In 1958, Carole King wrote and recorded her first single, “The Right Girl.” Ever since, she’s been making music — a lot more than most people realize.
She wrote or co-wrote more than 100 pop hits on the Billboard Hot 100, from “Chains” — originally recorded by the Everly Brothers and later covered by the Cookies and the Beatles — to the Chiffons’ “One Fine Day,” Aretha Franklin’s “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” and Mariah Carey’s “If It’s Over.” Add to that her own powerhouse solo work, especially her album “Tapestry,” and you have a songwriting legend.
It was that immense list of hits that inspired the Stephanie D Band to create “To Carole With Love,” a tribute concert to King.
Unlike many tribute shows, in the Stephanie D Band’s concert, no one will imitate King or wear period costumes.
“It’s not a portrayal of Carole King,” band leader Stephanie Damilano said. “We’re not trying to be a tribute band. It’s a tribute to her music.”
Damilano plays piano, along with Graeme Moates on bass and electric guitar, Rick Webb on pedal steel guitar, Aubrey Scarbourgh on keyboard and guitar, and Mihran Bobson on drums. Damilano, Webb and Scarbourgh will provide the vocals.
The first spark of the project came from a fellow musician, Rick Duncan, part of James Garner’s Tribute to Johnny Cash.
“We’ve done a lot of recording over the years with Rick,” Bobson said.
He suggested that they do a show in King’s honor.
“Of course, we grew up with her music,” Bobson said.
In fact, the Stephanie D Trio — precursor to the Stephanie D Band — already covered a couple of her songs. The band, which performs in local wineries, restaurants, clubs and other venues, also liked the idea of performing in a theater, where they would be the focus of the event rather than the background music.
It took them about a year to develop the show, which ranges from King’s earliest songs, written for other performers.
“We really do focus on her album ‘Tapestry,’” Damilano said.
That album was King’s breakout as a solo performer. It has sold more than 25 million copies since she recorded it in 1971, making it one of the bestselling albums of all time. It stayed on the Billboard charts for 313 weeks — more than six years — and landed King four Grammy awards, including Album of the Year and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.
The Stephanie D Band has put in a lot of work to do King’s songs justice.
“We have put many, many hours into studying her music and watching videos of her performing,” Bobson said.
The concert spans about 40 years, in mostly chronological order, and follows King’s career from her start in New York City to the West Coast. The band encourages the audience to join in the fun and sing along.
The band has performed three times, and the response was amazing, Damilano said.
“It’s just been overwhelming, the love people show and the stories they want to share,” she said.
Audience members are often surprised to hear songs they didn’t know King had written, such as a handful she wrote for the Monkees, including “Pleasant Valley Sunday” and “Porpoise Song.” Damilano and her bandmates were also surprised by some of the hits they turned up — favorites they hadn’t known she had a hand in.
“I’ve learned so much about her,” Damilano said.
The love of King’s music goes beyond nostalgia, Damilano and Bobson said. Her music wasn’t written with topping the charts in mind; instead, they resonate with the people who hear them. Some of the songs included in the show are 50 years old, Bobson noted, but audience members of all ages can belt them out.
“We’ve been playing music professionally almost all our lives, and these songs, they stand the test of time, because they’re real songs,” he said.