Tag Archives: Charlie Karp

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)

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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Diddy Wah Diddy!

Willie Dixon was born 100 years ago this month. The Chicago blues musician, arranger and record producer influenced many generations of artists, from Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and Bo Diddley to Bob Dylan, Cream, the Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones.

Willie Dixon

Willie Dixon

He wrote over 500 songs, including “Back Door Man,” “Little Red Rooster” and “I Just Want to Make Love to You.”

Willie Dixon also wrote “Diddy Wah Diddy.” It’s been recorded by Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty and Captain Beefheart.

Westporters know — and love best — the version by The Remains.

Featuring Staples grads Barry Tashian (vocals/guitar) and Bill Briggs (keyboards), they opened for the Beatles on their 1966 tour. The Remains performed on “Ed Sullivan” and “Hullabaloo.”

Rock journalist Mark Kemp said if they had stayed together, “we might today be calling them — and not the Stones — the World’s Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Band.”

Springsteen’s guitarist, Little Steven Van Zandt, called the Remains “living history, and one of our most valued American treasures.”

And Rolling Stone magazine described them as “a religious totem of all that was manic and marvelous about mid-’60s pop.”

But they dissolved before most Americans ever discovered their greatness. They got back together a while back, and — though drummer Chip Damiani died last year — still occasionally perform to ecstatic audiences.

Now “Diddy Wah Diddy” is about to get a new life — with another Westport twist.

Staples Class of 1970 grad Bill Banks — whose real job is banking — spent the past year developing Billion Planets Music. Emerging artists and seasoned veterans to work together, in music and video production.

Westport's Charlie Karp, at the hometown Blues, Views & BBQ Festival, has long known

Westport’s Charlie Karp, at the hometown Blues, Views & BBQ Festival, has long known “Diddy Wah Diddy.”

A group of those musicians — including Charlie Karp, who dropped out of Staples in 1970 to tour with Buddy Miles, and later played with Hendrix — has recorded a new version of the song. Banks calls the 2015 genre “blues/hop.”

He liked the collaboration so much, he contacted Willie Dixon’s family in Chicago. They loved it. During the centennial of his birth, it may be included in some of the Blues Heaven Foundation events they’ve planned.

Meanwhile, Banks is starting work on a movie about life in North Miami, as seen through the eyes of Hans Louis. He’s the “emerging artist” singer on the new recording.

“Hans grew up there,” Banks says. “The theme is that it’s an urban/modern ‘Diddy Wah Diddy’ place.” (The Remains’ Tashian sang: “She don’t come from no town, she don’t come from no city/She lives way down in Diddy Wah Diddy.”)

You’ll have to wait to hear the blues/hop version. But just click below for the Remains’ take. They’re still rockin’, after 50 years.

(If your browser does not take you directly to YouTube, click here.)

BONUS HIT: Click here to link to a Gap commercial — shown only in India — featuring “Diddy Wah Diddy.”

Westport And Tyson Chandler: “The Minister Of D”

In 2010, Staples grad Fred Cantor co-wrote “Monbo Time.” It was a paean to pitcher Bill Monbouqette Monbouquette, and 40 years of Red Sox history.

The legendary Remains — a band that got their start in Boston, but whose lead singer Barry Tashian and keyboardist Bill Briggs called Westport home — recorded the song. They donated half of all revenues from it to cancer research and treatment.

Fred Cantor

Fred Cantor

But Fred is not a Red Sox fan. He loves basketball, and has been a New York Knicks fanatic since before the championship days of Willis and Walt.

So for his encore sports-songwriting effort — again for charity — he’s gone to the hoop.

Fred — who in real life is an attorney — chose Tyson Chandler. The veteran center “epitomizes selfless team play,” Fred says. “I really appreciate that, not only as a longtime fan but also having played on successful soccer teams at Staples and Yale.”

If the Knicks win an NBA title for the 1st time in 4 decades — since Fred was young — Tyson will be key.

Tyson Chandler

Tyson Chandler

First, Fred wrote some lyrics that capture the essence of Tyson’s game. Then he decided to give him a nickname. “I feel he deserves even greater recognition than he’s gotten,” the songwriter says.

