1964 New Christy Minstrels – Today
Singer/songwriter Randy Sparks started The New Christy Minstrels in 1961. He merged several folk groups together with some individual performers and created a fourteen person ensemble group.
By 1962, the group had been reduced to only ten singers, many of whom expected to only record music without having to perform live.
Columbia Records recorded an album with the group, but the label insisted that a touring group would be required before they would release the album. Randy hired Greif-Garris Management (George Greif and Sid Garris) to handle the business side of the group. Four members quit immediately to avoid touring.
The Andy Williams Show signed the group for weekly appearances on the show beginning in Fall 1962, and that caused four more members to quit. That required new recruits, including Barry McGuire and future Association member Larry Ramos.
The group’s first album won a Grammy Award for the Best Performance by a Chorus in 1962 and stayed on Billboard’s album chart for over two years.
By 1963, the band’s fourth album (Ramblin’) had rewarded the group with its first top forty single. Barry sang lead on Green Green, which he co-wrote with Randy. The record reached #14 on the Hot 100.
Randy stopped touring with the group so he could concentrate on his Los Angeles nightclub, Ledbetter’s. He used the nightclub to audition and train future members of the New Christy Minstrels. He also started a second group, The Back Porch Majority, as a pathway for future Minstrels.
Randy contracted to write the music for the film Advance to the Rear. The film was a comedy set during the Civil War. Barry again sang the lead vocals and newcomer Gene Clark also sang on the recordings.
The single Today reached #17 on the Hot 100 in 1964.
Randy decided to leave the group and sold the name to Greif-Garris. He used his nightclub to help kick-start the careers of Steve Martin, John Denver, The Carpenters, and many others.
Gene left the group and joined Jim McGuinn and David Crosby in the group The Jet Set (which later morphed into The Byrds).
While the group never again reached the top forty, their music contained to be popular enough to support over forty albums before they disbanded in the early nineties. Kim Carnes and Kenny Rogers were two more of the more than 70 other members of the group throughout the years.
Randy eventually regained control of the group’s name and continues to tour with a current lineup of members.
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