Chapter 1 - Family Reunion 1990-1993
After not having laid eyes on each other since the early sixties, a bunch of us ex-New Christy Minstrels got together at the urging and persistent letter writing of Gordon Adams, a loyal Christy fan-to-the-bone from Michigan, and the capable support of Tom Pickles, a long time fan and music historian who had also been trying to maneuver a reunion for several years.
Gordon's letters had gotten our attention and Tom's quiet diplomatic persistence finally led to our first reunion. Tom arranged that first meeting one evening in early December of 1991 at his home in Laurel Canyon (where else?), complete with suited waiters, cocktails and hors d'oevres. I remember the invitation calling us to 'A Gathering of Minstrels'. It seemed like an odd handle at first, but it didn't cross any boundaries. At the time, the name The New Christy Minstrels didn't belong to any of us so the name kind of.... worked.
The evening must have cost Pickles a small fortune, judging from the canapés, the champagne, the 'staff' and the first-class treatment. Suddenly, we were back in the 'Green Room' backstage at Carnegie Hall again, and I don't care how you angle it, it felt good to be treated like stars again. Damned good. It was me, McGuire, Dolan, Jackie, Karen, Annie, and Paul. Larry was in Florida with The Association, and Clarence was out of town. Both phoned in. Gayle couldn't make it that night, but she showed up later at another one of Tom's gatherings. Of course, good old Gordon showed up with his video camera. I've seen the video and it gives me a lump in my throat.
After a few glasses of wine, and some catch-up chatter, Dolan yanked out his 12-string and strummed the introduction to 'Mighty Mississippi'. That was all it took. The music roared, spirits soared, the rusty arrangement breathed the breath of life after 30 years of silence.
Of course we all hugged and kissed good-bye when it was over, but we all knew we were hooked. Again! A few more 'casual' conversations, another evening or two at the Pickles canyon retreat over the next year with all of us eventually showing up, even Randy once, and then, wouldn't you know -it was 1993 and there we stood, nine of us in a line taking a standing ovation at the Ice House in Pasadena in front of a sold-out house. 'A Gathering of Minstrels'. The name Pickles had given us had stuck. The line-up that night was McGuire, Ramos, Dolan, Gayle, Jackie, Anne, Paul, Clarence, and me.
What next? We knew we weren't about to stop there. Dolphins trapped in a tuna net for sure. But nine performers with equipment was a healthy challenge for any budget on the 1992 tour circuit, so we searched for an alternative.
Branson, Missouri was a decent model. Performers either owned or rented their own theaters and stayed put while the audiences came to them. Perfect. The problem: Branson was three quarters of the way across the country for all of us and the town was packed with big country stars with big bucks, and we just didn’t have that kind of scratch. All we had was enthusiasm and
unadulterated ignorance of the workings of the music business of the 1990’s. Only Larry, who had been on the road with The Association all those interim years, had an inkling of what lay before us. I remember his knowing smile during the discussions. We should have paid attention more carefully.
What to do? What to do?
Something foolish of course!