The Levitt Pavilion has been the site of countless great concerts.
But in its over-40-year history, it’s never hosted — on one night — artists who have played with the Beatles, Doors, Michael Jackson, Sting, Elton John, Van Morrison, Stevie Wonder, David Bowie, Linda Ronstadt, The Band, Pete Seeger, Smokey Robinson, Rascals, Aerosmith, Buddy Miles, Billy Joel, James Taylor, Elvis Costello, James Brown, Jon Bon Jovi, Cheech & Chong, Michael Bolton, Barry Manilow, Herbie Hancock, Liza Minelli, Cher, Marvin Gaye, Chaka Khan, Mamas and the Papas, Paul Simon, Foreigner, Grand Funk Railroad, Eartha Kitt, Dave Brubeck, Whitney Houston, Roberta Flack, Lenny Kravitz, Chuck Mangione, Harry Chapin, Arlo Guthrie, Bee Gees, Edgar Winter, Grace Slick, Jefferson Starship, John Sebastian, Joe Cocker, Ted Nugent, Mötley Crue, Boz Scaggs, Amy Grant, Sinéad O’Connor, Vince Gill, Carole King, Orleans, Johnny Winter, Emmylou Harris, Chieftains, Lou Reed, Joan Jett, Larry Coryell, Rosanne Cash, Buckwheat Zydeco, Shawn Colvin, Julio Iglesias, Michael McDonald, Luther Vandross, Usher, Jean-Luc Ponty, Jose Féliciano, Herb Alpert, Bad Company, Paul Winter, Taj Mahal, Badfinger, Rick Derringer, Blue Oyster Cult, James Cotton, Bruce Hornsby, Spyro Gyra, Muddy Waters, Eric Weissberg, Wynton Marsalis, New York Philharmonic, London Symphony Orchestra, Boston Pops Orchestra, Vicki Sue Robinson, Aztec Two-Step and James Montgomery.
Just to name a few.
The key is: Nearly all of the musicians who played with those greats also played with Charlie Karp.
And on Saturday, July 6 (7 p.m., Levitt Pavilion) they’ll honor Charlie’s memory, rocking a sure-to-be memorable concert for the ages.
Charlie left Staples High School at 16 to play guitar with Buddy Miles. He hung and played with Jimi Hendrix and Keith Richards, and wrote songs for Joan Jett and Joe Perry, before returning home to earn a fanatic following with bands like Dirty Angels, White Chocolate, Slo Leak and the Name Droppers.
He simultaneously earned Emmys as a producer of music for sports networks, documentaries and feature films, and became a guitar teaching mentor to generations of aspiring young stars.
Charlie died in March, at 65. He had been diagnosed a few days earlier with liver cancer.
Nearly everyone who ever played with Charlie — and a few other big names who were influenced by him — will appear together on the Levitt stage. Over 70 strong, they’ll reimagine the rock and R&B Charlie recorded, played and loved so much.
The mammoth, not-to-be-missed show includes Barry Tashian. Seven years older than Charlie, he fronted the Remains. They opened for the Beatles on their final 1966 tour, and were — in the words of legendary critic Jon Landau — “how you told a stranger about rock ‘n’ roll.”
The Remains were a major influence on Charlie. He and good friend Brian Keane — now a Grammy-winning composer and producer — played their songs in a Coleytown Junior High band. Later, Charlie and Barry became friends.
Barry has not played in Westport for several decades. He’s flying up from Nashville for this show.
The cast also includes Roger Ball of the Average White Band, Joe Bonadio of Sting, Michael Mugrage of Orleans, Motown recording artist Ada Dyer, Tim DeHuff and Roger Kaufman.
Of course, members of Charlie’s beloved bands from the ’60s through 2019 — guys like David Hull and Rick Castillo — will play too. The Fun Band, Slo Leak, White Chocolate, Dirty Angels and Name Droppers — it’s a trip down memory lane. And a reminder that great music never dies.
Mandrake Root — a seminal Westport band — will reunite after 50 years. Tony Prior is coming from North Carolina to join in the jam.
The Reunion Band will be there too. Comprised entirely of Charlie’s classmates from Staples’ class of 1971 — all of them noted professional musicians — they were there with Charlie 2 years ago, for one of the Levitt’s best nights ever.
Charlie’s high school sweetheart, Debbie Sims, will introduce “I Still Love You Anyway.” Charlie wrote that song for her, on Buddy Miles’ iconic “Them Changes” album. It — and “Runaway Child,” which Charlie wrote with Buddy — will be performed by the popular local band, the 5 O’Clocks.
Joey Melotti will be there. The musical director for Michael Jackson and Michael Bolton had a huge Westport following with his 1980s band Sunsight.
Chris Coogan’s Good News Gospel Choir will round out the amazing evening.
Guitarist/producer/songwriter Danny Kortchmar can’t be there — he’s on tour with James Taylor and Carole King’s rhythm section. He sent a note to be read from the stage.
So did Keith Richards. He too is sorry he can’t attend. His band, the Rolling Stones, is out on tour.
Every musician is donating their time. Some turned down lucrative gigs to come.
Proceeds will benefit two organizations. The Charlie Karp Memorial Fund promotes promising area musicians, by offering studio time at the Carriage House in Stamford and Horizon in West Haven. The other beneficiary is the Levitt Pavilion.
That’s fitting. Charlie Karp played to adoring Levitt audiences many times.
On July 6, he’ll pack the place one more time.
(The Charlie Karp Tribute Concert is a ticketed event. Click here to purchase, and for more information.)