• Two exciting new Carpenters releases are in the pipeline! The new book Carpenters: The Musical Legacy will be available on November 16, 2021 and can be ordered here. A big thanks to the authors and Richard Carpenter for their tremendous effort in compiling this book! Also, the new solo piano album Richard Carpenter's Piano Songbook is being released January 14, 2022, and is available for ordering here.

The Carpenters and the Blizzard -- February, 1971, Oklahoma

Mike Smith

Member
Thread Starter
I am a relatively new member of the group and I'd like to tell a story you might find interesting. We are coming up on a special 50th anniversary to me: of my first Carpenters' concert and the evening I met Karen.

In February, 1971, I was in the second semester of my freshman year at the University of Oklahoma. I was majoring in meteorology and went on to have a wonderful career in the science.

The weekend of February 20-21 featured tornadoes in the South that killed 123 people and an amazingly severe blizzard from west Texas to Nebraska that set many records that still stand. I spent that Sunday (21st) in the OU "map room" where we meteorology students plotted meteorological data to better learn how to forecast these rare storms. Little did I know that The Carpenters were simultaneously strugglingly to get through the blizzard to Northwest Oklahoma University to play a concert for that Monday evening (22nd).

A friend and I had a weekday news and music show on the campus radio station (KGOU, Norman). While we were doing Monday's show, the general manager came in and said, "The Carpenters are performing tomorrow evening in Tulsa. We have two tickets. Would you like them?" Bill Woodring and I jumped at the chance. I had loved Close to You and We've Only Just Begun. That week, For All We Know was #12 and rising on the Billboard Hot 100. The chance to hear their concert and meet them was too good to pass up.

After classes and our radio program Tuesday, we jumped in the car and drove to Tulsa. Richard began the concert by telling the audience they nearly didn't make it because of the winds and snow.

The concert was just amazing. In addition to their hits, they played a number of songs from (then unknown to me) Ticket to Ride. After the concert, we went backstage. While I briefly spoke with Richard, Bill did that interview. Since Bill was speaking to Richard, I walked over to Karen who was standing -- by herself -- next to her drum kit. I was amazed no one was speaking with her and that I had so much one-on-one time with her. She was absolutely charming and answered all my questions in a friendly manner. My recollection, however, (our audio tape is lost to the ages) is that she was already expressing dissatisfaction with touring, which surprised me. She also told me that they "had to go to a party after the concert" which she was not looking forward to because she didn't have a date. I offered to escort her but she politely turned me down.

The next day, Bill and I went into the station early and edited the tape. The interview was well-received by our listeners.

I saw the Carpenters again in Oklahoma City in 1972. As I recall, it had fewer of the Ticket songs and, of course, more of their rapidly growing repertoire of hits.

That year, I began a long-distance romance with Kathleen Rector, the girl who would become my wife. "Our song" became I Won't Last a Day Without You which was especially poignant given the 400 miles that were often between us. The romance blossomed and we will celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary in 2023.

We are expecting another grandchild in February, so I wanted to go ahead and post this. Hope everyone has a Merry Christmas and that 2021 is a great year for all.
 

Mark-T

Well-Known Member
Such a great story, Mike! It has been interesting to read that in the early years Karen seemed so unaware of her gift and of her importance to the duo.

Congratulations on the new grandkid and almost 50 years of marriage! The Lord has blessed you.
 

Mike Smith

Member
Thread Starter
Such a great story, Mike! It has been interesting to read that in the early years Karen seemed so unaware of her gift and of her importance to the duo.

Congratulations on the new grandkid and almost 50 years of marriage! The Lord has blessed you.
I have been incredibly blessed. Thank you, Mark.
 

Mike Smith

Member
Thread Starter
When I posted the story (above), I had a feeling I was forgetting something. Just remembered what they were:
  1. When I asked Karen what album she would "like" to make, she didn't hesitate to reply, "A Christmas album."
  2. The maiden name of my pregnant daughter-in-law? Carpenter.
 

David A

Well-Known Member
Let me chime in and say thanks for sharing such a great personal story. I'm envious and happy for you that you had that experience. Amazing!
 

Chris May

Resident ‘Carpenterologist’
Staff member
Moderator
I am a relatively new member of the group and I'd like to tell a story you might find interesting. We are coming up on a special 50th anniversary to me: of my first Carpenters' concert and the evening I met Karen.

