Peter Karp Returns to Sparta Summer Concerts
Peter John Downing Karp is an American roots/blues singer-songwriter, guitarist and pianist. Peter Karp is a multi-instrumentalist whose Roots Rock style, mixed with Blues and Folk humor, give a unique and unusual look at life’s sometimes happy, sometimes sad reality.
Karp was born in Leonia, NJ. His father John was a military pilot and his mother Ruth was a copywriter and avid music fan. His stepmother Ruth Turner was an African American woman from the lowlands of South Carolina. By the time he was 8 his mother had taken him to see many of the popular musicians of the day. (The Beatles, The Stones, The Animals, The Temps, The Supremes, etc.). Living with his father in a trailer park in Alabama, he heard southern “race” radio playing Son House, Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Elmore James, Howlin’ Wolf and regional country music. His love for this music would lead him to Dylan, Hendrix, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and other rock luminaries of the day. He started to play the accordion at 7, the guitar and piano at 15.
Peter began his professional music career as a songwriter/keyboardist/guitarist with the critically acclaimed, seminal art-blues-punk band “They Came From Houses”. Karp became disillusioned with the music business, folded the band, walked away and began working in the film industry. He continued working in music, directing, producing and playing with musicians Willie Dixon, John Lee Hooker, Johnny Johnson, Don Henley, Michael Brecker, Richie Havens, The Jacksons, Ric Ocasik and Jackson Brown.
Peter became deeply interested in the rich African American culture that has flourished for over 200 years in South Carolina’s South Sea Islands. Influenced by his stepmother, he immersed himself in learning about the Gullah and its musical roots, taking trips into and filming the South Sea Islands where the original Geechee language is still spoken. His song “Geechee Geechee Wawa” is based on those experiences.
Peter returned to performing with the life perspective he was seeking. In 1998 he made “Live At The American Roadhouse” a collection of original songs that included “Moments,” a song picked up and re-recorded for a JVC commercial. Karp then released “Roadshow” which received positive national reviews. Rolling Stones guitarist Mick Taylor became aware of Peter after a DJ has sent him some rough recordings of songs. Taylor flew to the US to play guitar on Peter’s next record “The Turning Point.” Mick also toured with Peter. “Songwriters like Peter Karp, James Taylor and Bob Dylan embody Americana music – I’m a fan,” says Mick. One show at The Bottom Line in NYC was recorded but not released until 2016. “The Turning Point” tour brought Peter into the national spotlight, and he was signed by Blind Pig Records. “Shadows and Cracks” was released in 2007 to overwhelming critical success. After touring in support of the album, fate intervened when Peter’s Mary Lou was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Peter quit the road to spend the last remaining months of her life with her and their children.
While on the road, Peter met Canadian guitarist/singer/songwriter Sue Foley. Karp and Foley had kept in touch through letters. The struggles of touring, drinking and the death of Peter’s wife were chronicled in these letters which became the basis for the album Peter and Sue would record together “He Said – She Said.” The album went to the top of the Blues/Roots charts and entered the billboard charts at #5. Critics hailed the partnership as unique magic. Their 2nd release, “Beyond The Crossroads” also met with rave reviews.
In 2016, the tapes of the show at The Bottom Line in NYC with Mick Taylor were released by Peter as the album “The Arson’s Match.” It’s part of a charity project he started in honor of his late wife to raise funds for Ovarian Cancer Research. The album has received radio airplay, award nominations, and positive reviews. Peter has been steadily writing new songs and recording, with final touches being put on several new releases.
Opening the evening is Sparta singer/songwriter and guitarist extraordinaire Don Elliker.
The FREE concert is Friday 8/12 at 7PM and is sponsored by the Sparta chapter of UNICO. Rain or shine at The Nicholson Pavilion, Dykstra Park, 22 Woodport Road, Sparta. Check www.spartaarts.org for more information, especially after 2pm on Friday to learn whether or not the show has been moved indoors to the MAS due to inclement weather.