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Focus On: Randy Sparks

Randy Sparks In 1961, Randy Sparks gathered together ten singers and musicians to record his songs for Columbia Records. Columbia wanted to tour the group and The New Christy Minstrels were formed. Sparks was the chief songwriter and group leader keeping the sound consistent, even as members came and went. The group's debut album, Presenting The New Christy Minstrels: Exciting New Folk Chorus, won a Grammy Award for Best Performance by a Chorus. The Grammy win helped drive the album up the charts, coupling with a year-long contract to appear on Andy Williams' TV show and performances onstage at the Troubadour in Los Angeles to solidify the mainstream popularity of The New Christy Minstrels. Sparks stopped performing with the Minstrels to focus on his songwriting (creating or co-writing hits including “Green, Green” and “Today”) and eventually left the group altogether, although, as its creator, maintaining majority financial responsibility. He now lives on a ranch in California, touring occasionally with former Minstrels and new group members as Randy Sparks & The Minstrels.


Randy's interview

Jim Blum sits down with Randy Sparks, the man behind the '60s mega-group The New Christy Minstrels, while in Arizona for a Minstrels “reunion” concert. Sparks lets Blum in on a few Minstrels backstage secrets and recounts a little of the history behind the 10-person group, including stories about Burl Ives, Barry McGuire, A Mighty Wind and questionable dealings in the music industry.

Randy Sparks tells the story behind his satirical song, Saturday Night in Toledo, Ohio, a surprise hit for John Denver. Sparks shied away from writing negative or angry songs, but he did not enjoy his visit to Toledo.
Windows Media / Real Player / MP3 (7:34)

Blum and Sparks talk about the inspiration behind the recent New Christy Minstrels reunion in Arizona, the genesis of the group and meeting Sparks' idol, Burl Ives.
Windows Media / Real Player / MP3 (5:34)

Sparks on striking gold by creating the New Christy Minstrels in 1961 – originally as a platform for his songwriting. The 10-people strong group faced an uphill battle to get recognition, but were an almost instant success.
Windows Media / Real Player / MP3 (7:39)

Blum brings Sparks up to his present life as a California ranch-owner. The pair discuss Dolan Ellis (the official balladeer of Arizona), Barry McGuire and taking the stage of the Troubadour under very sketchy circumstances.
Windows Media / Real Player / MP3 (6:46)

Life after the New Christy Minstrels - Sparks and Blum discuss starting new ventures, writing the hit tune Today and the wisdom that comes with age.
Windows Media / Real Player / MP3 (6:32)

Sparks and Blum join together in support of the future of folk music and plead the case of older music - even if it comes in the form of a parody like A Mighty Wind.
Windows Media / Real Player / MP3 (2:37)

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