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.”
Randy Sparks wrote this song for his mom and sang it to her on Mother’s Day. ‘Take Your Mother To Brunch’ is on The New Christy Minstrels’ CD titled ‘NICE TIME TO BE ALIVE’ and is for sale at all the live concerts. This CD was recorded, and mixed by The NCM Sound Engineer, Becky Jo Benson, and Mastered by Fab Dupont of Pure Mix Studio, New York, New York.
The New Christy Minstrels Foundation is presenting a precious collection of Burl Ives memorabilia in this moving museum to celebrate the life of singer, performer, actor, and dear friend of Randy Sparks, the late Burl Ives. First stop for viewing will be Burl Ives birthplace of Newton, Illinois in Jasper County, June 14th (which would have been Burl’s birthday). For details, please click on UPCOMING EVENTS and scroll down to June 14, 2018. Then the moving museum will travel to be parked next to the River Inn, Brownville, Nebraska during The New Christy Minstrels’ concerts there on Father’s Day, Sunday, June 17th and Monday, June 18th for the 2:00 PM concert in the Brownville Concert Hall, Brownville, Nebraska.
April 26, 2018, Steve (Slim) E. asked: Who wrote Mighty Mississippi? I searched the web and didn’t find its author.
RANDY SPARKS wrote Mighty Mississippi while on board the airplane that was bringing The New Christy Minstrels back from their concert at Carnegie Hall, New York City, New York. The Captain of the airplane announced that they were flying over the Mighty Mississippi and folks could see it if they looked out the window. This view inspired Randy Sparks to start writing and singing the song, Mighty Mississippi, which he completed before they landed the airplane. Then he started teaching the song to the group, and they recorded Mighty Mississippi shortly after.
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.