The New Christy Minstrels forged a fresh folk sound in the 1960s with a lighthearted style that was welcomed at the forefront of a challenging era. Original songs such as “Green, Green” and their cover of “Sing in the Sunshine” topped the charts and their debut album won a Grammy Award in 1963. More than 20 albums later, creator Randy Sparks remains at the helm of the iconic group. The New Christy Minstrels continue to deliver the rich harmonies and tuneful melodies that have enchanted fans for decades. The Livermore Valley Performing Arts Center can’t wait to welcome them for an upcoming Sunday afternoon performance.
Still Going Strong
It can be challenging for long-standing musical groups to captivate audiences through the years. But that’s just what The New Christy Minstrels continue to do. The group currently features seven members, both old and new, who have been called the best collection of performers. NCM is led by founder Sparks, Tholow Chan, Becky Jo Benson, Sue Harris, Greg O’Haver, Dave Rainwater, John Denver’s uncle Dave Deutschendorf, and Ed Stockton. As you can see on their website, Sparks explains that “We’re still alive, we’re still creative, and still eager to please, so we make a deal with the audience: We’ll do all the old songs you came to hear, if you’ll allow just a couple of newer ones.”
In July of 2013, NCM released their newest CD called “Nice Time to Be Alive,” as well as their Greatest Hits CD.
Meet the Group
The group founder led NCM to their first concert at The Greek Theater in Los Angeles in 1961. More than 50 years later, Sparks says that the group is exactly the same. He was the one responsible for putting the first group together, selecting the performers, and even writing the majority of the songs. When NCM first came together, there were 10 members on stage. However, through the decades, Sparks has become an expert on achieving the signature sound he worked so hard to invent. Coupled with better sound equipment, Sparks mentions that the group can create the sound he demands with just seven singers and players.
‘Changing the world one fiddle tune at a time,’ Rainwater has plenty of longevity in the NCM uniform. In addition to his time with NCM, he has enjoyed roles with groups such as Heaven’s Grass, The Piney Creek Weasels, The Contests, Horse Sense, The Foothillbillys, and currently, The Black Irish Band.
‘Uncle’ Dave Deutschendorf
As aforementioned above, Deutschendorf is John Denver’s uncle. ‘Uncle’ Dave began his permanent stay with the group in 2010, providing a boost to the bottom line of NCM’s vocal mix. On occasion, Deutschendorf plays guitar on only a few ditties.
The group’s bass player, Chan and Sparks first toured together in 1969 across the U.S. Not only does Chan continue to work and rehearse, but he brings a certain kind of energy that everyone appreciates.
Sparks and O’Haver first worked together way back in 1967. O’Haver is responsible for the group’s instrumental sound. Sparks mentions in the bio that O’Haver is “the very best on anybody’s stage, and we’re grateful for his loyalty to the calling.”
Becky Jo Benson
She’s one of the younger members of NCM, but she still has more time vested in the group than anybody, aside from Sparks. Though she didn’t come on with the group until 1997, she’s been a regular at performances ever since.
NCM original Dolan Ellis calls Harris the best girl type entertainer in Arizona. That praise has carried over to the rest of the current group members.
Since 2015, Stockton has become NCM’s permanent backup member. When someone is unable to make a performance, Stockton steps in and does a seamless job.
LVPAC is set to host The New Christy Minstrels on Sunday, August 13 at 3 p.m. in the Bankhead Theater. Tickets range from $16 to $80. Our center for performing arts offers student and active military prices for all performances.
See our event calendar for other upcoming performances! We have a number of must-attend events coming up at the end of summer and into the fall.