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News Story
Updated: 10/30/2013 08:00:03AM

A good thing survives

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S.L. Frisbie

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It was almost exactly 54 years ago — the first semester of my sophomore year at Florida State University, if memory serves — that an up and coming group in a newly resurrected musical genre performed at Westcott Hall.

I was taking a night class in psychology that semester.

The Kingston Trio, formed only two years earlier, was on stage at Westcott that night as I studied ink blots or something in Psych 101.

Despite being one of a relatively small number of students fortunate enough to land a job in Tallahassee paying the minimum wage of $1 an hour, I could not afford the $5 or so admission charge to the concert, even if I hadn’t been in class.

But the psych building was across the street from Westcott, and by the time my class ended, the concert was well under way, and the ticket takers had long since left their posts. Are you getting the picture? I didn’t sneak into the show; I just walked in.

I quickly became a lifetime fan of the group which made Tom Dooley a household name and immortalized the plight of Charlie, The Man Who Never Returned for lack of having the fare to get off an M.T.A. subway.

The Kingston Trio was one of the first groups to revive folk music, and it became the sound of My Generation.

Two years later, in 1961, Peter, Paul and Mary told us what would happen if they had a hammer, and sang the joys of Puff the Magic Dragon.

Not long after that, Sonny and Cher declared to each other, “I Got You Babe.” Somehow, I felt that each of them deserved better.

Into this mix, The New Christy Minstrels arrived on the scene in 1961.

Organized by Randy Sparks, they perhaps are best known for “This Land Is Your Land,” one of their earliest and most enduring hits.

Three of the original members, including Sparks — now 80 years old — are still members of the group, which has eight members. Most are old enough to be drawing Social Security, but they retain their sound of 52 years ago.

And they are still the “New” Christy Minstrels.

They presented a two-hour performance Friday night at the Lakeland Center to a sizable audience, most of whose members could join them for the Early Bird Senior Citizens special. Mary and I were among them.

Parking for this event cost twice as much as that Kingston Trio ticket I could not afford in 1959, and admission to the concert was $25 plus unexplained fees that swelled the actual ticket price to $31.50.

It was well worth the tariff.

The group started at the appointed time, 7:30 on the dot, unlike today’s Wunderbrats who keep their fans waiting for more than an hour past the announced starting time before taking the stage.

The Minstrels urged their audience to join them in singing some of their classics, and the response was enthusiastic.

My Generation didn’t get everything right; nobody does.

But when it comes to music, we will leave the world a little better place than we found it.

(S. L. Frisbie is retired. He can still sing the words of a dozen or so of the folk songs of his youth. Can, or at least could if anybody ever asked him to. Nobody does.)

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