Little Girl Blue

Little Girl Blue by Randy L. Schmidt Read Free Book Online

Book: Little Girl Blue by Randy L. Schmidt Read Free Book Online
Authors: Randy L. Schmidt
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    Richard met trumpet major Dan Friberg, a junior college transfer, in choir during the fall of 1965. The two had several other classes together including music history and counterpoint, and Richard began to call upon Friberg when he needed a trumpet player for the trio’s weekend gigs. “Karen was the drummer and didn’t sing at all yet,” Friberg recalls. “She was listening to Louie Bellson and Buddy Rich. Those were some of her idols. I remember going into her room at their house, and she had pictures on the wall of all these great drummers. Her goal was to be as good as they were. She was great then, by all I could tell, but not good enough for her.” Friberg became a recurring soloist with the Richard Carpenter Trio. “We had a girl vocalist named Margaret Shanor,” he recalls. “With Karen strictly drumming at this point, Margaret fronted the group.”

    I T WAS not until 1966 that Karen came into her full voice. Although she had always sung in tune, her voice had lacked vibrato and any real depth or presence. It was mostly a light falsetto with a noticeable break between her lower and higher registers. “ I can’t really remember why I started to sing,” Karen said in 1975. “It just kind of happened. But I never really discovered the voice that you know now—the low one—until later, when I was sixteen. I used to sing in this upper voice, and I didn’t like it. I was uncomfortable, so I think I would tend to shy away from it because I didn’t think I was that good. And I wasn’t.”
    Karen deplored the sound of her tape-recorded voice at first but continued to experiment with her abilities as a singer. “ It’s kind of corny to listen back,” she recalled. “We had an original recording ofone of Richard’s songs that I’d sung, and the range was too big. I’d be going from the low voice to the high voice, and even though it was all in tune, the top part was feeble and it was different. You wouldn’t know it was me. Then suddenly one day out popped this voice, and it was natural.”
    Richard soon introduced Karen to his college choir director, Frank Pooler, with whom she began taking voice lessons every Saturday morning. This would be the only formal vocal training she would ever receive. “We’d have a half-hour or forty-five-minute voice lesson,” Pooler says. “She always had her drums with her in the car. From there Richard would take her over to study with Bill Douglass in Hollywood.” The lessons with Pooler focused on both classical voice study and pop music. The first half was devoted to art songs by Beethoven, Schumann, and other composers. During the last half Karen would sing the new songs Richard had written. “Karen was a born pop singer,” Pooler says. “She wasn’t particularly interested in that other stuff, but she had to do it to get into school.”
    Unlike Richard, who practiced endlessly, Karen rarely, if ever, rehearsed between her lessons with Pooler. Concerned that their money might be better spent somewhere else, the Carpenter parents met with her teacher to inquire about Karen’s progress. “The folks were very supportive of both of them, but they weren’t rich. I was getting paid five bucks an hour for those lessons, and they finally came up to see if Karen was getting her money’s worth!”
    Pooler told Karen her voice was “arty” and “natural” and discouraged the idea of subjecting it to any sort of intense vocal training. “ He heard this voice and he wouldn’t touch it,” Karen said in 1975. “He said I should not train it . . . and the only thing I did work with him on was developing my upper register so I would have a full three-octave range. . . . Something else you don’t think about is being able to sing in tune. Thank God I was born with it! It’s something

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