The 1937 Flood Watch
The 1937 Flood Watch Podcast
Today (While the Blossoms Still Cling to the Vine)

Today (While the Blossoms Still Cling to the Vine)

#157 / Dec. 16 Podcast

No transcript...

For decades now, Kathy Castner and her cousin, Charlie Bowen, sing duets whenever they have one of those rare chances to be together. Their musical connection goes back a long way.

As a child, Kathy regularly was brought to visit relatives in Ashland. Whenever she was, their grandmother usually assigned her cousin to sing her to sleep at bedtime. (Yes, Grandma Robertson was prescient about Bowen’s mad skills for putting audiences to sleep.)

One of the tune the young troubadour brought to bear on the little girl’s eyelids was this New Christy Minstrels classic, a song that still gets regular airplay on Top 40 radio.

About the Song

“Today” is a 1964 folk song written for the Minstrels by the group’s founder, Randy Sparks. And thereby hangs a tale.

Sparks formed that large-ensemble folk group in 1961 and with it quickly scored two hit in 1963 (“Green, Green” and “Saturday Night”). However, by 1964 creative tension within the organization prompted Sparks’ decision to leave.

But before quitting the group, whose name he sold to its managers, Sparks had one more project for the Christys; he was contracted to write the score for a film comedy called Advance to the Rear, and that work was to include his composing of “Today.”

Rocky Start to Stardom

“Today” — which critic Bruce Eder calls "achingly beautiful” and which became the second biggest hit of the Christys' long career — fell flat on its introduction to the group.

Legend has it that Sparks sang it for the bunch of them just days after he finished it, and nobody said a word. Absolute silence.

Finally, banjoist Larry Ramos reportedly spoke up. "I think I can speak for everyone here ... it's a piece of sh—, the same sh— you always write!"

"Is that how the rest of you feel too?" Sparks asked.

More silence.

"Well,” he said finally, “you'd best get used to it, because you're going to sing it anyway."

The song didn’t get any respect from the record company, either. Columbia Records veep Bill Gallagher reportedly hated it. However, the public, with dimes and dollars, vetoed all those objections. The Minstrels’ recording of “Today” became a nationwide hit in under six weeks.

And the Christys’ “Today” album — simultaneously released as a soundtrack album for the movie — made the year’s Top Ten on the LP charts, the group's highest charting album ever.

A loud “so there!” could be heard from the Sparks house.

Our Take on the Tune

These days, whenever Kathy comes to Huntington from her Cincinnati home (usually at Christmastime and again sometime during the summer), she almost always has an evening of music with The Flood, and “Today” usually is among the songs shared.

Here’s the latest rendition from last week’s jam, with sweet solos by Dan Cox, Veezy Coffman and Sam St. Clair and with Randy Hamilton joining Kathy and Charlie on the harmonies.

The 1937 Flood Watch
The 1937 Flood Watch Podcast
Each week The 1937 Flood, West Virginia's most eclectic string band, offers a free tune from a recent rehearsal, show or jam session. Music styles range from blues and jazz to folk, hokum, ballad and old-time. All the podcasts, dating back to 2008, are archived on our website; you and use the archive for free at: