Karen Carpenter on the Drums is Amazing
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Karen Carpenter was best known for her hauntingly beautiful singing voice, but she considered herself a "drummer who sang."
Karen first became fascinated with the drums after joining the high school marching band to get out of gym class. She persuaded the band director to let her switch from glockenspiel to the drums, despite warnings that "girls don't play drums." Carpenter recalled, "That is such an overused line, but I started anyway. I picked up a pair of sticks, and it was the most natural-feeling thing I've ever done." She learned the drums surprisingly quickly.
Her first drum teacher was a boy in the drumline obsessed with Buddy Rich. Later, she studied with Bill Douglass, a drummer for Benny Goodman and Art Tatum. At the age of 16, she drummed jazz instrumentals with her pianist brother in the Richard Carpenter Trio, winners of the 1966 Hollywood Bowl Battle of the Bands. Earlier the same year, Karen had scored a solo record contract, but the label folded after releasing only one of her singles. In 1968, the Richard Carpenter Trio also won on "Your All-American College Show," this time with Karen singing as well as drumming. In 1969, the Carpenters released their first album, and thanks to 1970's "Close to You," they became superstars.
In the early years, Karen stayed behind the drums and sang at the same time, but was pressured to give up her beloved drums to sing front and center, at least on the ballads.Her skills were complimented by drummers Hal Blaine, Cubby O'Brien, Modern Drummer magazine, and even Buddy Rich himself.