Tag Archives: Brian Keane

Charlie Karp Rocks The Levitt

When Charlie Karp died in March, his many friends were devastated.

The Westport native left Staples High School early in his junior year, to play with Buddy Miles. Though he had an extraordinary musical career — playing at Jimi Hendrix’s funeral; writing, recording, teaching and, especially, performing with the world’s greats — he always came back to Fairfield County.

So it was appropriate that last night’s tribute concert took place at the Levitt Pavilion. Charlie’s longtime friend and collaborator Brian Keane — himself a Grammy-winning artist, songwriter and producer — put together a remarkable event.

Roger Ball of the Average White Band (lead sax) joined Fred Scerbo, Ricky Alfonso and Joey Melotti for “Pick up the Pieces.” (Photo/Dan Woog)

From Germany, Nashville and plenty of other places, Charlie’s friends and admirers canceled gigs and rearranged schedules. More than 70 vocalists, gospel singers, keyboardists, percussionists, horn players and (especially) guitarists flew and drove to Westport.

Westport native Barry Tashian fronted the Remains, who opened for the Beatles. He then played for many years with the Flying Burrito Brothers and Emmylou Harris. Long before all that, he was Charlie Karp’s guitar teacher. (Photo/Dan Woog)

Their list of credits is eye-popping. They’ve played and recorded with, or opened for, everyone from the Beatles, Doors, James Brown, Smokey Robinson and Roberta Flack to Wynton Marsalis, the New York Philharmonic, Boston Pops and London Symphony Orchestra.

The Reunion Band — formed originally with Charlie Karp’s very talented Staples High Class of 1971 professional musician classmates — reunited, and added a few members. (Photo/Dan Woog)

With just one rehearsal, the musicians — many of whom knew each other, but had never played together — delivered one of the Levitt’s most powerful, pulsating shows ever.

Julie Aldworth McClenathan and Bonnie Housner Erickson were Charlie Karp’s classmates at Staples. (Photo/Dan Woog)

It even included a tribute from Charlie’s friend Keith Richards. He was otherwise engaged, on tour with his band the Rolling Stones.

The Good News Gospel Choir added their talents too. (Photo/Dan Woog)

The benefit raised funds for a scholarship in Charlie’s name. Every year it will help talented student musicians, by providing studio time at the Carriage House in Stamford and Horizon in West Haven.

When he wasn’t playing keyboard, John Lamb was dancing. (Photo/Dan Woog)

Midway through the concert, storm clouds rolled in. Thunderstorms — predicted, and ominous — never materialized. The clouds moved on, and the sky brightened.

“Charlie’s angels,” someone said.

A storm threatened … (Photo/Dan Woog)

… but never came. (Photo/Dan Woog)

Brian Keane (left) produced the tribute concert. Carole Sylvan and Ada Dyer added powerful vocals. (Photo/Dan Woog)

As one of Charlie Karp’s classmates, I was honored to take a turn as one of the MCs. (Photo/Carleigh Welsh)

(Tax-deductible checks made payable to Fairfield County’s Community Foundation [put “Charlie Karp Memorial Fund” in the memo] can be sent to Fairfield County’s Community Foundation, 40 Richards Avenue, Norwalk, CT 06854. Donations may also be made online at www.CharlieKarp.com. Follow instructions under the donation tab.)

Charlie Karp Tribute: A Levitt Concert For The Ages

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 Karp, in his Buddy Miles days.

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.

The Remains’ Barry Tashian (left) and Vern Miller, while touring with the Beatles.

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.

Charlie Karp (Photo/John Halpern)

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.

Charlie Karp and Keith Richards. (Photo/Ray Flanigan)

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.)

Remembering Charlie Karp

Charlie Karp — the Westport kid who left Staples High School at 16 to play guitar with Buddy Miles, then 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 Namedroppers, while simultaneously earning Emmys as a producer of music for sports networks, documentaries and feature films, and becoming a guitar teaching mentor to generations of aspiring young stars — died last night, at 65. He was diagnosed just a few days ago with liver cancer.

Charlie Karp

Charlie’s friends and families wanted him to know how much he was loved and admired. A Facebook posting when he went into hospice care on Friday drew hundreds of comments.

Brian Keane — Charlie’s classmate in Staples’ Class of 1971, who has composed music for many films and TV shows, produced over 100 albums, and won Grammys, Emmys and Peabodys, realized Charlie’s talents during Coleytown Junior High’s 7th grade Battle of the Bands.

Brian wrote: “Charlie had the ability to channel something magical and musical, to deliver a special sense of feeling that connected with people, and moved them to the core on a fundamental level. Charlie possessed a rare treasure that is impossible to teach, and nearly impossible to attain. Charlie Karp was a natural.”

Charlie Karp (left) and Brian Keane, at Coleytown Junior High School.

As he played in area venues with Charlie, Brian wrote, “the simplicity of his music made me concentrate on a deep level of honest human feeling.”

Charlie played at any club he could (including, at the Georgetown Saloon, with Keith Richards), and for any charity that asked.