In February, 1971, I was in the second semester of my freshman year at the University of Oklahoma. I was majoring in meteorology and went on to have a wonderful career in the science.

The weekend of February 20-21 featured tornadoes in the South that killed 123 people and an amazingly severe blizzard from west Texas to Nebraska that set many records that still stand. I spent that Sunday (21st) in the OU "map room" where we meteorology students plotted meteorological data to better learn how to forecast these rare storms. Little did I know that The Carpenters were simultaneously strugglingly to get through the blizzard to Northwest Oklahoma University to play a concert for that Monday evening (22nd).

A friend and I had a weekday news and music show on the campus radio station (KGOU, Norman). While we were doing Monday's show, the general manager came in and said, "The Carpenters are performing tomorrow evening in Tulsa. We have two tickets. Would you like them?" Bill Woodring and I jumped at the chance. I had loved Close to You and We've Only Just Begun. That week, For All We Know was #12 and rising on the Billboard Hot 100. The chance to hear their concert and meet them was too good to pass up.

After classes and our radio program Tuesday, we jumped in the car and drove to Tulsa. Richard began the concert by telling the audience they nearly didn't make it because of the winds and snow.

The concert was just amazing. In addition to their hits, they played a number of songs from (then unknown to me) Ticket to Ride. After the concert, we went backstage. While I briefly spoke with Richard, Bill did that interview. Since Bill was speaking to Richard, I walked over to Karen who was standing -- by herself -- next to her drum kit. I was amazed no one was speaking with her and that I had so much one-on-one time with her. She was absolutely charming and answered all my questions in a friendly manner. My recollection, however, (our audio tape is lost to the ages) is that she was already expressing dissatisfaction with touring, which surprised me. She also told me that they "had to go to a party after the concert" which she was not looking forward to because she didn't have a date. I offered to escort her but she politely turned me down.

The next day, Bill and I went into the station early and edited the tape. The interview was well-received by our listeners.

I saw the Carpenters again in Oklahoma City in 1972. As I recall, it had fewer of the Ticket songs and, of course, more of their rapidly growing repertoire of hits.

That year, I began a long-distance romance with Kathleen Rector, the girl who would become my wife. "Our song" became I Won't Last a Day Without You which was especially poignant given the 400 miles that were often between us. The romance blossomed and we will celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary in 2023.

We are expecting another grandchild in February, so I wanted to go ahead and post this. Hope everyone has a Merry Christmas and that 2021 is a great year for all.

Richard literally just told me this story yesterday! :laugh:
 

Mike Smith

Member
Thread Starter
Richard literally just told me this story yesterday! :laugh:
Chris, what did he tell you? Or, better still, do you have his contact info? I am writing a story about this storm for the National Weather Digest and would love to add his recollection to the story. If you wish to get hold of me one on one: michaelrsmith at me dot com
 

Walkinat9

Well-Known Member
Today is the actual anniversary date.
Was hoping to find you a newspaper article from any of those 2 concerts, Mike, either ads or reviews ,but no luck unfortunately. The only reference was from the next month where it mentioned a few people from Connors State College who saw the Carpenters concert in Tulsa, but no location or exact date was given. Kind of strange btw to have that placed in a newspaper (it also mentioned how they visited their relatives), almost like a pre-internet social media post :) Anyway, would have been nice to add more concert dates on the Setlist.fm site that way, too. I guess not all Oklahoma newspapers are digitized then. I loved reading your story though! 🤓
 

Mike Smith

Member
Thread Starter
Walkinat9, thank you. Glad you enjoyed the piece.

I tried very hard to find newspaper articles. I called a Twitter acquaintance who lives outside of Woodward. In those days, National Weather Service volunteer observers wrote "remarks" about a storm by hand. So, I went to the government's National Climatic Data Center to see if there was more about the storm near Woodward. Zilch.

Not only did the 21st feature a record-setting blizzard (records still not broken today), it was in the top ten tornado outbreaks in U.S. history. More than 100 people lost their lives.

If anyone is a weather-weenie, I published an article on the meteorology of the storm here: National Weather Association

To Carpenters' fans who live east of the Continental Divide: There are some strong statistical indications that this could be a much more violent tornado season than in 2020. Please make sure you are ready to go if a tornado warning is issued for your area. Any questions? Just ask.
 
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