Randy Sparks writes:
One of the advantages of folk music happens to be that so many of the beloved stories told in song belong to all of us, that is, they are in the public domain, free of copyright protection, and every folksinger worth his keep is allowed, even expected, to make improvements in the retelling the tale. One of my goals in life is to keep old-fashioned music alive and entertaining. ‘The Land of Giants’ album was a favorite project of mine, and I wanted to celebrate the American spirit through some of its heroes. The John Henry song had been sung to death by nearly everybody, and I simply wanted to create a better vehicle to carry the message. Columbia Records wanted no part of my entertaining ‘painless history’ lesson, but I ran my own group, and didn’t take direction very well. History teachers over the past 54 years have thanked me for the effort, and that’s much better than money.
Question from C. Jones, about the John Henry song in The Land of Giants:
I am working on an empathetic research paper centered on an American folk song, and I chose your version of “John Henry and the Steam Drill” for it. However, I can’t find any information on WHY you guys wrote and recorded the John Henry song or why you made the Land of Giants album. Could you tell me what inspired you guys to make the song?
Comment from John H.
Hi, I just wandered through your Web site here thinking of how much I used to love listening to the group’s Columbia LPs back in the 1960s. I discovered a lot of Americana and the joy of harmony in those records. I loved “Land of Giants.” I always hoped the group could have its own movie, something about the backstage personalities and how they all came together on stage. Just wanted to say thank you to Mr. Sparks for giving me that. God bless you for keeping this music alive.