Charlie Karp Knows Them Changes

If you’ve read “06880” for a while — or tried to interest me in your Staples High School reunion story — you know I usually don’t post those kinds of articles.

Reunions are a dime a dozen (or at least every 5 years). And every class thinks theirs is the best/tightest/most amazing one ever.

But you also know I’m a sucker for Staples-themed rock ‘n’ roll stories. So this one makes the cut.

When the Class of 1971 met for their 45th reunion this weekend, they (like many other classes) had a live band. This one was very good. It included Grammy winner Brian Keane, Dave Barton, Bill Sims, Rob McClenathan, Julie McClenathan and others.

Among the others: Charlie Karp.

Charlie Karp shares a laugh with Keith Richards. (Photo/Ray Flanigan)

Charlie Karp shares a laugh with Keith Richards. This was not at the Staples reunion. (Photo/Ray Flanigan)

You may know Charlie Karp from his many local bands (including White Chocolate, The Dirty Angels, Slo Leak and the Namedroppers). You may have heard his his work as an Emmy-winning producer of music for sports networks, documentaries, and feature films.

But you may not know his Staples-era back story.

When he was 14 in 1967 — and still a student at Coleytown Junior High School — Charlie’s band opened for the Doors, at their legendary Staples concert.

He was at Fillmore East the next year when it began, and stood on the side of the stage on New Year’s Eve 1969, for the fabled Band of Gypsies concert featuring Jimi Hendrix.

Later that night, 16-year-old Charlie hosted a party at his parents’ Upper West Side apartment. His dad was away — but Hendrix was there.

Not long after, Buddy Miles asked Charlie to play on what became the renowned “Them Changes” album. Charlie contributed an original song — “I Still Love You, Anyway” — and played acoustic guitar.

In April 1970 — while his classmates trudged through junior year — Charlie played with the Buddy Miles Express. They opened for Hendrix at the Los Angeles Forum, in front of a capacity crowd of 18,000.

Charlie Karp (left), playing with the Buddy Miles Express.

Charlie Karp (left) with the Buddy Miles Express.

In 1971, Buddy Miles — with Charlie — opened for Three Dog Night at the Cotton Bowl. That same year Miles recorded a live album with Joe Tex. Charlie joined bassist David Hull (part time Aerosmith player), and a tremendous horn section.

After all these years — there is not enough room here to talk about his career from the 1970s till now — Charlie is still very much a working musician. He teaches guitar and songwriting at his Fairfield studio. He helps his students and other professional musicians produce their own music too.

His latest release — “Endless Home Movie” — is available on iTunes. It comes almost 50 years after his 1st single — “Welcome to the Circle” — with his Fun Band, on ABC Records.

And 45 years after he left Staples, to follow — and reach — his musical dream.

He did not graduate with his class. But he helped make this year’s reunion a very classy one.

(Click here for Charlie Karp’s website.)

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35 responses to “Charlie Karp Knows Them Changes

  1. Hi – Ho lucky to hear Charlie at the reunion! He is still a remarkable guitarist, more now than ever. I was at a Westport event not long ago and heard the dulcet tones of “Little Wing” being played in another room, and I excused myself and slid through the crowd to see who was making this beautiful music. Of course it was Charlie, playing that night with an electric instrumental trio. Like many longtime performers, he spotted my “fan face” (a fan who gets the music) and gave me a nod. We spoke later – I had never met him before – and I heard his back-story. What a treat that he has stayed in our area. Watch for notices of him playing live – he’s about !!!

  2. Jaime Bairaktaris

    The Doors played at Staples? Did I read that correctly?

  3. Charlie’s backstory is really amazing. At a remarkably young age, he not only had a front-row seat to one of the most fascinating and dramatic transformations in rock music, he was literally on stage for a good part of it.

    And, related to that, he has a memoir in progress with a NYC-based writer that I have had the good fortune of reading the opening chapters. It is really entertaining–a truly distinctive rock story.

