Randy Sparks & The Minstrels, Missoula, MT, Sept. 5, 2003
Left to Right:  Barry McGuire, Lori Brandon, Cousin Dave Rainwater, Ron Wilburne, Randy Sparks,
Darrell Effinger, Fred Johansen, Becky Jo Benson, Clarence Treat
"Last Go-Round on The Merry-Go-Round"
Vancouver, Washington
September 12, 2003
Concert Program Cover
Promotional brochure
A day before the concert,
Randy Sparks and Becky
Jo Benson entertain choral
students at Vancouver
School of Arts & Academics
In concert
The Minstrels welcome Dennis Walker and Mallory Ewart, co-winners of the City of
Vancouver's Folk Talent Contest.  Dennis and Mallory sing a duet in the first verse of
"This Land Is Your Land"
Standing ovation from the sellout crowd
Randy signs autographs at
post-concert reception
Randy Sparks and Becky Jo Benson in
duet concert alongside the Columbia
River in Washougal, Washington,
September 13, 2003
Vancouver City
Councilmember Pat Jollota
introduces the Minstrels
Randy Sparks & The Minstrels

Homecoming Concert September 12, 2003
Vancouver, Washington, May 7, 2003   ----   The true story behind one of the
most popular and successful folk music groups of the 1960's, The New
Christy Minstrels, began right here in Vancouver, Washington.  That story
will come full circle in the summer of 2003 when Randy Sparks brings his
Minstrels back to Vancouver for a homecoming concert.

   Under the direction of folksinger and songwriter Randy Sparks, The New
Christy Minstrels recorded nine popular albums (most, including the
Presenting the New Christy Minstrels, were runaway best
sellers!), were a regular feature of TV's
The Andy Williams Show, and
toured in concert nationwide and overseas.  Members of the New Christy
Minstrels included such folk, rock and country notables as Barry McGuire(â
€˜Green Green,' ‘Eve of Destruction'), the late Gene Clark (of Byrds
fame), Dolan Ellis (Official Arizona State Balladeer), Kenny Rogers and
Kim Carnes (John Denver is also sometimes incorrectly listed as a former
member of The New Christy Minstrels, however Randy Sparks did give him
his start in the music business, and named him!).  Among the group's hits
were 'This Land Is Your Land' and 'Denver' (1962), 'Green Green' (1963),
and 'Saturday Night' and 'Today' (1964).

   In the fall of 1961, 28-year-old Sparks, a Kansas native living in Los
Angeles, was a recurring performer at Tod McClaskey's Frontier Room on
Main Street in Vancouver.  At the Vancouver Library, Sparks had been
reading about legendary songwriter Stephen Foster, who had achieved
success thanks to a group of performers called Christy's Minstrels, led by
Edwin P. Christy.  Sparks picks up the story:

 I needed exactly what Foster had acquired from Christy, performance of my
songs.  If it had worked for him, why, I wondered, wouldn't it also work for me
more than a hundred years later?
   That night, I was playing some sort of slot machine at the Frontier Room,
and when I knelt down to get money from the cup near the floor, I came up
with the name, and it seemed magical to me: The New Christy Minstrels. I said
it over and over again, and later when I saw Jackie (my wife at the time, and
member of my old trio, the Randy Sparks Three), I told her about my idea.  I
don't think she was that impressed at the moment, but she quickly became my
very first convert.  She is now listed as New Christy Minstrel #2.  I am #1.
   I decided then and there that my group would be called the New Christy
Minstrels; there would be fourteen performers, all of whom would both sing
and play simultaneously.  That very night I recruited my first players.  Four
young men of college age had driven up to Vancouver from Eugene, Oregon,
to meet me and catch my show.  They were a quartet, calling themselves The
Fairmount Singers.  They had a good sound, so I told them I'd help them if
they'd help me with my new invention, which was only hours old at this point.  
They agreed, and that was the beginning.

   On September 12, 2003, Randy Sparks will bring Barry McGuire and
Clarence Treat, from the 1962-65 New Christy Minstrels, along with some
gifted younger performers, to the Royal Durst Theatre at the Vancouver
School of Arts & Academics.  They'll recreate their Grammy-winning
sound, and conjure up the same kind of on-stage excitement one more
time, just a few blocks up the street from where it all began!

                                                  # # #
Site of the Frontier Room at 5th & Main
in Vancouver, Washington -- birthplace
of The New Christy Minstrels
Vancouver Library (now the Clark
County Historical Museum), where
Randy Sparks read about Stephen
Foster and Christy's Minstrels
Vancouver Columbian,
September 8, 2003