New Christy Minstrels’ Randy Sparks Dead At 90

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Randy Sparks, who founded the folk ensemble New Christy Minstrels, passed away on February 11. He was in assisted-living facility in San Diego and his son Kevin confirmed the death to The New York Times. He was 90.

Sparks was born on July 29, 1933 in Leavenworth, Kansas. He began as a solo musician, releasing two albums in the late ’50s on Verve. Throughout 1961 and 1962, he formed New Christy Minstrels, a 14-voice ensemble. Their debut, New Christy Minstrels Presenting The New Christy Minstrels, came out on Columbia Records and earned them a Grammy Award For Best Performance By A Chorus.

In 1962, the group started appearing as regulars on The Andy Williams Show. They released their second album, The New Christy Minstrels In Person, in February 1963. Their 1964 film score Today And Other Songs From ‘Advance To The Rear’ was the first complete soundtrack to be recorded in the style of folk music.

The group recorded over 20 albums and had many hits, such as “Green, Green,” “Saturday Night,” “Today,” “Denver,” and “This Land Is Your Land.” They performed during Super Bowl IV in 1970 at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans, introduced as “young Americans who demonstrate — with guitars.” They slowed down before stopping completely in the late ’80s and early ’90s.