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The unique "New Christy Minstrels"

Updated on January 17, 2016

Why I'm making this page about the New Christy Minstrels

I'm making this page about "The New Christy Minstrels because they were one 60's folk group that was truly unique. The New Christy Minstrels, were started in the 60's by Randy Sparks. In the midst of the folk revival, Randy Sparks came up with a really unique concept. He said he wanted to start a group that combined the folk sound with the choral sound, a really unique concept indeed--and he succeeded. The result was The New Christy Minstrels. The choral sound was achieved by the sheer number of the group's members (Originally 14, but soon down to 10-count 'em) singing in harmony. The folk sound was achieved first by their use of acoustic guitars and other folk instruments and later also by the addition to the group of Barry McGuire, whose rough voice added an air of folkiness to the groups sound, especially when he had solo parts.

You can follow (below) their start and their history. As you will see (below), the group had many member changes in it's brief history, but, they still managed to maintain that great choral folk sound.

The start of the New Christy Minstrels - (info. gleaned from Wikipedia)

Here, according to Wikipedia, is the gist of how The New Christy Minstrels started:

  1. Randy Sparks was a soloist. in the late 1950s, singing both folk songs and Broadway ballads.
  2. "In 1960, [Sparks] formed the Randy Sparks trio with his wife, Jackie Miller, and Nick Woods."
  3. American folk music being so popular, choral groups started including it in their concerts.
  4. Wanting a larger group, Sparks combined his trio with another one called "The Inn Group",
  5. Trying for the choral sound, he added "The Fairmount Singers" quartet.
  6. Still not satisfied, he added folk singer Dolan Ellis, singer/guitarist Art Podell, folk-blues singer Terry Cudmore, and banjo player Billy Cudmore, making 14 voices in all.
  7. The New Christy Minstrels "burst onto the folk scene" in 1961.
  8. 1n 1962, "The Fairmount singers" left.
  9. In April 1962, the 10 member group "recorded their debut album, 'Presenting The New Christy Minstrels'." The album "won a Grammy for Best Performance by a Chorus."

    Read the Wikipedia article.

Their early career, group changes and 2nd album: - (more info. gleaned from Wikipedia)

  1. Their debut album (above) stayed in Billboard's 200 for two years and peaked at number 19.
  2. They were booked on The Andy Williams Show for1962-63.
  3. Forsha, Yester, and Dugan left to follow their own careers
  4. Singer/guitarists Barry McGuire and Barry Kane joined along with singer/banjoist Larry Ramos, Vocalist Peggy Connelly, and upright bass player Clarence Treat.
  5. Gayle Caldwell soon replaced Peggy Connelly.
  6. Sparks remained both director and arranger.
  7. In mid-1962, they began "playing regularly at LosAngeles' 'The Troubadour'"
  8. in February 1963, "they released their second album, 'The New Christy Minstrels In Person' " from a recording of a live performance at The Troubadour" the previous September..

    Read the Wikipedia article.

Get their first 2 albums on 1 great CD:

The New Christy Minstrels Presenting & In Person
The New Christy Minstrels Presenting & In Person
[From Amazon:] "Presenting captures the group's youthful, happy sound in all its glory. ..In Person presents [them] in a live setting, and... they handle the multiple vocal parts with the same aplomb..." --Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr., Rovi I had this and it really is a great sounding CD.--JMB

Their first 2 studio albums and their first big hit: - (still more info. gleaned from Wikipedia)

  1. In January 1963 they made their first studio album, "The New Christy Minstrels Tell Tall Tales! (Legends and Nonsense)"
  2. In April 1963 they recorded another studio album called "Ramblin' "which featured "Green, Green", written by McGuire and Sparks.
  3. "Green Green" became their first hit single. It peaked at number 3 on Adult Contemporary Charts. It sold over a million that year and won a gold disc.

    Read the Wikipedia article.

The really fun side of the New Christy Minstrels: - Their first studio album - (A bit of historical histeria:)

In a way, the minstrels could be called a fun group. But here's their really fun side.

Historical histeria On CD:

Tell Tall Tales! Legends and Nonsense / Land of Giants
Tell Tall Tales! Legends and Nonsense / Land of Giants
The first one (from the one above) is really funny, the 2nd sort-of-so with american legends like Paul Bunyon, Joe Mazerak, Casey Jones and others. it makes for a great 2 CD set.