Charlie Karp and Keith Richards. (Photo/Ray Flanigan)

He was particularly pleased to join ’71 classmates Brian, Michael Mugrage, Bonnie Housner Erickson, Dave Barton, Bill Sims, and Rob and Julie McClenathan in the Reunion Band. Their concert at the Levitt Pavilion was one of the greatest shows ever there.

Charlie and Brian co-wrote “You Lift My Heart.” It was released on Marion Meadows’ album “Secrets” a few years ago. Brian finds it a fitting tune for Charlie lifted so many hearts.

Brian’s tribute on Facebook elicited heartfelt comments, from a broad array of Charlie’s admirers. Some wrote as fans of his bands. Some were classmates. Some were his guitar students, or their parents.

Joe Dochtermann called Charlie his “musical mentor. He taught me everything I know about the art of life as a musician and beyond.” They set up a studio in the Bahamas, and worked together in Easton for a time of “intense musical creation.” Charlie also connected him to “many other kind and talented souls.”

Joe wrote, “I can’t fathom where my life would have headed without his compass.”

Dennis Hrbek mixed Slo Leak’s first album. He had never heard anything like “Charlie’s vocal coming out of a big amp in the studio, making him sound bigger and badder than ever. That week completely changed the way I listen to music.”

The first rock concert Bob Cummings ever saw was White Chocolate, at Fairfield University in 1973. They were “on fire,” Bob wrote, “with Charlie’s guitar screaming! God bless you, Charlie. Let’s have a cup of Hot White Chocolate!”

Sarah Green thanked Charlie for his warmth, friendliness and talent teaching her son Matt how to play. He went on to become a School of Rock All-Star, performing at Lollapalooza in Chicago.

“Thank you, Charlie, for giving so much of yourself in your careers as a musician and a teacher. What an inspiration. Sending love to you, and peace and good wishes, always.”

In 2016 — just after Charlie’s 45th Staples reunion performances — I posted this story on “06880.” It’s my tribute to the legend we just lost.


You may know Charlie Karp from his many local bands. 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.

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.

Pic Of The Day #90

The Reunion Band rocked the packed Levitt Pavilion last night. Comprised entirely of graduates of Staples High School’s Class of 1971, its members have played and recorded with — among many others — Jimi Hendrix, Buddy Miles, Van Morrison, Smokey Robinson and Orleans. (Photo copyright Ted Horowitz)

Brian Keane Remembers Larry Coryell

The music world is mourning Larry Coryell. The jazz guitarist with a rock sensibility, died Sunday in New York. He was 73.

He’s also a former Westporter. Coryell lived for several years on Watch Hill, off North Compo across from the Town Farm tennis courts.

His career was intertwined with another Westport musician, Brian Keane. The Staples High School Class of 1971 grad has composed the music for hundreds of films and television shows, produced over 100 albums, and won Grammys, Emmys and Peabodys. 

Brian recalls his friend, fellow collaborator, and enormous influence:

Larry Coryell

Larry Coryell

Larry Coryell was a legendary guitarist who pioneered the fusion of jazz and rock. There will be lots of tributes to his career. He played with everybody in jazz.

Besides his own 11th House band, he recorded with John McLoughlin, Gary Burton, Chet Baker, Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock.

He also made some recordings with me.

Larry was an amazing musician. Many people don’t realize it, but he was among the best rhythm guitar players (certainly that I ever played with). He was incredibly supportive as a rhythm player. I didn’t even realize that until years later, when I listened to old tapes of some concerts that someone recorded of us together in Europe. He could play very fast as well of course, and he could play a wide variety of styles.

I was 24 years old when I met Larry in 1977. I had managed to get some gigs with Eddie Gomez, Jeremy Steig, and a few other notable musicians. I heard Larry lived in the area, and arranged to take a guitar lesson from him (in order to meet him).

It worked. We became friend, and partners in crime, partying and sharing music. We were both wild men back then, living the life, in the height of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. I could tell you so many crazy stories it would take pages. But I will save those mostly depraved and highly entertaining tales for those who lived through that era with us.

Larry Coryell (left) and Brian Keane in Europe, 1982.

Larry Coryell (left) and Brian Keane in Europe, 1982.

I gave Larry’s kids guitar lessons when they were young. I was good friends with his departed wife Julie, and Larry and I had many good friends in common.

After a while, Larry and I did some festivals together, and started doing duo gigs (lots more stories I could tell). Larry provided a young idiot savant stoner guitarist (me) a chance to do concerts around the world. We went everywhere together for a while: all 50 states, more than 50 countries, in about a 5-year span. We made 4 records together. I thought it was the biggest thing for my career at the time (and it probably was then).

However, Larry and I did something even bigger for each other than just about anything else that happened, and it had a tremendous impact on both of our lives.

We got sober together. And we did it largely on the road.

I have to give Larry’s wife Julie some of the credit for making him go to get help, and forcing me to be clean in order to tour and record with him. But Larry took it seriously, and kept me in line (at the age of 28 when I definitely didn’t want to be). That said, I got better at it eventually, and helped him more than a time or two as well.

