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


Carpenters and Jerry Moss, signing first A&M contract, April 22, 1969At first, they again found that not one of the record companies were interested in the tapes they made, but eventually, through a circuitous route, the recordings ended up with the co-founder of A&M Records, Herb Alpert. By 1969, Alpert was the world-famous trumpeter and leader of the hugely successful Tijuana Brass. He was also the “A” in the lively record company A&M. As he played one of the hundreds of tapes that landed on his desk every week from hopeful artists, one that featured Karen Carpenter’s voice struck an emotional chord: it reminded him of his high school teens, of Patti Page singing down to him from speakers in the trees in a garden when he was visiting Lake Arrowhead, California. “I remember staring up at the speakers thinking Patti Page’s voice was in my lap. It had so much presence.

Carpenters with Herb Alpert, Anaheim Convention Center January 1972 “The first note I heard from this tape was Karen’s voice. And I had that same feeling. My mind went back to the speaker system on that tree. It felt like her voice was on the couch, like she was sitting next to me. It was full and round, and it was … amazing….. This voice was buzzing into my body, and it was the way they presented it.”

With his partner, Jerry Moss, Alpert had begun A&M in 1962 with two parallels to the Carpenters’ route to his door. He had begun the Tijuana Brass in his makeshift garage studio, just as they had experienced with Joe Osborn; and, like Karen and Richard, Alpert had once been signed unsuccessfully to RCA Records – in his case, as a singer. His suggestion that he play trumpet for the label was rejected. These coincidences were not known to either party as the tape wended its circuitous way to Alpert’s desk in early 1969.

As well as heralding new rock sounds, Alpert and Moss valued a backbone of songwriters of pure pop single hits, and two notable Americans were also inside the A&M fold: Burt Bacharach, who with his partner, Hal David, composed a string of golden hits for singer Dionne Warwick; and Paul Williams, an introspective writer who sang his own lovelorn material co-written with his partner, Roger Nichols, also an A&M artist. Alpert and Moss had thus created a highly individualistic label. It was not challenging such giants as Capitol and Warner Brothers, but it had panache. And it had an asset at the helm which all the musicians respected: Alpert, a natural trumpeter and performer who empathized with the artistic temperament.

The Carpenters tape that he heard had an impressive multi-harmony sound achieved by Richard and Karen in Osborn’s garage studio. The three songs featured, Your Wonderful Parade, Don’t Be Afraid, and Invocation, represented not trendy rock but straight forward popular music. Alpert, fortunately, always had an ear for talent beyond what he called “the beat of the week.” In love with the voice, the harmonies, and the arrangements, he decided immediately to offer them a deal.

On April 22, 1969, Richard and Karen went to the office of Jerry Moss to sign the contract. Since Karen was at nineteen legally underage, once again her parents had to countersign for her.

Over the moon with excitement at a record deal, they now faced one worrying hurdle – that signed contract with J. Walter Thompson to tour the United States to hammer across “The Going Thing” commercials. Giving up fifty thousand dollars each plus a car was not palatable, but a disc career promised longevity and there was no serious choice. There would be no time to tour and launch a record career. With some persuasion from Tom Bahler, the agency let them out of the pact, to Richard’s surprise, relief and appreciation.


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Last Updated June 4, 2008
May 2004  © Richard Carpenter

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