To a lot of casual listeners during the early '60s, the New Christy Minstrels were the embodiment of popular folk music. If they're not remembered (or written about) in a very serious way, it's mostly because of their image: ten well-scrubbed, usually smiling young men and women singing upbeat songs about Paul Bunyan or hopping freight trains, or doing optimistic renditions of Woody Guthrie tunes. The New Christy Minstrels began with Randy Sparks, a singer/guitarist who started out in the late '50s mixing folk and folk-style songs with Broadway material. He was leading his own trio by the start of the new decade, and saw the possibility of putting together an ensemble of ten voices, big enough generate a major sound but retaining the basic texture of a folk trio. He combined his own trio with the Inn Group -- which included a young ...
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