Jim and Al’s adventures in Arizona

For the first time in decades members of the original New Christy Minstrels are reuniting for a concert. There has been so much interest that a second concert has been added. Fans are here from over 30 states, including two of the Folk Alley gang. (Jim Blum and Al Bartholet)

We just interviewed Randy Sparks who first assembled the group in 1961. He liked the sound of a large group of singers, but no one had used that model for folk music before. The idea took off, and future legends would pass through the group (Kenny Rogers, Kim Carnes, and 3 members of the Byrds).

Shortly you’ll be able to hear what Randy told us (on demand). He was outspoken, excited, and extremely likeable. He told us about the first recording, and how he never envisioned touring until Columbia Records insisted. Wait till you hear about the two seedy managers who eventually bought him out. Randy shares his opinions about the nastiness of the music business including a recent run in with PBS! He told us about Burl Ives, Tennessee Ernie Ford, and about being in the film “Thunder Road” with Robert Mitchum. Above all, he has few regrets; he puts songwriting first among his goals – he still writes daily. Other than music, he has been happily married for over 40 years and has an asparagus ranch in Northern California.

Randy and the gang were on TV first thing this morning. Al and I will attend the band rehearsal this afternoon, in which EVERYONE must audition. (I think I’ll sit way in the back). The concert is tomorrow and the second concert is Sunday afternoon.

Saturday morning we’re all headed to the mountains to see the wildflower explosion. The desert has received more rain than ever, and flowers are blooming that haven’t bloomed in 200 years. Songwriter and all around good guy Jim Pipkin is organizing the expedition. The only bad part is that upon Jim’s insistance we all have to get up at dawn. I didn’t know musicians did that.

Hundreds of people are having a great time this week-end and there’s one man who remains behind the scenes who is largely responsible. Bob Zucker from Acoustic Music Arizona decided to make this weekend happen and his energy is making a lot of people smile.

Say… do you have a question for Randy Sparks, Clarence Treat, or any of the Minstrels? If you do, e-mail Al at bartholet@wksu.org. Al and I will take the questions to the group – they’ll love it.

Amongst the cactus, and the mountains, and the sunshine life isn’t so bad today.

Jim and Al

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