By Barry Barbe
Six degrees of separation is the idea that all people are six or fewer social connections away from each other. As a result, a chain of “friend of a friend” statements can be made to connect any two people in a maximum of six steps. It is also known as the six handshakes rule.
Not only does the theory challenge how closely related we are when it comes to day-to-day interactions, but also how important every interaction is, and the impact those may carry — whether we know it or not.
For Frankie Chavez, a Sedona resident and life-long musician, a relationship built out of the mutual love of music would follow him for the rest of his life.
At the age of 11, Frankie was already a well-known child prodigy, touring and recording with the likes of Stan Kenton, Lionel Hampton, Woody Herman and Buddy Rich. Prior to this, Frankie took to the drums at the age of 3 when he was placed on a drum kit, yet unable to reach the pedals.
Frankie had not only a unique passion, but a dedication that has resulted in long career and being recognized for both his talent and humility.
Frankie would go on to become a sought-after drummer touring with the Glenn Miller Orchestra and more before settling in Sedona, becoming a fixture on the regional jazz scene — including regular gigs here in Prescott performing with his wife and vocalist, Rosemary Chavez, as Jazz ala Mode.
It was while attending Downey High School in Downey, California, where his talent would inspire a future ’70s musical icon to pick up the sticks.
Karen Carpenter and her brother, Richard, had yet to begin their rise to become one of the most successful musical groups of the 1970s with such hits as “Rainy Days and Mondays,” “We’ve Only Just Begun” and “Close to You” — songs that continue to be recognized nearly 50 years later.
At the time, Karen was an average high school kid, smitten with the idea of learning the drums. And Frankie not only gave her her first lessons, but also helped her pick out and purchase her first drum kit.
“I think it’s important to realize that none of us would be here watching this film if it was not for this man teaching Karen how to play drums. I mean that is unbelievable. I stand in awe of what you did, Frankie, and the stories you are able to tell,” said Andy Streitfeld, executive producer and founder of AMS Pictures, producers of “Starving for Perfection.”
Karen and her family had long been influenced by jazz and she and her brother, along with Wes Jacobs debuted as “The Richard Carpenter Trio” in 1967 with Karen on drums. This would continue until Karen found her voice so to speak and began performing original, pop pieces arranged by her brother, Richard.
Despite her talent on the drums, it was Karen’s voice that set her apart and is still recognized to this day for its distinct, melancholy sound that defined love songs and ballads of the ’70s.
While the Carpenters were realizing worldwide fame, Frankie continued to perform throughout the industry and has been involved in numerous Karen Carpenter biopics including “Little Girl Blue,” the book that became the basis for “Starving for Perfection,” which is premiering at the Prescott Film Festival on Friday, Sept. 22, at the Jim & Linda Lee Performing Arts Center at 4 p.m.
“Karen was very receptive to suggestions and learning technique that I had learned from Buddy Rich and passed on to her,” Frankie said. “She was a very funny, lighthearted and focused on mastering the drums. She could sit in a room with anyone and was a standout — not only as a female drummer, but regardless of male or female, she was so talented.”
The AMS documentary, “Starving for Perfection,” is one selection of the many films showing this week at the Prescott Film Festival, which concludes Sunday, Sept. 24.
The documentary confirms the six degrees of separation with interviews of notables such as Carol Burnett, Olivia Newton John, Suzanne Somers, Cubby O’Brien, Carnie Wilson, Frankie Chavez, and many more.
The film also includes never-before-heard audio of Karen discussing her life and her challenges dealing with Anorexia Nervosa, which was ultimately the cause of her death in 1983 at the age of 32.
For more about the Prescott Film Festival, visit www.prescottfilmfestival.com.
For more on Frankie Chavez, visit www.Chavez-music.com.
Barry Barbe owns the El Gato Azul and Torme restaurants in Prescott, and is the energy and insight behind the Prescott Palette. His radio show, the Prescott Palette, is on KQNA 1130 AM, Saturdays at noon. Email: Prespalette@gmail.com.