    PS–the ’71 reunion band also featured Michael Mugrage, another professional musician who has played with Orleans among other prominent bands and artists. I wonder how many high school classes have had three such accomplished musicians.

  4. Good article. Thanks.

  5. Kim P. Sullivan

    I’m so honored to know Charlie. He followed his dream early in life and achieved such heights . It is wonderful to know he’s willing and able to pass on such wonderful advice to the next generation!

  6. Hanne Jeppesen

    Yes, the Doors played at Staples, I was an au pair in 1967 and 1968 with a Westport family, the Rayburns, and I believe their oldest daughter (Jill) went.
    In the spring of 1968 I went to at Staples concert with a date, and although I forgot the name of the band, Eric Clapton was part ot it. Lot’s of wonderful history and memories from some magic years.

    P.S. Dan I wonder if you knew Jill Rayburn, from reading your bio it seems like you would have graduated from Staples the same year?

    • Hi Hanne,

      THANKS. I vaguely recall Jill — but I know the band was either the Yardbirds or Cream. Both played at Staples.

      • Peter Gambaccini

        Clapton was with Cream at Staples. Beck and Page were there with the Yardbirds

        • Between Peter and his brother Paul, they know everything there is to know about rock ‘n’ roll — including (but certainly not limited to) Westport.

  7. Charlie is a cool kinda guy 🙂 I was at that Doors concert and partied with Buddy Miles in Provincetown back in the day. I have fun memories of many nights hanging out with my buddy Margot Johnson, Charlie and David…They lived in Martha Stewarts house on Turkey Hill ( Pre Martha) for awhile and it was a really nice house…
    Margot and I followed them around to lots of shows at CBGB’s, that bar in Norwalk near the hospital…(can’t remember the name)…Player’s Tavern, and others.
    I still have all his albums from White Chocolate, and Dirty Angels as well as his newer stuff. He is one talented guy! BTW, his little brother Tom lived at the Pine Knoll Inn 🙂

  8. The group Eric Clapton was in was Cream…I went to that concert too 🙂 We were so lucky to have so many great groups do concerts for us back then…Of course nobody believes me when I tell them who played at my high school until I show them Dan’s story 🙂

  9. Susan Hopkins

    Another great article, Dan. Nice knowing Charlie has perhaps come full circle via his Fairfield studio where he is “playing” it forward.

  10. Hanne Jeppesen

    Yes of course Cream how could I forget, one of my favorite bands from back then. Funny thing is I didn’t realize Clapton was part of the group until a few years ago I decided to do some research on the internet. I had the date of the concert from a daily journal I kept back then. I came here as a au pair from Denmark in Dec. 1966 I was suppose to stay for a year or 2 at the most, so I treated my time in Westport as another travel adventure and kept an almost daily journal of things we did and the people I met. Well, I’m still in the US (California) but I’m glad I can go back and read about all the wonderful people I met back then and how much fun we had.

  11. Sven Davidson

    How timely to reminisce about this music when 37 years ago today we heard the first guitar licks in Bethel (NY) — Woodstock!

  12. Sven Davidson


  13. Eric Clapton also played Staples when he toured w/ Delaney & Bonnie & Friends. I remember this because my brother (also a friend of Charlie…) who graduated in 1971- did the sound (& possibly the lighting) as he was a tech at Staples (for The Staples Players I think & worked at the radio station there) before graduation. I was a child & saw the concert because of my brother’s involvement. (Meaning my parents dragged me there – from playing in a wood or dolls etc. My father was one of the radio men in town then – in R&R – music industry etc. so they dragged us to a lot of other concerts then also. It’s difficult to remember all of them). Apparently there was an album released (I just looked it up): ‘On Tour with Eric Clapton’ released in March 1970 & recorded in 1969 in England. So they probably played The States & hence Staples – after that (as my brother was a sophomore in 69 & I remember the concert was closer to his graduation in 71).

