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Claims That Karen Carpenter Won Playboy Drummer Poll Are Probably False, But They Shouldn't Be

karencarpenterfans

Tori H.
Thread Starter
In my own studies regarding the band, Carpenters, I have made it my mission in many ways to read up on them as much as possible. This includes finding rare magazines and articles, and digging through footage and newspaper archives for hours on end. Throughout the years, it has been referenced time and time again that Karen not only beat out Led Zeppelin's drummer, John Bonham, in a February 1975 Playboy reader's rock drummer poll, but that she also came in first place; However, there has never been a source attached to this claim. This said "fact" had passed through several music forums before more popular music sites got their hands on it. The seemingly copied and pasted article reads as follows:

Playboy Reader's Poll

1 .... Karen Carpenter
2 .... John Bonham
3 .... Ringo Starr
4 .... Keith Moon
5 .... Mick Fleetwood

True Story


Karen 'KC' Carpenter, after seeing that she won a Reader's Poll as being named
Playboy's 1975 Best Rock Drummer of the Year:

"I am both humbled and embarrassed by being named as the Best Rock Drummer.
There are many talented drummers out there, and to even be considered 'good'
is a tremendous recognition."

"I heard that John Bonham (of Led Zeppelin) is quite upset. I hope he is not
mad at me, as I had nothing to do with the poll. But, he said that I couldn't last
10-Minutes with Led Zeppelin."

"Well I just want him to know, that I love Led Zeppelin, and I can play a decent
set of songs that they recorded. Just watch me now."

Karen then jumped behind the 'Drum Kit', and handled herself quite well while
banging out "Babe, I'm Going to Leave You" while also singing the song and
not missing a beat.



Though it's a great story to tell, and that placement would have been well deserved, there is absolutely no evidence to support that she said any of this. It's also easier for me to see now that Karen wasn't one to even speak like that. Maybe I'm wrong, but I just can't imagine Karen even saying half of this quote. Some sites say that these quotes are from a television appearance. It has never been documented what show, and there are no videos of it on the web.

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I was actually able to find and purchase a copy of the February 1975 issue of Playboy Magazine, featuring their set annual pop-rock polls. To my initial surprise, Karen did not, in fact, come in first in the 'Drumming' poll. She came in 10th place. Carpenters also came in 12th place for their 'Vocal Group' poll, beating Led Zeppelin by two placements. Although Karen didn't win the poll completely, she still managed to come out ahead of John Bonham, who was in 11th place. This may have been where wires crossed. There's no doubt that Bonham could've been offended by Karen beating him in this poll, but again, it's not confirmed. After posting about my findings on my Karen Carpenter Fans Tik Tok this week, some seemed to think it was almost a Mandela Effect that Karen had won. It is also possible that the poll results being referenced in these articles was actually from a different year or different magazine.
Here is a link to that Tik Tok: Carpenters Fans on TikTok

If it's true that Bonham said these things about how Karen Carpenter "couldn't last 10 minutes with Led Zeppelin," my question is, could John Bonham really last 10 minutes in a Carpenters set? Let's not get caught up on genre here. Carpenters and Led Zeppelin obviously had some drastic music style differences-- but in my personal opinion, the loudness and intensity of Led Zeppelin's music does not equate to them being better or more talented. Though Bonham obviously was a great drummer and played his way through many very difficult songs, both Karen and Richard have often been praised for their extreme precision and musical complexities. Plus, Karen was playing these complicated beats and solos while she was singing perfectly. If you played with the Carpenters, there was no room for mistakes. That fact has been reported by Tony Peluso among other band members. There really wasn't too much room for improv if you were going to be in the Carpenters' band on tour. This is why music critics of the early 1970s made such a huge fuss about their concerts sounding exactly like the record.

But just like she didn't need to do any vocal gymnastics, Karen didn't need to do somersaults off her snare drum to be great. Her singing, as well as her playing, was an art form from day one. She took her craft seriously even when others did not.

Regardless of the legitimacy of this poll, she still deserved to be in first place for so many reasons. I know she is in our hearts anyway. Karen, being as humble as she was, probably would have strongly disagreed. After all, her personal drumming idols, Buddy Rich and Ringo Starr, came in before her.

What are your guys thoughts on this poll? If anyone has anything to back up this supposed poll and these quotes being true, please let me know!
 

Mike Blakesley

Well-Known Member
Staff member
Moderator
I will agree that those quotes don't "sound" like Karen. I can't imagine why she would want to get into a drumming contest with John Bonham anyway, given the two had diametrically opposing styles.

I do think a lot of magazine "reader polls" are pretty suspect.... they're as much popularity contest as they are talent evaluation.

Gotta give Playboy some kudos, though, for getting the name right... they put "Carpenters" when most publications would have put "The Carpenters."