Which is how Tyson Chandler became “The Minister of D.”

Next, Fred called Charlie Karp and Michael Mugrage. Both are Staples classmates of Fred’s — and friends dating back to Coleytown Elementary and Coleytown Junior High, respectively.

They’re hugely talented musicians. Charlie left Staples to join Buddy Miles’ band. He played at Jimi Hendrix’s memorial service, and earned a devoted local following with bands like White Chocolate, Dirty Angels and Slo Leak.

Michael toured with Orleans, and composed music for Chaka Khan, Smokey Robinson and Terry Cashman’s classic “Talkin’ Baseball.”

Michael Mugrage (center) and Charlie Karp (right) record "The Minister of D," with sound engineer Tom Hawes.

Michael Mugrage (center) and Charlie Karp (right) record “The Minister of D,” with sound engineer Tom Hawes.

“I wanted a song that combined different elements,” Fred explains. “The lyrics were to be rapped, but I also wanted a funk sound that evokes the era when the Knicks won their 2 titles. And I wanted the song to be part rock.”

“We wanted the music to harken back to the glory days of the Knicks of the early ’70s,” Michael told TheKnicksBlog. The site describes that “New York cool” time of Sly and the Family Stone, and Isaac Hayes, as “an era one imagines Tyson would  have felt right at home in.”

Within minutes of getting together, Charlie and Michael nailed it. After a bit more work, they recorded it with sound engineer Tom Hawes.

They continued to improvise, taking turns on lead and bass guitar, and sharing vocals in different octaves to create harmonies (and a “big group” sound). At the end, they created crowd noise to mimic the Garden.

Tyson’s reps say he is honored by the song. He feels good too that 25% of the royalties go to the Garden of Dreams Foundation, benefiting kids facing obstacles.

And Fred no doubt feels good that he’s written a song about favorite team. Not the Red Sox.

(Click here to hear “The Minister of D.” Search “Charlie Karp & Mike Mugrage” on iTunes to buy it.)

The cover, as it appears on iTunes. It's a ticket stub from a game Fred went to the 1st week the new Madison Square Garden opened. Fred  Cantor calls Tyson Chandler "a throwback" to that era of championship NY Knick teams.

The cover, as it appears on iTunes. It’s a ticket stub from a game Fred Cantor went to the 1st week the new Madison Square Garden opened. He calls Tyson Chandler “a throwback” to that era of championship NY Knick teams.

Views Of Blues & BBQ

If you weren’t at yesterday’s 4th annual Blues, Views & BBQ Festival at Levitt Pavilion and the library parking lot, here’s what you missed:

Amazing music — not just Charlie Karp (above) and his Westport Heritage Blues Band, but “Connecticut’s premier Zydeco band,” “Girls With Guitars,” much more.  The entertainment — like the barbeque — was smokin’.

People having a good time.  There were plenty of Westporters — and plenty who are not.  Music, food, beer, pig races and street performers brings out everyone.

Did I mention food?  Some of which you sure won’t see at the Westport Farmers Market.

And more people having a good time.

If you missed yesterday’s event, don’t worry.  Blues, Views & Barbeque continues today (Sunday, September 25), starting at noon.

There’s a special pie-eating contest at 3 p.m., and a rib-eating contest right after.

Kudos to the Westport Downtown Merchants Association, and all the sponsors, for this great event.

Coming on the heels of last weekend’s Slice of Saugatuck, we’re getting spoiled.

Hopefully, Green’s Farms has got something cooking next Saturday.

Westport Sings The Blues

Westport is home to the biggest hedge fund in the world.

We’ve got McMansions up the wazoo, and a town-owned country club with a wonderful inn overlooking Long Island Sound.

Quite a place to sing the blues.

But the blues will be wailin’ this weekend — and down-home barbecue will be served — at (hey, this is still Westport) the Levitt Pavilion and library.

It’s the 4th annual Blues, Views & BBQ Festival.  And — believe it or not — we don’t have to import our bluesmen (and women) from the Delta.  They’re right here in Fairfield County.