More group changes and a film score: - (still gleaned from Wikipedia)

  1. After singing on "Green, Green," Barry McGuire become the "star" of the group.
  2. In May 1963, Randy Sparks stopped touring with the group, passing the role of director / arranger of live performances to Barry McGuire. Sparks "continued to run The Minstrels along with the group's managers, Sid Garris and George Greif."
  3. Ellis left. He was replaced by Gene Clark. Clark was featured.on their next few recordings.
  4. Early in 1964 Clark left. He was replaced by Paul Potash.
  5. Also in 1964, Miller (Sparks's wife), and Caldwell "were replaced by Karen Gunderson and Ann White."
  6. "Early in 1964 Sparks was contracted to create a film score for a civil war comedy, 'Advance to the Rear.'"
  7. The film's soundtrack by the Minstrels was released in May 1964. It was the first complete soundtrack ever made using only folk music. It featured the hit "Today."
  8. "Today" reached number 17 on the Hot 100 and number 4 on the Adult Contemporary Charts.

    Read the Wikipedia article.

The move scored by Randy Sparks - I wish I could see it! (But I don't have a DVD player--I may get it anyway!)

DVD. This is a civil war comedy for which they wrote, sang and played the original soundtrack--a really great musical accomplishment. The movie in which they played and sang the soundtrack. Unfortunately I never saw it, but I use to have CD below which has the music on it, and just from the music I can recommend the movie--I'd really like to see it.

Another great 2 album CD! The above soundtrack and more!

I had this and it's a great double CD. Either one by itself would be worth the price. First, the great soundtrack from the above movie-- A work of folk genius!--Some are instrumental, played with weird instruments like the comb and wax paper added; some are sung and very beautifully so, like the haunting "Today," which became quite popular on its own right -- plus the great songs of the westward movement in "Ramblin'." --James M. Becher

One reviewer on Amazon wrote: "I can't believe that they put both of my favorite New Christy Minstrel albums on one CD!" My sentiments too --JMB

Another great 2 album CD! The above soundtrack and more!

The decline of The New Christy Minstrels: - (gleaned from Wikipedia again:)

  1. In the mid-1960s, the height of the folk revival, American folk music leaned heavily on anti-war and other protests, and moral and social issues such as the civil rights movement, but, Sparks insisted that the Minstrels should entertain and make people forget their problems.
  2. Late in 1964, Randy Sparks sold his share of The New Christy Minstrels to Greif and Garris...
  3. Early in 1965 they toured Europe.
  4. Right after the...tour, Barry McGuire left for a solo career. This brought the end of the original New Christy Minstrels.
  5. The group, now under the direction of Greif and Garris morphed to "a variety act, doing 'novelty and pop tunes' and a little comedy. Later in 1965, they had a Top 100 hit with "Chim Chim Cher-ee from Mary Popins.

    Read the Wikipedia article.

The re-formed New Christy Minstrels: - [info. gleaned from an Amazon review:]

According to a review on the Amazon website, written by Colin Burgess in May 9, 2005, Many of the original group re-formed under Sparks around that time...

Were they Christians?

I find myself asking this of more and more folk groups, due to either a Christian album by the group or certain songs included in their repertoire and/or certain verses included in certain of the songs in their repertoire. The New Christy Minstrels did not record any Christian albums as such, but the example below of some of their included songs and verses of songs MAY seem to indicate some Christian leaning.

  1. On their live album "Live at Ledbetters." they opened with "Walk the road to that land" followed after two more songs by "Elijah Rock, " followed after 7 more songs by "Glory Glory Halulah, when I lay my burden down." 3 Spiritual songs about going to heaven in the same live performance.
  2. The album "The New Christy Minstrels In Person" has a song about a dying convict who wants to work in heaven, followed 5 songs later by an upbeat version of the hymn "When They Ring Those Golden Bells," followed 2 songs later (after a humorous bit) by "saint's Train." 3 songs which speak about going to heaven.
  3. In "Land of Giants," an album about legendary folk heroes of American, they included a song called "He's got Mighty Big Ways," A song referring to God as creator.
  4. In the song, "Jump Down, Turn around, Pick a bail of cotton, " which is a cotton picking song, they added a verse about the last judgement.
  5. In the song "Shenandoah," which is a song about crossing the Shenandoah river when going West, they added a verse that says "This world is not my home, I am bound across the river...there's a better land over Jordon" (Jordon being a typological representation of death [crossing over to heaven])

What do you think?

Were the New Christy Minstrels (individually or as a group) Christians?

See results

In 1988, they compiled their greatest hits album:

Exit poll 1:

Have you heard of the New Christy Minstrels before coming to this page?

See results

Exit poll 2:

How do you like the sound of the New Christy Minstrels

See results

The Definitive New Christy Minstrels: - If you can only get one CD by The New Christy Minstrels...

Definitive New Christy Minstrels
Definitive New Christy Minstrels
It would be a tough choice between this and the 2 album CD listed previously ("Today and Ramblin'"), I had this one too, and it's well worth the price. This CD has the best songs from all their albums. If you can get 2, however, get this and the 2 album CD, "Today and Ramblin'"

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