    I was an Elvis Costello fan in the mid to late 70s & Bonnie Bramlett is the musician / singer who got in a physical altercation w/ EC – after he made a racist remark about Ray Charles. Should anyone wonder who she is… (It was reported – endlessly – that she responded to the remark by punching EC in the face).

    Re. Jill’s comment (Martha Stewart house): Charlie also lived in an old white wooden house (on Weston Road or side street?) behind Glendinning beach where we swam (next to the 1830s mill that housed the Embalming Supply Co… The beach is gone now… It’s a driveway to the renovated beyond recognition ancient mill building… horrifically). I remember because my friend Liz lived in the house across the street from the Embalming Co. (which – for those interested in town history – also had a garage in the side of a hill belonging to the first car owner in town from the early 20th c.). We used to sit in the field across from the beach & we could hear Charlie & his band practising. As both my brother & sister were friends w/ Charlie & his sister – I think that’s how I knew they were renting there & it was them playing.This was in 1973. I was told then that the band was renting & rehearsing there – so perhaps he / they actually lived somewhere else… I think it was White Chocolate (who Dave Marsh said in the first Springsteen biography – was Bruce Springsteen’s favourite band then… White Chocolate was the better known band than the E Street band then… Springsteen used to play their album to the audience between sets…)… but may have been Dirty Angels (in 73… ?).

    Also the Karps – at least their mom & the children – still lived in Westport then. Perhaps only their father had an apartment in NYC (?) – when Charlie went to the City at age 16. He told me recently that he slept in friends’ flats in the Lower East Side (AKA ‘East Village’) then.

    • Btw: The full title of the album was ‘Delaney & Bonnie & Friends: On Tour with Eric Clapton’ (the Wikipedia entry lists it by the second part of title only).

      • Zoe, yes, the apartment in NYC was one that Charlie’s dad had on the Upper West Side at the time of the New Year’s Eve party that Charlie hosted and Jimi attended. Re Delaney and Bonnie at Staples: I’m almost certain Eric Clapton did not appear with them. I was helping out on Mark Smollin’s book, “The Real Rock & Roll High School,” and I don’t recall any mention of that (and, among other things, I had spoken to a close friend who was at that concert and who provided a great anecdote for the book),

  14. As Dan mentioned, Charlie gives guitar lessons. Blues, rock, whatever–he’s your guy. A real talent and a real gentleman.

  15. @ Fred Cantor
    Yes – that’s what I thought – that it must have been Mr.Karp’s (father of Charlie & his siblings) apartment. because Mrs.Karp & the children were still living in Westport. (We were friends w/ various members of the family since the early 60s).

    Also I actually remember seeing Eric Clapton onstage then. (I was about 10). In fact that’s what came to mind as soon as I read the post from the woman who had been an au pair & remembered a Clapton show at Staples (as I’d not known he played there w/ The Yardbirds and/or Cream). Please keep in mind – he wasn’t billed as they were simply billed as ‘Delaney & Bonnie & Friends’. He was a sideman on stage for that whole tour. (A very understated sideman when I saw that show). I remember it was even a bit surprising. I think there were a lot of articles at the time describing this as well (Clapton humbly touring unbilled w/ Delaney & Bonnie). Aside from my own memory of him playing – it’s unlikely he was not there as he was the “& Friends” part. It was an inside (for music fans & musicians) joke at the time: *and a friend* (who just happens to be one of the most famous guitar players in the world) – that was the point of the whole tour. (The album I mentioned earlier was a live album). Time to pull Clapton out from behind a cardboard easel poster – as in the Marshall McLuhan scene in’Annie Hall’ – to ask him the truth. I am not an Eric Clapton fan so it doesn’t matter to me at all. (This is especially true after his infamous racist “WOG” rant – which prompted Rock Against Racism shows in response).

