Carney was the longest lasting player in Duke Ellington's band. He was always there and on occasions when Ellington was missing he took over as conductor, particularly when Ellington wished to make a stage entrance after the band had begun playing the first piece of a performance. Ellington and Carney were close friends. The majority of their careers they rode together in Carney's car to concerts, allowing Ellington to come up with new ideas. Fictionalised accounts of these road trips are documented in Geoff Dyer's But Beautiful.