Carpenters lead guitarist Tony Peluso dies

Later became a successful Motown, Latin music producer

Tony Peluso, the lead guitarist for the Carpenters in the 1970s and '80s who became a successful Motown and Latin music producer, died June 5 of heart disease in Los Angeles. He was 60.

Peluso began as musical director for Bobby Sherman, played guitar for Paul Revere and the Raiders, produced records for the likes of Smokey Robinson and Michael Jackson and collaborated with Gustavo Santaolalla on the soundtrack of the Oscar-winning "Brokeback Mountain."

Peluso's career brought him numerous gold and platinum records representing sales of more than 150 million units and four Grammy Awards out of 11 nominations.

As a child of the leading soprano for the Metropolitan and San Francisco Opera companies and the music director for NBC Radio West Coast, Peluso was inundated with music from an early age. It was not uncommon for his Peluso family to entertain the likes of Les Paul or Jascha Heifetz.

At 21, Peluso accepted an invitation to join the Carpenters, which turned into a 12-year gig. He traveled the world touring with Richard and Karen Carpenter and recorded many albums as their lead guitarist. Perhaps his most memorable work with the Carpenters was on the 1972 power ballad "Goodbye to Love," where he conceived and played the masterful, melodic solo and outro.

The Carpenters will be honored at the Hollywood Bowl on June 18, the opening night of the season, and Richard Carpenter will perform.

After Karen Carpenter's death in 1983, Peluso explored producing and engineering. He partnered for a decade with the head of A&R at Motown Records and co-produced dozens of records for such artists as Robinson, Jackson, the Temptations, the Four Tops and Sam Harris, the first winner of television's "Star Search."

During the 1980s and '90s, Peluso also produced and/or engineered for artists such as Kenny Loggins, Seals & Crofts, Apollonia, Player, Animotion, Stephanie Mills, the Fixx, Dave Koz and Boyz II Men with Selena. He also was in demand as a session guitar player.

In 1992, Peluso began an association with two-time Academy Award winner Santaolalla. They pioneered the Latin genre known as Roc en Espanol, selling millions of records worldwide. Peluso also worked with such acclaimed Latin pop acts as Ricky Martin, Molotov and Cafe Tacuba.

In 2005, Santaolalla brought Peluso on board for the production of the soundtrack to "Brokeback Mountain"; its theme song, "The Wings," won the 2005 Oscar for best original score.

Peluso continued to work with some of the best up and coming Latino singers and musicians.

Peluso is survived by sons Joe and Andrew. Services will be held at 11 a.m. on June 26 at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Northridge, Calif.