    • @ Fred Cantor
      I even have a sartorial memory from that show: Miss Bonnie Bramlett had short blonde hair & was wearing lowrise brown velveteen trousers… Mr.Clapton (or to some – only my recollection of his imaginary presence) had chin to shoulder length – light brown – straight – center parted hair & very nondescript workingman’s clothing (vs. the dress-up-box attire the whole of Cream sometimes wore in their Carnaby Street shopping days). I only remember these things because I grew up playing Barbie surrounded by music magazines or – as I stated – dragged to concert after concert: children are very impressionable re. what they remember (before all the other flotsam & jetsam invades their lives). I don’t mind either way – re. Clapton. However – and I say this w/ solemnity – if you had told me that I didn’t REALLY see Bowie at New Haven Coliseum in 1976 during the Isolar tour – I would need to self-medicate w/ a glass of red wine.

  16. Margaret Hart Rynshall

    The music from our Reunion Band was sublime, and no wonder. With Charlie and the seasoned talent in that group, how could it not be? So grateful to be among the classmates who experienced the magic!

  17. Camille addario

    Congratulations on another tribute to our amazing Staples creative graduates
    You are the best in sharing our communities
    Acheiments. thank you.
    Camille Addario.

  18. @ Fred Cantor (& others here re. Clapton at Staples)

    6-7 February 1970 | ‘Delaney & Bonnie & Friends w/ Eric Clapton, Wilbert Harrison, Seals & Crofts’

    The above is from a list of all the Filmore East shows. (E.6th St. club in LES NYC). Wilbert Harrison was an R&B singer. Clapton toured w/ Delaney & Bonnie between Blind Faith & going down South to start Derek & the Dominos w/ Mr.Allman. (Re. the Delaney & Bonnie & FRIENDS show at Staples which I saw then).

    • …that I saw Eric Clapton play then.

      • Zoe, you may well have seen him at that concert. But it’s also possible that you have what’s commonly known as a “false memory.” Believe me, I have experienced those too from my youth. And there was one I had for years of seeing Willie McCovey hit a home run on the only occasion I went to Candlestick Park in San Framcisco when I was 13–but it turned out by looking at a couple of box scores and a newspaper decades later I learned it did not happen. (My vivid recollection of Willie Mays’ home run though was accurate!)

        I spoke to a Clapton fan who was at that Staples concert and he has no recollection of Clapton being there. And this concert took place in July 1971, well after Clapton was a regular on the Delaney & Bonnie and Friends tour.

        So maybe you’re right. But, on the other hand, it’s also quite possible he wasn’t playing at Staples on July 30, 1971. And, honestly, I don’t know if it would help if we got in touch with Clapton directly. I did ask a famous musician–who shall remain nameless–what if anything he remembered about his band’s gig at Staples. He had no memory of having played there (and, when you consider the countless gigs they all played, that probably comes as no surprise).

        • Dear Mr.Cantor 🙂

          I just finished writing a response & my phone lost the signal – so Angels may now be reading it… (Which is probably Fate & for the best). I will attempt to recall some of what I wrote here… but not all – as I am now exhausted. (Note time of post).

          As I stated my brother worked on this show whilst at Staples. The date you have given is AFTER his graduation. (Unless he worked on it several months after graduating? Which is completely contrary to my recollection also). Grasping at straws here to be conciliatory: Perhaps there were two concerts – w/ one closer to the Filmore East date early in 1970. (When my brother was still at Staples). The live album btw was recorded in Dec.1969. So the tour was afterward. (Europe first – hence live album – which inc. George Harrison & then the States w/ Clapton after the album). Also when Delaney & Bonnie performed without all the famous sidemen (Harrison & Clapton) they did not use the ‘& Friends’ moniker. So I would think it strange that they would send Mr.Clapton off to become ‘Derek’ w/ Mr.Allman whilst retaining the ‘& friends’. (Stranger things have happened on Earth – but they always performed as simply ‘Delaney & Bonnie’ or later Bonnie by herself as ‘Bonnie Bramlett’).

