Born and raised in Southern California, Karla Bonoff was a songwriter by the age of fifteen. She and her sister Lisa were writing songs and playing as a duo titled “The Daughters of Chester P” named after their father, Dr. Chester Paul Bonoff. Karla had already fallen in love with the guitar and studied with Frank Hamilton of the famous folk group, The Weavers. By 16, Karla and Lisa auditioned for Elektra Records. An 11-song demo (recorded by Doors’ engineer Bruce Botnick) was recorded, but no deal came of this first effort.
Karla’s sister became a teacher of history and religion, but Karla’s passion was always music. She became friends with other singer-songwriters and musicians in the ’60s who were creating their own unique sound. There were some other writer-singers who became friends of Karla’s, and eventually, they decided to put a band together. They were Kenny Edwards (who had started the Stone Poneys with Linda Ronstadt and Bobby Kimmel), Wendy Waldman, and Andrew Gold. Something powerful in their combined sound drew them together. Thus the band Bryndle was born – one of the early songwriter groups, even before the Eagles. The band made an album for A&M, but it was never released. They were, unfortunately, a bit ahead of their time.
As Ronstadt was scoring hits with Karla Bonoff songs, Karla herself was signed as a solo artist to Columbia Records in 1977. There, she not only recorded the three songs Linda had done, but also the hit single “I Can’t Hold On” and the tune “Home,” which later wound up on one of Bonnie Raitt’s albums. She went from there to coveted spots on major tours, opening for James Taylor and Jackson Browne and earning a rave review in Time magazine. Two subsequent albums, “Restless Nights” (1979) and “Wild Heart of the Young” (1982) established Karla as one of LA’s major artists and songwriters.
In 1999, Sony/CBS Legacy released “All My Life – The Best of Karla Bonoff,” a 16-song fully remastered collection spanning Karla’s entire career. An extensive article by Billboard Editor-In-Chief Timothy White and an interview with Karla were included with the CD.
Karla continues to perform all over America. Often after her concerts, Karla talks with fans and signs CDs and well-worn LP covers people bring to her shows.
Karla’s legacy as a writer and perseverance as a performer are spoken best in a Billboard Magazine review of Karla’s “All My Life” recording: “Long before Alanis and Jewel, there was a breed of singer/songwriters whose earthly anthems of soul-searching, heartache and joy touched souls in a way few can muster today.”
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