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In the fall of 1964, Karen was "developing a strong
interest in rhythm." While back in New Haven, her drumming
fingers went unnoticed by her family. At the age of 14, Karen
joined the school band with the help of Richard. She took
up the glockenspiel. It didn't take long for her to take
interest in the drums. Once she picked up the sticks, she
just knew that was what she wanted. She asked her parents
to buy her a set of drums. Karen practiced hours and hours
learning all the beats. Playing the drums came so natural
to her. As her brother would say, "Boy, could she play'em!"
By 1966, The Richard Carpenter Trio were playing for weddings
and dances while polishing up their sound. All the while,
Karen still considered herself a drummer who sings. She felt
this way throughout her life. Wes Jacobs, double bass and
tuba player for the RC Trio, said, "Karen could sing
and play drums at the same time, quite remarkably."
On June 24, 1966, the Trio won "The Battle of the Bands" playing
an instrumental Richard composed called Iced Tea. Named after
Karen and Richard's favorite drink.
Later, Karen was asked to get from behind the drums so people
could see her. She was 5'4" and could barely be seen
over the drum set. So, she would front the group for the
ballads as Richard suggested.
Richard's answer to what Karen played found on his
"Karen immediately liked Ludwig drums. One person she
looked up to was Jim Squeglia, a high school pal in New Haven
who owned a set of Ludwigs. At the time Ludwig, Rogers and
Slingerland were arguably the best, with a couple of people
Karen looked up to playing Ludwigs; Joe Morello who played
with the Dave Brubeck Quartet, and Ringo Starr, who played
with some group who's name I can't quite remember. She was
14 years old, telling my folks she wants to play drums, and
we weren't "in the chips" and were already paying
on the Baldwin. Nevertheless, they bought her an entry-level
Ludwig set. She proved immediately that she could play. What
she really wanted was the big set in silver sparkle (Karen's
original silver sparkle Ludwig set is on display at the Carpenter
Performing Arts Center). It was the full size, two top
toms, with dual floor toms. She liked, of course, Zildjian
cymbals. She also liked the Rogers "high hat",
and a Rogers kick-drum pedal; that's what she always used.
The snare she really wanted, but we couldn't afford, was
the "Supersensitive" top-of-the-line, Ludwig with
adjustable snares, all chrome. We started with getting the
next-to-ultimate, L 400, and she had that a little while,
but soon we all broke down and got her the Supersensitive.
Then of course, as soon as we hit it big it was like a dream
come true in a number of ways. Wurlitzer was sending me every
new model of electric piano for free, and coming out to California
from Illinois bringing the fellow who actually invented the
electric piano, Cliff Anderson, who would do special modifications.
Ludwig was sending Karen every drum set she wanted. It was
really something. So that's what we played!"
Drum set Now!
These are displayed at
Performing Arts Center...
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