When Richard was 16, the Carpenter family moved from New Haven to Downey, California. Richard studied music at the California State University at Long Beach where he met Frank Pooler, a conductor and composer. Pooler wrote the lyrics to the Christmas classic "Merry Christmas Darling" in 1968. Richard also met John Bettis, who co-wrote songs with Richard.
In 1965, the Richard Carpenter Trio consisted of Richard, Karen on drums and friend Wes Jacobs on tuba and bass. In 1966, the Richard Carpenter Trio played "Iced Tea" and "The Girl from Ipanema" at the Hollywood Bowl Battle of the Bands. They won the competition, and shortly after recorded three songs at RCA Studios: "Every Little Thing," "Strangers in the Night," and the Carpenter original, "Iced Tea." "Iced Tea" is the only recording that was officially released to the public.
In 1967, Richard and Karen joined four other student musicians from Long Beach State to form a sextet named Spectrum. the group's complicated harmonies and shunning of traditional rock 'n roll limited the band's popularity.
Richard and Karen signed with A&M Records in 1969 under the direction of Herb Alpert. Alpert suggested that the Carpenters record a Burt Bacharach song called "(They Long to Be) Close to You." Richard's arranging and musical talents, as well as Karen's vocals, helped the song go to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and stay there for a month.
One evening while watching TV, Richard saw a commercial for Crocker National Bank featuring a snippet of a Paul Williams song "We've Only Just Begun." Richard turned a bank commercial jingle into an RIAA certified Gold Record. It peaked at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100, and has become a common wedding song.
Richard composed many of the Carpenters' hits, such as "Goodbye to Love," "Top of the World," "Yesterday Once More," and "Only Yesterday."
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