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


After two years of battling for a breakthrough, the summer of 1968 came with a flurry of activity that brought them an escalator to success.

It was the height of the Vietnam War, and Richard, heavily draftable, had been granted a student deferment, which meant he could stay at the university at Long Beach. There he heard of a new national TV program, ‘Your All American College Show,’ for which talent scouts auditioned acts on campuses. Those selected went to Hollywood to tape the show before a celebrity judging panel. Broadcast nationally, the much-vaunted show was sponsored by Colgate-Palmolive and produced by the prominent radio and commercial announcer Wendell Niles. If they succeeded in getting on that show, the publicity value would be enormous.

With Karen at the drums, Richard at the piano, and a talented bassist, Bill Sissyoev, recruited specially, they auditioned at CSULB in spring 1968 with a short medley of Dancing in the Street and The Shadow of Your Smile. Featuring technically difficult piano solos interjected by Richard to show off his ability, along with Karen’s singing talent and drum solo, they easily outstripped the other acts. They were accepted by “Your All American College Show,” appearing as the trio three times that year. In all, the trio won $3,500; Richard also won $3,500 for his subsequent solo performances, and the public exposure was a valuable fillip.

Another triumph followed quickly. What was at that time still the subculture of rock and pop music was beginning to be projected in television commercials. Richard was phoned by John Bahler, who, with his brother Tom, had a group called Love Generation. The Bahler brothers, hired by the advertising agency J. Walter Thompson, had seen Karen and Richard on “Your All American College Show”. That firm’s client, Ford Motor Company, wanted to augment the Bahler brothers’ group (by now called The Going Thing after the current Ford campaign) to help generate interest in Ford and also to promote an upcoming new car, the Maverick.

Auditioning about two hundred acts in New York and another two hundred at Sunset Sound in Hollywood, the Bahlers were impressed with the energy and musicality of Richard and Karen – and in early 1969 they were signed to a contract worth initially a gigantic fifty thousand dollars each annually plus a special Mustang car each.

Richard and Karen were elated at the prospect of this windfall. At last, it seemed, their worth was being recognized.

Still, a record deal eluded them, and for all their talent and activity, the only real recognition as popular artists would come from seeing and hearing their music tearing up the best-selling record charts. That was the only real yardstick of success.


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Last Updated June 4, 2008
May 2004  © Richard Carpenter

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