Introduction      1) Nurtured By Music    2) Turning Point   3) Enter Karen, The Singer   4) Rising Stars  

5) Carpenters Join A&M   6) On The Charts   7) The Carpenters Legacy   8) At A Cost

9) Reaching The TV Special Pinnacle and Other Spectacular Achievements 

10) Last Performance, Continued Success


Carpenter's group Spectrum members, Richard, Leslie Johnston, Danny Woodhams, Karen, and Gary Sims at Sunset Sound, Hollywood, early 1968During this period Richard formed a second musical outfit with sister Karen, who now sang with the marvelous voice millions would soon love. John Bettis was one of its members – as were three more fellow students, Leslie Johnston, Gary Sims and Danny Woodhams. With Carpenter and Bettis writing the bulk of the group’s repertoire and Richard crafting the arrangements, they called themselves Spectrum. This time Richard opted for a vocal approach.

Much of his inspiration came from the harmonies of Mary Ford, the Beach Boys and the Association, but the arrangements were very much Richard’s own. It was the new rock bands, however, that were receiving most of the interest at the time, and Spectrum suffered in consequence. Although they played support dates at such major venues as The Blue Law and The Whisky A-Go-Go, the band was short-lived, and Richard and Karen were soon on their own once more.

It was during this time that Karen saw a doctor about her weight. From her early years she had been chubby and by seventeen and weighing 145 pounds (too much for her height of five feet, four inches), she felt she had endured it long enough. The Stillman diet was prescribed in which Karen had to drink 8 glasses of water daily, avoid all fatty foods, and take some vitamins.

She hated the diet but adopted it rigidly. Meeting Richard and John after their performances at Disneyland, Karen would go on with them to rehearsals. Following these, the group went to Coco’s coffee shop for milk shakes, onion rings, and burgers – food she normally ate voraciously. But she did not sway from her task and lost twenty-five pounds during these six months in 1967 – and stayed at her new weight of around 120 pounds from then until 1973.

The taciturn Joe Osborn was the pivot of the group’s next move. With Richard now believing that his arranging skills, his sister’s singing style, and their overdubbed vocals were the three keys to their future, Joe suggested they return to his studio. There, in mid 1968, recording all the vocals themselves, they cut three tracks, a new composition by Richard, Don’t Be Afraid, and Carpenter-Bettis compositions Your Wonderful Parade and the a cappella Invocation. The results were ‘terrific,’ Richard decided after three sessions. They had hit a winning groove.

“Karen’s sound was there. It was just a matter of the right song, and we were getting close.” He decided boldly that he and Karen would form a new sound of their own, and to hell with fancy names. They would be Carpenters, without the as a prefix, since Richard felt it sounded hipper and in the same style as Buffalo Springfield and Jefferson Airplane.

Although Karen still considered herself primarily a drummer who sang, Richard sensed there was a lot more potential in her vocals. There were to be a number of bumps on their new route to success, but as they now pulled away from the concept of a band sound, luck was to smile on them.

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Last Updated June 4, 2008
May 2004  © Richard Carpenter

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