          Re. Your “false memory” theory. Presumably this occurred for you because you were a fan. (Lovely story btw!). As I explained I was NEVER a fan of Clapton and despite growing up in the music industry and being fans of a lot of other music then (The Beatles – Cat Stevens – R&B – Soul etc.) at age nine/ten – I did not know ANYTHING about Clapton. NOR was I a fan of his later. The same was true for Delaney & Bonnie. Therefore it’s unlikely that a child would cobble together distinct memories of some people that they had NEVER seen nor heard of before… AND really did not fancy during the performance & later (musically… even aside from the “WOG” comment incident. I was one of those Bowie/Eno people). Also… and I don’t want to appear accusatory by putting too fine a point on this – but comparing the memories of musicians in the 60s (& IN their 60s & older now) & in the early 70s to that of a nine/ten year old girl w/ all of her wits sharply about her is really unfair to the musicians!

          However I will concede that apparently neither you nor I nor any of these secret agent musicians you have been interrogating in soundproof rooms has a clue what the absolute truth is… yet. Or rather one of us has a clue – but which of us?

          Lastly I will say whilst this has not been so much fun to feverishly obsess & type about online – it would probably be more fun over some food or wine or coffee etc. (Cafe – Tapas Bar – Sinking Ship…). So perhaps you & the mystery people you mentioned can get together w/ diagrams & flow charts & maps & pins & sort the truth out amongst yourselves. (If not in the above mentioned places – then in the appropriate war room). As I am not a Clapton fan (forgive me Clapton worshippers) I am bowing out of this conundrum.

          • PS: An online list of setlists has the last performance on this tour as 25 April 1970. This is over a year prior to the date you have written… Also Westport is not mentioned but neither are any other smaller cities & towns. NYC is listed & then Boston. At another point Providence is listed. There are no dates for 1971…

  19. I remember going to Charlie’s dads house in Nyack with Margot…? Cream played at Staples on Wednesday March 27th 1968 at 7:30 PM…Ticket price was $3.50 🙂 I still have my stub…

    • Ciao Jill! $3.50 phwahaha. I remember when it seemed like a lot to scrape together $6. or $7. (door price) or $20. (concert)… weighing between a new pair of Levi cords or straight legs ($15./$20.) or bottle French parfum ($20.) OR live music. (My first apartment on the LES in NYC was $160. a month!). I mostly got in on guest lists (cbgb – Mudd Club – Limelight etc.). The only ticket I have is from the David Bowie Isolar tour in 1976 – New Haven Coliseum show. He was arrested just before w/ Iggy Pop (in NY State) for marijuana possession. (He said it wasn’t his – which is believable because straight away afterward he moved to Berlin to stop using cocaine). Anyway – the police came backstage after the show but before the encore – so we had to wait 45 mins. whilst he argued w/ them to let him back onstage to do the encore. This allowed us to be right in front of the stage (as we’d had horrible seats) when he finally came back on – as almost everyone else had already exited. It was perfect <3 Luis Bunuel film before the show <3 <3 I wish I'd kept flyers and posters of musician friends from 80s NYC who later became famous also… and taken loads of photos & kept them. I was always culling things for moving from tiny NY place to other tiny NY place. It was like living on a small ship! (Do I really NEED this ephemera… this memento?)… Bye Jill 🙂

      • PS > Jill:
        Re.Cream: It’s difficult for me to imagine Ginger Baker navigating the old midcentury modern Staples auditorium & buildings… Or those of any high school…

  20. see Dan’s link above for an image of a Cream ticket 🙂 Yes, they did. Many others too. Here’s the back story:

    • x Jill – I saw the Byrds concert there (& my brother did the sound and/or lights for that whilst at Staples – if it was between 69-71… w/ all the previous confusion over Bonnie & Delaney & Friends – I have lost my bearings memory wise for which shows he was a student tech on). Also in 1972 (1971?) Sha Na Na – in the gym vs. the auditorium. (I’m not sure why – perhaps they requested it because of the 50s dance thing they were about).