Manassas museums 2/09/01



musician makes music, motivates others


Lucy Chumbley



MANASSAS – Stevie “Guitar” Sparks is setting up for the open

mike acoustic night he hosts on Wednesdays at Flannagans Olde Ale House

on Main and Church streets.

He holds up his guitar, which is emblazoned with autographs, and points

to a signature: ‘Willie Nelson ’99.’

“For some people it would be worth thousands of dollars that Willie

Nelson signed my guitar,” he said. “But for me it’s just cool.”

Sparks sits down on a high stool and starts to play. He plays a Hawaiian

love song, then moves on to a passionate piece by Van Morrison and a slow

swing number he wrote himself called “Heart to Heart.”

As he plays and sings, his Pied Piper music draws a steady stream of

people carrying instruments.

“I’m a musician,” he said. “I just ooze music. Wherever

I go, people just want to get out their instruments.”

“He plays the guitar like I always wanted to but never could,”

said a contest participant. Inspired by Sparks, he’ll play his guitar tonight

for the first time in 28 years.

Wayne Spencer, another participant, is there with his son, Zachary,

to play the keyboard. “For tonight, it’s my love songs,” he said.

“I thought I would go from being a living-room legend to taking this

show on the road.”

A newcomer to Manassas, Sparks moved here last September from Hawaii

and is busy putting himself on the area’s musical map.

On Mondays, he plays an “All-Star Blues Jam” at Sully’s Supper

Club in Chantilly, and on Wednesday and Thursday nights you can catch him

at Flannagans.

“I’m the kind of person that likes to be part of the musical community,

so I invite people to the open mike, to the blues jam. So that’s my way

of giving people incentive to play live music,” he said.

A native of Chevy Chase, Md., he went to Maui on vacation in 1970 and

never came back – until he met his wife, Susan, the sister of a member of

his band. Susan’s job brought the couple back to the area.

A lifelong musician, Sparks left the East Coast in 1968 for a Hollywood

recording contract. He was just 18.

“I came from a musical family and trained as a child,” he

said. “I had classical training in voice and piano from age 5. Then

I found an old guitar at age 13 and started playing surf music.”

He rejected his classical training in favor of the intuitive, he said,

and spent his teen-age years leading dance bands in the D.C. area.

Now a four-time winner of the prestigious Kerrville Folk Festival’s

‘New Folk’ Songwriters’ Competition, Sparks is working on his seventh album,

although he struggles to define his musical style in words.

“Most of the music that I write today is for dancing,” he

said. “I do reggae and swing and country and western.” He pauses.

“And rock ‘n’ roll and rhythm and blues … and some jazz.

“People kind of have to hear it and review it on their own,”

he said.

Over the years, Sparks has played at festivals, clubs, show rooms, lounges

and dining rooms from Hawaii to Canada, where he worked as house entertainer

for the Banff Springs Hotel in the early 1980s.

“I’d play piano music in the dining room, grab my guitar and play

in the lounge for three hours or put on a dance in the show room,”

he said.

A large scrapbook filled with newspaper clippings and letters of recommendation

attests to his versatility.

“I like to play to the crowd,” he said. “If I see a middle-aged

couple wearing western clothes, I’ll probably play some country and western.

Then I see a young couple who look like they’ve got tie dye on, I’ll play

some reggae.”

Sparks plays solo and with his band, The Leisure Scientists. He adopted

the name after hearing a corporate speaker on the radio in 1995.

“He was lecturing on integrating leisure packages into corporate

packages,” said Sparks. “It flashed into my head … ‘leisure

science’ … I have made a science out of providing a good time. After 35

years of entertaining, I’ve got it down to a science.”

Sparks and his Leisure Scientists will be bringing their alchemy to

Old Town on Saturday night at a Valentine dance in Il Monastero’s banquet

hall entitled “Heart to Heart.”

“People love to dance to my music, and a lot of people have fallen

in love to my music,” said Sparks.

Who knows, perhaps you will be one of them.

· The “Heart to Heart” Valentine dance is from 7:30

p.m. to midnight Saturday at the Il Monastero banquet hall on Main and Church

streets, Manassas. The dance is free with dinner or $10 per person and $15

per couple without. Call (703) 368-3600 for reservations.

· The Sully’s Supper Club “All-Star Blues Jam” is from

8-11 p.m. Mondays. Call (703) 818-9292.

Contact Lucy Chumbley at [email protected]



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