An aside: I never did understand why musical acts want to make their concerts sound just like the record. People who go to concerts would probably prefer to hear a little something that is NOT on the record -- I know I would. I've lost all enthusiasm for seeing Mannheim Steamroller concerts because of this -- it's just like listening to the record, but in a less-comfortable chair.
 

GaryAlan

Well-Known Member
Vanity Fair has an interesting article on Led Zeppelin, excerpt:
“I’d like to have it publicized that I came in after Karen Carpenter in the Playboy drummer poll!,”
“She couldn’t last 10 minutes with a Zeppelin number,” he sneered.
"How do you think I feel, not being taken seriously, coming in after Karen Carpenter in the Playboy poll. . . . Karen Carpenter . . . what a load of sh.t.”
Here:
 

JohnFB

I was born to belong to the lines of a song...
Yes, reader polls are virtually worthless in determining the top or best of anything, especially singers or musicians...and the readers of Stereo Review or some drummer dedicated magazine would definitely be a better demographic to poll...and anyway, exactly what standards or criteria are used to judge the best on any instrument, especially drums? Furthermore, how many of those voting in the poll even knew that Karen played the drums, let alone saw her in action?

Beyond all that it seems that even Richard and Herb Alpert didn't think that Karen's chops were good enough, or strong enough, to even play on the Carpenters' records (as per Richard's highly questionable and debatable comments in the "Legacy" book), let alone rank up there with the best players around.

Well, we all saw and heard what Karen could do...she could play pop, and rock and jazz - she learned partly by playing along with jazz group drummers, most notably Joe Morello of the Dave Brubek Quartet, one of the most innovative drummers ever (who only made it to no.17 on the list above, just to show how worthless the poll is...)

I've always had the impression the Karen could have played anything with anyone for very extended periods of time - given just a little prep time - probably even in the percussion section of any Classical music orchestra in the country..
 

karencarpenterfans

Tori H.
Thread Starter
Vanity Fair has an interesting article on Led Zeppelin, excerpt:
“I’d like to have it publicized that I came in after Karen Carpenter in the Playboy drummer poll!,”
“She couldn’t last 10 minutes with a Zeppelin number,” he sneered.
"How do you think I feel, not being taken seriously, coming in after Karen Carpenter in the Playboy poll. . . . Karen Carpenter . . . what a load of sh.t.”
Here:
Thank you for the link! I think it’s really just the notion that she came in first that people got wrong. She did beat him by one placement.
 

karencarpenterfans

Tori H.
Thread Starter
Yes, reader polls are virtually worthless in determining the top or best of anything, especially singers or musicians...and the readers of Stereo Review or some drummer dedicated magazine would definitely be a better demographic to poll...and anyway, exactly what standards or criteria are used to judge the best on any instrument, especially drums? Furthermore, how many of those voting in the poll even knew that Karen played the drums, let alone saw her in action?

Beyond all that it seems that even Richard and Herb Alpert didn't think that Karen's chops were good enough, or strong enough, to even play on the Carpenters' records (as per Richard's highly questionable and debatable comments in the "Legacy" book), let alone rank up there with the best players around.

Well, we all saw and heard what Karen could do...she could play pop, and rock and jazz - she learned partly by playing along with jazz group drummers, most notably Joe Morello of the Dave Brubek Quartet, one of the most innovative drummers ever (who only made it to no.17 on the list above, just to show how worthless the poll is...)

I've always had the impression the Karen could have played anything with anyone for very extended periods of time - given just a little prep time - probably even in the percussion section of any Classical music orchestra in the country.
I really have no idea what the Playboy poll requirements are. I’m guessing that maybe the readers were given a set of people to vote on. Being that playboy was mostly read by men, it’s hard to imagine them choosing her of all people.
it was definitely based on popularity (which was really just heavy rock at the time), though they are all good drummers.
I agree that it was a bit petty what Richard said about Karen’s drumming. I don’t think he meant it to ‘sound’ that way to the reader, but I wish he would elaborate more. Even though I disagree, I appreciate his honesty. I understand it somewhat when trying to put myself in a producer’s shoes, but overall her drumming style was not only professional, but so unique. It deserved to be on their records. I can’t consider myself a drummer, but even I could pick out the sound of Karen’s drumming from a mile away. Her drumming on ‘Offering,’ among other early recordings and live performances throughout their career, gives me chills every time. You can hear the enthusiasm and passion without even seeing the huge smile behind those drums— in the same way you can hear the smile in her song.
I agree that Karen was very versatile as well. She very well could’ve jammed out to a Zeppelin song.
 

karencarpenterfans

Tori H.
Thread Starter
I will agree that those quotes don't "sound" like Karen. I can't imagine why she would want to get into a drumming contest with John Bonham anyway, given the two had diametrically opposing styles.

