio series Adventures in Odyssey.
He appeared in the film The Wizard of Speed and Time as several different motion picture Union representatives, making use of his unique vocal talents.
He is the current voice of Elmo Aardvark, who has been reputed, in a series of magazine articles and elsewhere, to have been created by his grandfather and to predate Mickey Mouse. There was a successful Internet cartoon series featuring the character, called Elmo Aardvark: Outer Space Detective and there have been several Elmo Aardvark CDs.
Ryan's youthful involvement in the pop music field has continued alongside his animation career. Ryan compositions have been recorded by artists such as Diane Schuur, Victoria Jackson, The Pointer Sisters and Joanie Sommers (who he also produced).
With Andrew J. Lederer and Michael Rosenberg (Jackie Diamond), Ryan performed in the '20s-style music and comedy trio, The Merry Metronomes. He and Lederer also appeared from time to time as a duo, usually under the name The Natty Nabobs.
After a period mostly spent working elsewhere, Ryan has once again become a frequent Disney voice artist.