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Cruisin’ with the oldies but goodies

Karen Armato and her children Sammie and Kari (front row) photographed here with The Lettermen band in 1972.  These years set the stage for decades of musical memories for Armato and her family. 

By Elean Gersack; photos courtesy of Karen Armato

It is a musical love affair decades in the making.  Since 1970 Karen Armato has been connected to The Lettermen.  It all started with a simple request to meet the group at a show at the Auditorium in Chicago.  Her wish was granted and that started five decades worth of memories.  

Armato recalls limousine rides with her young kids to shows; having dinners with the group at her home; and traveling across state lines to catch performances with this musical group led by original member, Tony Butala.  Some of her favorite memories are with Tony, who has always been nothing more than a good friend, staying as a guest in her home.  She laughs fondly when she thinks of the things he autographed in her house – dining room chairs, guest room sheets and more.

In 2013, Armato moved to Castle Pines to be close to her daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren.  With much of her time spent with family and getting settled into her new place, something was missing – her music.  As fate would have it, she heard a commercial on the radio for the Rock n’ Roll Concerts at Sea Cruise with The Lettermen as headliners.  “How could I ever do that, I thought,” said Armato.  

Karen Armato and Tony Butala, original leader of The Lettermen have a magical friendship spanning five decades.

With a quick text to Butala, and an accepted invite from a dear high school girlfriend who she asked to join her, Armato excitedly booked the cruise for January of 2015.  She had a blast and decided to go again in 2016 and is slated for both the 2017 and 2018 cruises as well.  Although The Lettermen have not performed on the cruise since 2015, Armato is thrilled with all of the groups performing her favorite tunes out on the sea each year.

The 2017 eight-night cruise on the Caribbean Princess will mark the 24th year of the Rock n’ Roll Concerts at Sea Cruise.  People from all around the world, including more than 100 people from the Denver area, took part in this past cruise … and that number continues to grow.  

“The cruise is about meeting people who enjoy the same music from the same eras.  There are gatherings on board for all of us from Denver to gather and mingle – like games and cocktails,” shared Armato.  An on-board singles gathering is in the works for 2017 too.  She not only enjoys the musical entertainment but also the amazing off-boat excursions and friendships the cruising trips have brought her.

The 2017 cruise will feature The Cowsills, Mitch Ryder, Jay and The Americans, The Hollies’ Terry Sylvester, The Buckinghams, Paul Revere’s Raiders, and Rare Earth’s Peter Rivera and will travel from Fort Lauderdale to Aruba, Curacao, and Bonaire from January 28 to February 5.     

Music is truly a passion for Armato, as is evident in her beaming smile as she shares her stories.  This part of her life has brought her so much joy.  She has met some amazing friends over the years and has now found a new way to enjoy her favorite music and meet others who do as well.  It has truly been a blessing for her.  “It’s been a lot of happy memories.  I’ve met so many wonderful people,” said Armato.  

Visit or call Diane Santana at 303-451-1400 to learn more about the Rock n’ Roll Concerts at Sea cruise.

Karen Armato (right) and her good friend from high school, Jeri, enjoyed a fun time on the 2016 Rock n’ Roll cruise last year, and Armato plans to go again this year!



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