The List (bragging rights for R. Sparks)

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In 2007, when I was about to lead my restored group, The New Christy Minstrels (still under the direction of Randy Sparks) in a hugely important concert at Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts, I was worried about filling all the seats, so I got in touch with an old friend, a former waitress from my nightclub (rehearsal hall with an audience) Ledbetter’s on Westwood Blvd. in Los Angeles.  She had by then morphed into a very successful flack, a Hollywood publicity agent, and I wanted to hire her for a few weeks to help the people, our audience, remember us fondly.  She told me as tactfully as she could that I couldn’t afford her services, and when she mentioned how much her well-healed clients paid to get their familiar names in the paper, I agreed; I couldn’t afford her.  But she did give me some sage advice.  For free.   “Instead of offering your readers the same-old boring bio that they always get from an act or an entertainment personality, give them something different.  Make a list of your accomplishments or things that have happened in your life that set you aside from all the other people in Tinsel Town.  Sit down and think of those things that others have not done.  You ought to be able to come up with at least a dozen.”   I am beholden to her for that bit of guidance, and what fun it was to think about my various merit badges.   The Bible says in Proverbs 27:2, ‘Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips,’ and I fully realize that some of these items shall be seen as violations of my life-long personal pledge of humility, but I’m simply following orders.  And, by the way, these aren’t necessarily in any order of importance…  I’m not going to mention ALL of the items on my personal list of bragging rights, nor have I been able to accurately place them in order of importance, but here are some…     Discovered and named John Denver (against his will, and his daughter recently thanked me that her name wasn’t Deutschendorf).  He lived rent-free with my family his first year in showbiz.  Recorded him for Capitol Records long before he recorded for RCA. Steve Martin became a stand-up comic on my stage (I had hired him as a […]


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Now, here’s something that doesn’t happen to everyone.  In 1959, I wrote a song titled ‘Julianne.’  It was crafted like an ancient folk ballad, and people liked it right away.  I’d made-up the story, and also the title, as I didn’t know anybody named Julianne.  It was simply a folksy name that seemed to fit my tale.  Twenty and thirty years down the road, I began meeting young women named Julianne, and they all seemed to have a need to credit me for their mothers’ choice of names.  My music, it seems, had touched people, real people, and though its not quite the equivalent of solving problems in physics, I was beginning to feel a wee bit more important.  When we worked Preacher Ron’s Cabin-In-The-Woods near Wauseon, Ohio last November, we met one of these Juliannes at the autograph table after our concert, and she magically showed-up for the jam session at Dr. Ron’s house in Toledo a day later.  She’d brought along her guitar, and that was amazing.  I had never before met a Julianne who could play and sing so well. When we performed in Burl Ives’ hometown of Newton, IL on Burl’s 109th birthday, our special Julianne was there, and she asked if she could join us onstage.  By now, she’d learned and rehearsed most of the songs we’d sung and played at Wauseon.  Wow!  Her sister and mother were there also, and that was another first for me.  I’d met perhaps a dozen of these Juliannes over the years, but never had I met any of the mothers who’d made use of the name I’d contributed.  I was able to tell this story, and also introduce the lovely older lady who’d honored my creativity.  The audience appreciated the moment.  Julianne then told one and all that she’d been shocked to learn that her name was gleaned from such a sad song, and she’d asked her mother why.  “I liked the song and the name,” came the answer; “I didn’t listen so much to the words.”