The Touring Group Years (with the Guys)


"I'm goin' way down south to Baton Rouge, tonight"
CSULB Choral director Frank Pooler shared that the tour group rehearsed 12 hours a day and 7 days a week for six months to get that tight “singing Carpenters” sound before their first concert engagement in February of 1969. They were doing shows locally at places like Century Plaza Hotel and Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. The Musical Legacy lists their first official tour concert as May 29-30, 1970 at the 2,800 seat Westbury Music Fair, Westbury, NY.

This is a collection a few quick thoughts and fun facts of the guys, a couple of favorite moments and how they came to tour with Karen and Richard. Correct me where I’m wrong or add on to it. Touring was such a big part of Carpenters timeline and these guys brought it.

* Bob Messenger. In contrast to Karen and Richard being sticklers about their stage performances as in sounding like the recorded albums, Bob’s forte was improvisation. Bob’s signature on so many songs are now epic. My fav Bob moment: when he sings the farmer Gray part on Sleigh Ride. I believe Richard and Bob occasionally worked together in Downey et al at random gigs before Carpenters formed.

* Doug Strawn. My favorite moment: Doug digging the Cinderella Rockefella gives me the biggest smile, he was just having so much fun and the other song he did was fun, I Fell in Love with You. Karen and Richard met Doug at college, however Doug was not a member of Spectrum.

* Gary Sims. Along with Woodhams and Lyricist John Bettis, Gary Sims was also in the band Summerchimes later renamed Spectrum. Gary co-wrote Road Ode, an anthem when they were on tour. At one point he left the music scene and joined the military. He re-joined the group again later after Carpenters big break.

* Danny Woodhams is the Road Ode co-writer with Sims. Dan was an original Spectrum member. Woodhams would take a lot of the high male falsetto vocal backups on tour. My fav moment is being mesmerized with Dan’s energy level with the tambourine. Nicknamed Woody, he and Richard met at CSULB.

* Tony Peluso (1971). Karen and Richard were looking to add an edge to the group, Tony co-wrote a couple of songs, Happy (w/Diane Rubin and Bettis) and Sailing on the Tide (w/Bettis). My fav Tony moment is the DJ out-takes. Tony came aboard after both Karen and Richard remembered Tony playing for one of their opening acts, Instant Joy. Karen gave him a phone call to ask him to join them at the A&M studio for a session of Goodbye to Love. The rest is history.

* Cubby O’Brien (1973). Cubby, the Mickey Mouse Club legend, was hired to replace Jim Anthony. O’Brien provided a professional and polished stage sound. Cubby introduced Karen to one of her idols, Buddy Rich. I just love that fun fact. My favorite Cubby moments are when Cubby does dual drumming with Karen.

* Jim Anthony (1971) – Jim Anthony was hired as a second drummer. He changed his name from Jim Squeglia to stage name Jim Anthony. Jim appears in two well-known videos, LIVE at BBC special and Hurting Each Other. Richard played with Jim in the New Haven group, the Scepters in high school. He was also the drummer in the 60’s with Richard on the 45 record Why Don't You Write Mw/Mary-Ann with another band, The Barries.

Hi! Really liked the tidbits of info on the band. I have been scouring the web looking for more info on Bob. As a sax and flute player, I am blown away by his solos! I'd love to know more about how he came to work w the band, what other kinds of gigs he did, what equipment he used, who he studied with, why he was replaced by Tom Scott on the later albums, what he was like as a person etc etc...anything you might know along these lines would be gratefully appreciated!
Welcome @jshoundog ,

Bob Messenger, by all accounts, was a very quiet and humble man, and because of that there is not a ton of information on him. @Chris May interviewed Bob in 2016, I linked the thread where Chris posted it, below.

Short version is Bob was with a band and was playing upright bass in Downey, Ca., and at a gig one night and the piano player was running about an hour late. The leader of the band called Richard to fill in (the leader was also Richard’s piano teacher). That is how Bob met Richard.

After that gig, Richard asked Bob to start sitting in on rehearsals and he did. Then one day Carpenters got a big hit (They Long to Be) Close to You, and then Richard asked Bob if he would like to start hitting the road with them and Bob was like, of course!

Bob’s was last credited on Christmas Portrait. The last live public Carpenters performance with the guys was during the Aug 31-Sept 13, 1978 MGM Grand tour. They guys may have been there during the December 3 private concert at California State ULB later that year, I’m not sure. They did travel with Karen to London for the Bruce Forsyth Show 12/10/78 for a live to tape performance which aired 12/24/78.

The touring guys were in hiatus during the break in 1979. With Carpenters 1980 resurgence, studio musicians were used, although Bob did appear on some videos for MIA but it wasn’t him playing.

Tom Scott is a studio musician who was in high demand during that time. It is not uncommon for there to be different studio musicians and tour musicians, although thank goodness we have Bob on a lot of earlier on studio work on Carpenters recordings.

Here is the interview:

The Bob Messenger thread
Bob Messenger played the Richard Carpenter, with guest Scott Grimes and Garden Grove Symphony Christmas Concert on 12/13/1987. I said hello to him as he was exiting the theater, but he just mumbled something, and kept on walking. Not a talkative man that evening. Still it was great to see him backing Richard up on stage. Mom & Dad Carpenter were in the audience too.
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