The Carpenters formed in the late '60s in Downey, CA, after their family moved from their native New Haven, CT. Richard had played piano with a cocktail jazz trio in a handful of local Connecticut nightclubs. Once the family had moved to California, he began to study piano while he supported Karen in a trio that featured Wes Jacobs (tuba/bass). With Jacobs and Richard forming her backup band, Karen was signed to the local Californian record label Magic Lamp, who released two unsuccessful singles by the singer. The trio won a Battle of the Bands contest at the Hollywood Bowl in 1966, which led to a record contract with RCA. Signing under the name the Richard Carpenter Trio, the group cut four songs that were never released. Jacobs left the band at the beginning of 1968.
Following Jacobs' departure, the siblings formed Spectrum with Richard's college friend John Bettis. Spectrum fell apart by the end of the year, but the Carpenters continued performing as a duo. The pair recorded some demos at the house of Los Angeles session musician Joe Osborn; the tape was directed toward Herb Alpert, the head of A&M Records, who signed the duo to his record label in early 1969.
Offering, the Carpenters' first album, was released in November 1969. Neither Offering or the accompanying single, a cover of the Beatles' "Ticket to Ride," made a big impression. However, the Carpenters' fortunes changed with their second single, a version of Burt Bacharach and Hal David's "(They Long to Be) Close to You." Taken from the album Close to You, the single became the group's first number one, spending four weeks on the top of the U.S. charts. "Close to You" became an international hit, beginning a five-year period where the duo was one of the most popular recording acts in the world. During that period the Carpenters won two Grammy Awards, including Best New Artist of 1970, and had an impressive string of Top Ten hits, including "Rainy Days and Mondays," "Superstar," "Hurting Each Other," "Goodbye to Love," "Yesterday Once More," and "Top of the World."