Moving New Christy Minstrels show was Randy Sparks’ choice

Randy Sparks’ decision to move his 83rd birthday concert to Lodi’s Hutchins Street Square last Friday (July 29) was his alone.
None of the San Joaquin County Historical Society members were involved.
Sparks and his New Christy Minstrels had played at Micke Grove Regional Park for 10 years, donating all proceeds to the museum, where he and Lodi businessman Claude Brown had organized the event.
The July 29 concert was a near sellout at the 740-cpacity venue. Lodi resident Jennifer Lind, who also works and lives in Thousand Oaks, managed to make it back for the shw and sang two solos.

Here’s how Sparks described the concert in an email to his group members and others:

I cannot imagine a more magical night on stage. This was exactly what I envisioned an NCM event should be from the very beginning. Unfortunately, I had no purchasing power back then, and I was obliged to accept group participants for their talent and availability, not their value to the cause and family harmony. I’ve learned a lot in the past fifty-five years, and sometimes I feel really stupid for not understanding all that was going on around me much of the time, but I see clearly now, and the view from here is exhilarating.
Every member of the cast was the star of the show last night. When it came each person’s turn to perform, what we saw was the best effort ever, and if there were imperfections, nobody noticed or cared. Maybe the flaws were the best part of the program. I kept saying to myself, ‘We aren’t too slick, are we?’
Every act should have a Claude Brown sitting in the front row.He was personally responsible for every ticket sold, and he actually bought many of them for friends and business associates. We had a full house because of Claude Brown. Yes, Jennifer was a magnet for her fans, and Barry McGuire’s name on the posters certainly helped, but without Claude, we’d have been just another lukewarm nostalgia show. What we had was a glorious reconnection with friends, some of whom we’d never met before. There was a long line at the autograph table, and I’m not certain, of course, but I believe I was hit upon by at least three old women, one of whom was my wife. I had the feeling she was flirting with me. Does it get any better than that?
I wish to thank all of you, each of you, for the magic that you allowed me to preside over. I don’t wield the authority without recognizing how much of it you have graciously assigned to me as the cat-herder. Have we ever before had so many spontaneous standing ovations? I don’t think so. Okay, so the ‘hat-trick’ wasn’t quite as funny the second time around, or was it? I LOVE watching Dolan Ellis attempting to sing while laughing. When all of us are dust, the world shall surely miss some of the finest petty laughter, especially in Lodi.

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  • About the Author

    Tony Sauro

    Tony Sauro has been writing feature stories and reporting on entertainment events since 2008. Before that, he helped write, edit and design the editorial pages for five years. Tony edited and wrote for the TimeOut section during its first 10 years ... Full Profile
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