Many of them even have Westport ties.

Crispin Cioe gets ready to wail.

There’s music all weekend long.  But the highlight is Crispin Cioe’s Westport Heritage Blues Band (Saturday, 2:20 to 3:35 p.m.).  A musician who has toured and recorded with the Rolling Stones, J. Geils and Albert Collins — and a 10-year Westport resident — Crispin has mined the local music scene for the best bluesmen, r-and-b artists and rockers.

And he’s put them all together in one band.

Charlie Karp dropped out of Staples to play with Buddy Miles, Jimi Hendrix and Love.  It was a great career move:  40 years later, he’s still playing and recording, fronting great bands like White Chocolate and Dirty Angels.

David Hull is from Stratford, but  lived for a while in Westport.  He too played with Jimi and Buddy; he now plays regularly with James Montgomery.

Drummer Kevin Hupp has played here often, including the legendary band Slo Leak with Charlie Karp and studio legend/former Westporter Danny Kortchmar.

John “Ratso” Girardi owns a recording studio in Stamford, and is a Levitt Pavilion favorite.

Special guest Rocky Lawrence is a Bridgeporter.  But listen to this:  He spent the last 10 years with Honeyboy Edwards, a Delta blues guitarist who died last month at 95 — and who played with Robert Johnson.  Rocky will be featured in the Westport Heritage Blues Band’s tribute to that legendary bluesman.

The Buddy Miles Express plays Finnish TV in 1971.  Charlie Karp takes a blistering solo around the 2:52 mark.

So is Westport ready to replace Mississippi and Memphis as a true blues capital?

Not hardly.

Still, the musical spotlight shines here this weekend.  And even thought it’s at the Levitt Pavilion, not some smoky juke joint, that’s fine.

“There’s a tradition of great blues musicians who developed here.  Some still live here,” Crispin says.

“People are drawn to this music.”

Even if they drive Land Rovers, and park them in 4-car garages.

(The 4th annual Blues, Views & BBQ — presented by the Westport Downtown Merchants Association — runs Saturday, Sept. 24 from 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., and Sunday, Sept. 25 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.  In addition to music, there are barbecue competitions for backyard chefs and kids; a food court; a “Kids’ Corral”; rib and pie eating contests — and pig races.  Click here for more details, including ticket prices.) 

A “Playboy After Dark” show.  Charlie Karp is the very long-haired guitar player.  David Hull is the American flag-shirted bassist.  Hugh Hefner is the host.

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.

Slo Leak

Charlie Karp was in my class at Staples.

Charlie Karp (left) and Keith Richards

Charlie Karp (left) and Keith Richards

Well,  for a few weeks anyway.  As a sophomore he left school to play guitar with Buddy Miles.  They recorded 4 albums together, including the legendary “Them Changes.”  Charlie also toured with a guy named Jimi Hendrix.

He eventually returned home.  For 30 years he’s been a local legend, fronting bands like White Chocolate and Dirty Angels.  Now a singer-songwriter-producer, he’s won Emmys for work with HBO and CBS Sports, PBS and A&E.

In the 1990s he hooked up with then-Westporter Danny Kortchmar.  A renowned producer-guitarist, Danny has worked with Billy Joel, Rod Stewart, James Taylor and Billy Joel.

Danny Kortchmar

Danny Kortchmar

Jamming together evolved into Slo Leak.  Danny calls their music “new century blues — very modern, but based on traditional blues.  It’s got a terrific groove.”

Tomorrow night (Friday) at 8, Slo Leak performs on Bobby Q’s roof.  Both guitarists are excited to be back in action, in front of their many local fans.

“I love playing in my home town,” Charlie says.  “And I think people will like seeing a show in downtown Westport.  It’ll be more of a concert — not a typical bar scene.”

Danny has never played on a roof before.  He doesn’t know what it will be like, but he promises one thing:  “We play ass-shakin’ music.”

(Bobby Q’s is located at 42 Main Street, Westport.  Tickets for Slo Leak are $20.  For more information, click here.)