I do think a lot of magazine "reader polls" are pretty suspect.... they're as much popularity contest as they are talent evaluation.

Gotta give Playboy some kudos, though, for getting the name right... they put "Carpenters" when most publications would have put "The Carpenters."

An aside: I never did understand why musical acts want to make their concerts sound just like the record. People who go to concerts would probably prefer to hear a little something that is NOT on the record -- I know I would. I've lost all enthusiasm for seeing Mannheim Steamroller concerts because of this -- it's just like listening to the record, but in a less-comfortable chair.
She really had nothing to do with the actual poll, but I understand what you mean.
I would say Karen and Richard took pride in their musicianship, and for them, they seemed to feel that they sounded the most professional when they were able to sound like the record in person. It showed that there was no editing or ‘faking’ their voices or ability to play their instruments. They were also able to demonstrate how their overdubbing/harmonies worked. I would agree that maybe there should have been more room for improv. It would’ve given them a bit more of an edge… But they treated their shows almost like a musical.
 

A&M Retro

Well-Known Member
Karen came in first in the poll. I remember when it happened and I had the actual issue. It was only the top 5 that were listed in the final poll. Karen was at #1. It's a fact.
 

arthowson

Well-Known Member
Richard didn’t think Karen was inferior. He thought different drummers would be better for different songs. Any compilation, ANY, Richard has Karen playing on at least 25% of the tracks.
Sing
Yesterday Once More
Postman
Masquerade
Jambalaya
Ticket to Ride

So there’s probably 20 million 45s out there with Karen as the lead drummer, not to mention all the B sides.

Karen got to play on whatever she wanted to, I’m sure. She played on some MONSTER HITS!
 

karencarpenterfans

Tori H.
Thread Starter
Update: I actually found a copy today at an antique store of the December 8, 1978 issue of Playboy because Farrah Fawcett was on the cover. In it was yet another playboy poll featuring Karen Carpenter coming in at #5. This leads me to believe she could have come in at #1 at any given point, but not the claimed 1975 issue.
 

GaryAlan

Well-Known Member
^^Gee, considering their drop in popularity by late December 1978, I am surprised Karen made #5 !
1974, The Carpenters were near their zenith, so it is not at all unbelievable for Karen to make #1 in early 1975.
They were also recipients of the 1974 American Music Awards (favorite pop group).
 

AM Matt

Forum Undertaker
Speaking of the late Farrah, it seems that YouTube does not have the "Charlie's Angels" singing a song called "TV Times" (during ABC 1976 Fall Preview Show hosted by the late Jack Clark) which was the last segment of the TV special. That part, all 3 reappear sitting in their chairs & the dancers dancing up a storm!! That part reminds me of The Hudson Brothers "Razzle Dazzle Show" on CBS during Saturday morning in September till December of 1974 (opening) when the 3 reappear with their guitars & sing the TV theme song "Razzle Dazzle"!!!
 

moog

Well-Known Member
Ironically I was in an antique store today that had pretty much every issue of Playboy ever printed. I thought that was overkill, but now I know what to look for: the fabled drummer polls! LOL!

Oh, and the first time I saw that "Karen" quote I knew it was fake. It doesn't sound like her at all.
 

karencarpenterfans

Tori H.
Thread Starter
Ironically I was in an antique store today that had pretty much every issue of Playboy ever printed. I thought that was overkill, but now I know what to look for: the fabled drummer polls! LOL!

Oh, and the first time I saw that "Karen" quote I knew it was fake. It doesn't sound like her at all.
Wow that’s awesome! I’ve just been trying to look on eBay for more issues. I’ve been bugging some of the sellers to post pictures of the polls. I would certainly buy a copy if I knew Karen was listed. So far I’ve learned she wasn’t even named in the 1972 poll. I’m guessing her name started appearing in ‘73 or ‘74. If you ever go back, just look for December-February issues for each year I guess! Issues that feature the poll *sometimes* label it on the cover as well.
 

karencarpenterfans

Tori H.
Thread Starter
^^Gee, considering their drop in popularity by late December 1978, I am surprised Karen made #5 !
1974, The Carpenters were near their zenith, so it is not at all unbelievable for Karen to make #1 in early 1975.
They were also recipients of the 1974 American Music Awards (favorite pop group).
I was also shocked but pleased to see she was still being remembered for her drumming, even though the Carpenters hadn’t even made a live appearance/performed live in quite sometime besides for their specials!
 

arthowson

Well-Known Member
I was also shocked but pleased to see she was still being remembered for her drumming, even though the Carpenters hadn’t even made a live appearance/performed live in quite sometime besides for their specials!
When were the ‘74 AMA’s televised? The Como Christmas Special, a Jan. ‘75 #1 Record and Best Pop Group at the AMA’s must have been incredible after 5 years in the general public domain.
 
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