The Carpenter family moved to Downey, Ca. in June of 1963. Harold was 56 years old and felt his family would have a better life out west and that Richard, then 16, would have more options with his music. Karen was 13 years old and starting a new school. When she was asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, she would answer either a nurse or a stewardess. Those two professions were very popular during that time.
The Carpenters first moved to the Shoji Apartments (Now The Pinecrest Apts) in Downey, CA since money was tight since their home back in New Haven, CT had not yet sold. They moved into unit #22 of the Shoji complex. A few months later they moved across the walkway to a larger apartment, #23. (Shoji (now Pinecrest Apt) Apartments, 12020 Downey Avenue, Downey, CA)
In November Harold Carpenter was able to move his family to their first single-family residence in Downey — a “storybook house” (as Richard called it) on Fidler Avenue in South Downey, near the city’s borders with Paramount and Bellflower. The Carpenters lived in the Fidler Avenue house until 1971. (IF ANYONE HAS A PHOTO OF THIS PLEASE CONTACT ME.) This is where the Carpenter events such as Karen’s “Magic Lamp” records were made in 1966, the Richard Carpenter Trio” won “Battle of the Bands” at the Hollywood Bowl in the same summer. They were with RCA Records in the fall of that same year which was short-lived (wow, their loss!). In June 1968 performed on “Your All American College Show” as the “Dick Carpenter Trio”. They would finally sign with A & M Records in Hollywood April 22, 1969. The construction of the 105 freeway would later remove this piece of history.
Karen joined the Downey High School Marching Band to get out of taking gym. Karen did consider herself a ‘tomboy’ because of her athletic abilities and playing with toy machine guns as a kid. But she didn’t care much for gym class. So she asked Richard to help her get into the school band, but she didn’t play an instrument! Richard was able to get her in learning the glockenspiel . The glockenspiel was considered a percussion instrument so Karen marched along with the drum section. She had her eyes on the drums. Once she put the sticks in her hands, it was natural. Next thing, she was asking for a drumset. Of course her parents were a bit “dubious” about this but did buy her a Ludwig set and took some lessons. Within 6 months at age 16 she was playing with such ease and natural born talent.
Here is a transcript of Karen talking about this.
Karen Carpenter: I didn’t like gym. I liked softball and basketball and all that type of stuff, but I DIDN’T like running around a track at 8 o’clock in the morning. ‘Cos running ISN’T one of my gifts, believe me! So Rich said “We’ll get into the marching band!”, and I said “But I don’t play anything”. And he said “That’s no problem – Gifford [the musical director] will let you play the glockenspiel”. So I did, but I didn’t really like it because it’s not a very convenient instrument to play and it’s hard to carry… and it’s always a quarter-step sharp to the band, which used to drive me crazy! But the good thing about it is, the glockenspiel is a percussion instrument, it marches in the percussion line. And I was automatically TAKEN OVER by a love for the drums! I had no idea whether I could play ’em or not, but I wanted to and I was very determined… but the band director said “That’s not really normal”. Of course, all you have to tell me is that something’s not normal and I’ll go for it!! And luckily I had a gift for it, and within a couple of weeks we went out and bought a drum set…
Now a teenager with a drum-set in the house might spell trouble. It was also highly unusual for that teen to be a girl. But as brother Richard explains, they were blessed with exceptional parents.