This was an era when nobody in the music business was going straight. As much as Larry showed me some great guitar riffs or chord changes, as much as I got to see the world as a young man playing with him, I owe Larry my greatest debt of gratitude for being that person I leaned on to stay sober while out on the road — and I was that for him as well. Later, we influenced many other prominent musicians in that same regard.

Larry and I stayed in touch over the years, though our career paths went in different directions. I have stayed in touch with his incredibly talented kids Murali and Julian as well. Larry was very sick last year, but I thought he was on the mend.

His death leaves a huge hole in my life, in the lives of so many of our mutual friends who were there during those years, and in the music world. But my heart especially goes out to his wife Tracey and the Coryell family at this difficult time.

R.I.P., my fellow road warrior. We certainly did up some great times together.

The video below is a very rare recording of “Bolero” by Larry Coryell and Brian Keane. It was recorded live in concert in Italy, in 1983.

Play A Song For Me

I promised myself I would not write about my Staples reunion this weekend.  But:  I can’t help myself.

Sugar pie, honey bunch…

Of course.  Anyone of a certain age (mine) knows without thinking that those are the only words that follow “I can’t help myself.”

Just as everyone at our reunion — or any other one, anywhere, from that era — understands instinctively that the only thing boot heels do is “wander.”  And — as Doctor Doctor Mister M.D. says — all you really need is good lovin’.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Brian Keane and Charlie Karp rock on. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

One of the many highlights at Saturday’s reunion was the band.  All were members of our Staples Class of 1971.  Billy Sims, Rob McClenathan, Bubba Barton — each with non-music jobs now — joined Mike Mugrage, Brian Keane, Jeff Dowd, Billy Seidman and Charlie Karp to play some of what Cat Mother and the All Night Newboys know is “that good old rock ‘n’ roll.”

Mike toured and performed with James Brown, Ronnie Spector and Orleans. Brian is a multiple Grammy and Emmy Award-winning composer.  Jeff is an opera singer based in Germany.   Billy teaches music at NYU.

Charlie never graduated from Staples.  He dropped out a few weeks into 10th grade, forsaking algebra and gym for touring and recording with guys like Jimi Hendrix and Buddy Miles.  He’s now back in this area, playing with great bands like Slo Leak.

These guys sometimes played together at Staples.  They were in different groups too.

Linda Satin, Carissa Simon, Margaret Hart and Bonnie Housner channel the Supremes. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

On Saturday night — with the addition of former Orphenians Bonnie Housner, Margaret Hart, Julie Aldworth McClenathan, Kim Plaut, Linda Satin and Carissa Simon as singers, all of whom had the “Stop!  In the Name of Love” hand motions down pat — they brought us back to a time when music was not only real and good, but a shared experience.

Everyone who went to school in the 1960s and 70s listened to the same songs at the same time.  We heard them on transistor radios, car radios, turntables at parties.

Just a snippet of the most obscure tunes — “I’m Your Puppet,” “Hitchin’ a Ride,” “Indiana Wants Me” — brings back powerful memories of precise places, people and the funny/outrageous/bizarre/typical/illegal things we were doing at those moments.

So as I listened and danced Saturday night — Mustang Sally, you been runnin’ all over town — I said to myself:  “Man, you are one lucky guy to have grown up when you did.”

Jimi Hendrix, back when music was music.

And then I thought about music today.  When the Class of 2011 has its reunion, they will not have actual music to listen to.

Nor will they have classmate bands from high school to play it.

Nor experience the joy of growing up sharing the same music, at the same time and place, during a transformative time in their young lives.

I threw this sad fact out at a friend from Burr Farms, Long Lots and Staples — a guy I haven’t seen in decades, but who because of our time together long ago, I’d reconnected with instantly.

He didn’t buy it.

His kids — in their late teens and early 20s — love the Beatles, Doors and other groups we also loved, he said, back in the day.

Suddenly, I felt fine.

In 2051, I realized, alums attending their own 40th reunions will listen to the same music we did.

Eighty years before.

Oscar, Oscar!

When America watches the Oscars tomorrow, at least 3 Westporters will have more than a casual interest.

Neil Katz and Andy Sawyer are executive producers of “The Kids Are All Right.”

The film — about 2 kids conceived by artificial insemination, who bring their birth family into their family’s life — has been nominated for 4 Academy Awards.  Three are pretty random (for example, “Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen”), but 1 is the biggie:  “Best Motion Picture.”

“The Kids Are All Right” has already won a Golden Globe for “Best Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy.”

Of course, feature films are not the only Oscar nominees.  Less heralded, but equally important (at least to the makers’ friends and family) documentaries have their own categories.  “The Warriors of Qiugang” — about Chinese villagers who take on a chemical company that’s poisoning their air and water — is up for “Best Documentary Short Subject.”

Staples grad Brian Keane composed the haunting music.  A multiple Grammy, Emmy and Peabody Award winner, Brian is also a noted producer, working with artists as diverse as Pete Seeger, Linda Ronstadt and the London Symphony Orchestra.

We’re sure there are Oscar-related Westporters we’ve missed.  Click “Comments” — and help make tomorrow night in California even more intriguing for those of us home in Connecticut.