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.
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
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