Quotes and Stories from Fellow Artists


Randy Sparks in the middle
Randy Sparks is in the center of the New Christy Minstrels’ Grammy photo (do you recognize Dolan?)
Read about Randy Sparks
New Christy Minstrels Web Site


What Randy Sparks writes about Dolan:

Dolan Ellis, I’m happy to report, is playing and singing better than ever!  He’s an old man, just like the rest of us, but he’s still very much like the kid who excited all of our audiences in the sixties. By the way, I was never able to adequately replace him in my group, The New Christy Minstrels, even though I had access to the very best folk musicians at the time. Dolan has always loved being on stage, and it still shows.

He has also been able to communicate that passion to his audience, and if I had to hazard a guess about the secret of his popularity, I think that would be my first choice. I’m proud to claim him as an alumnus of my group, and it’s gratifying to have played even a small role in his continued success.

Randy Sparks

Randy Sparks was not only the founder and the original leader of the New Christy Minstrels.  Randy likes to use the term “inventor” in describing his role.  It was Randy’s concept to put ten outstanding folk artists together, letting the talent of each individual shine, while giving the group a unique character that viewers and listeners would find incredibly appealing.

They were clean-cut kids in their early 20s, but all had already enjoyed a level of success, as solo acts or as part of small groups.  Randy wrote many of the songs the group sang and innovative arrangements and adaptations for others.  The performances were high-energy, but Randy, as musical director, knew the importance of mixing in beautiful, quiet songs such as his original “Today” to give both performers and audience a needed change of pace.  The group’s success was unprecedented.  Just one bit of proof is the Grammy they won in 1963.  Another was their contract to appear as a group on each of the 39 Andy Williams shows in the 1962-1963 season.  The New Christy Minstrels were included in many skits and songs by themselves, with Andy Williams, and with the exciting guest artists.  Variety shows were great in those days, and the Andy Williams Show came into millions of homes every week.  The New Christy Minstrels were sizzling!

In the intervening years, Randy Sparks has been involved in numerous projects.


About Tim Wiedenkeller

Tim is a great musician, a true virtuoso who is best known for his banjo work because he composes and plays classical banjo music.  He just completed his first CD of classical banjo music, “Milagros,” and only a couple of weeks after it was released, it was already being played on NPR.  It’s a wonderful CD that very possibly will receive the worldwide recognition it deserves.  You can listen to samples of all the tracks when you click on his “Recordings” page.

Tim also plays the guitar and mandolin at the world class level, and he’s working on his next CD, which consists of his original vocal songs in numerous styles: bluegrass, Sonoran, jazz, etc.   Tim’s beautiful voice touches the hearts and souls of his listeners, and this CD, “Soul House,” is destined to be another favorite.

A cover story about Tim declared him “A Musical Explorer.”   He recently appeared in a concert with Stephen James, who is often referred to as “the major Sarod disciple of Pandit Ravi Shankar in the west.”  And yet Tim is just as much at home with bluegrass, classic country, and Western genres, and has played with the best in all.  He also has appeared with symphony orchestras, and has been highly successful writing scores for films.

Dolan “discovered” Tim at a Red Cross benefit in Tucson soon after 9/11, soon after Tim had moved to Tucson from Los Angeles, and since then they have been the best of friends and occasional playing partners, as well as mutual admirers.

What Tim Says about Dolan
Dolan Ellis entertains and captivates an audience in a way that is rarely experienced.  His secret weapon is rare and precious-talent!

About Marshall Trimble

Marshall Trimble has done remarkably well for a man so young (in the stroller in 1959 must mean he was born about ’57 and not even 40 when he became Arizona’s Official State Historian in 1997).  .Unless, of course, he lied about that stroller thing.

Seriously, Marshall Trimble has been a great friend to Dolan Ellis, to the state of Arizona, and to all of those interested in keeping the traditions of the American West alive. Marshall communicates important messages, using stories, humor, and music to make them interesting, proving that history can be a very exciting subject.  Be sure to check out his Web site (link above) to learn about his appearances, books, and CDs.

Dolan and Marshall with ex Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano as she reappoints them to their respective positions, Dolan as Arizona’s Official State Balladeer, and Marshall as Arizona’s Official State Historian

What Marshall Says about Dolan
I first saw Dolan perform at Portofino’s in Old Town Scottsdale in 1959.  It was called New Town then.  I was just a little kid and was taken there by my parents.  Sitting in my stroller I never dreamed that someday I’d be performing on stage with him.  We’ve been performing together since about 1978 and still having a good time.
Dolan is a true music lover. When he hears a beautiful woman singing in the shower he puts his ear to the keyhole.
Despite his age Dolan still attracts the women wherever he goes.  The other night he went into a cocktail lounge in Sun City, sat down at the bar next to an attractive local, ordered a drink, took a sip, then turned to her and said, “Tell me, do I come in here often?”
Over the years we’ve been roommates, neighbors and spent many hours together on the road.  He’s always been there for me.  He was there when my horse fell on me and broke my leg.  He was there when that grizzly bear chased me up a tree and chewed on my boot.  He was there when that rattlesnake crawled into my bedroll and bit me on the behind.  He was there when I accidentally sat down in a campfire.  He was always there.  You know what?  I think he’s bad luck!
Dolan is one of the best and most loyal friends I’ve ever had.  He’s certainly the greatest showman I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with.  He loves the entertainment business,  is absolutely ageless and will never retire.  I expect we’ll both die on stage.  There are many who say we’ve already done that a number of times.


About Lucille Reilly

Lucille is a favorite at the Arizona Folklore Preserve.  For most people, the thought of watching someone play two folk instruments, the hammered ducimer and the autoharp, for 90 minutes or more, sounds like a bore.  Lucille manages to keep the audience looking on with amazement as she plays the instruments with her high level of expertise.  The time flies when she’s on stage.   She’s a great musician, a great teacher, and a really funny lady who charms her way into the hearts of all who see her.

Lucille has registered the name “The Dulcimer Lady,” and her Web site has the same name.  Her credentials are very impressive and her awards are many.  Best of all, she has been National Hammered Dulcimer Champion and has been International Autoharp Champion twice.

For a sample of Lucille’s wit, check out this page from her Web site: http://www.thedulcimerlady.com/pr2.htm

What Lucille Says about Dolan
Gosh, what does one say about Dolan Ellis?  He’s kinda like the big brother I never had (thankfully he’s never pulled my hair; I’ll pass on that thought).  All that aside, Dolan is a great entertainer, and we’ve always managed to “read” each other on stage when I’ve joined him for a closing song at the Arizona Folklore Preserve, something I’ll look forward to doing again soon!