How John Deutschendorf Became John Denver

28 February 2024

Randy Sparks passed away this past February 11, 2024, at the age of 90.

Randy was a colorful and influential person in the Folk Music Industry.  He was also very personable and approachable, and he LOVED to tell stories. 

One of the stories he told us (and many others over the years) was the story in which he credits himself as the person who gave John Denver his stage name. 

Henry John Deutschendorf Jr. was performing at Randy’s club Ledbetters, when Randy commented his name wouldn’t fit on a marquee.  Randy suggested that John take the last name of Denver (Randy had written and recorded a song called “Denver” and he said the sheet music was laying there so he suggested that).  John resisted.  He very adamantly wanted to keep his family name, but he finally and reluctantly went with Randy’s suggestion.

The John Denver connection with Randy Sparks continued with John Denver recording other songs of Randy’s, including “Today” and “Saturday Night in Toledo, Ohio” on multi-platinum albums. 

Blogs are supposed to be short – so this is my own abbreviated version of a very long and detailed story that Randy told me and Jim.  Randy was a  wonderful storyteller, he greatly influenced Folk Music history and many aspiring singer/songwriters…learn more on Wikipedia and The New Christy Minstrel website.

Rest in Peace:   Lloyd Arrington Sparks (July 29, 1933 – February 11, 2024)


  1. Posted by: Jack L. Smith

    Listened to his songs in the midst of the folk revolution. Don’t let the Rain Come Down was fun to sing Don’t cry for what as passed, but smile for what has happened.

  2. Posted by: Anne

    Hi Jack – very well put! Now I need to go listen to “Don’t let the Rain Come Down” Uh Oh!!

  3. Posted by: Barbara Kilgallon

    thank you for some facts on how Randy and John were connected.. I have heard a few different reasons why John took the last name of Denver. i believe Randys is the most accurate. Good choice, and the connection to Colorado fits perfectly…

    Enjoy the Spring which is fast approaching.

    See you soon.
    Thank you
    Barbara Kilgallon

  4. Posted by: Anne

    Hi Barbara, yes, I’ve heard many versions of how/why John Changed his name….but this is straight from the horse’s mouth, as they say!

  5. Posted by: John Johnston

    We’ve enjoyed your shows several times over the years, and we also like your monthly newsletters. Here’s a venue suggestion – the new Civic Center in Terre Haute , Indiana. Check it out!

    John and Sally
    Brazil, IN

  6. Posted by: Anne

    Hi John and Sally! Thank you for attending our shows and thank you for the venue suggestion – we will check it out!

  7. Posted by: Diane

    so very sorry to hear about Randy. Arlen and I went on our first date to Ledbetters as Arlen had heard about this singer named John Denver……we were hooked on Ledbetters.
    Some 30 years later I found Randy was going to be at a place in Altadena. Arlen said OK find out about this place,,,,,,,we were hooked again!!!
    Diane T

  8. Posted by: Anne

    Hi Diane! How wonderful to hear from you! I wish we could have gone to Ledbetters – I know we would have loved it, but it closed before we learned about it. Thank goodness for the Coffee Gallery Backstage! If Randy had not led you there, you would have missed many fine concerts and we wouldn’t have been able to sing “Matthew” for you and Arlen many, many times over! We miss you!

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"As John Denver's former drummer and percussionist, working with Jim Curry has kept alive for me how it was playing with John. Jim has stayed true to John’s music and vision. It is a pleasure working with Jim and Anne Curry."

Richie Gajate Garcia
John Denver's Percussionist

"I have to tell you I don't know when we've enjoyed a show as much as we enjoyed yours. It just swept us away and we did not want it to end! You are all so gifted. And the music of John Denver speaks for itself. It touches the heart."

Julie Coletta,
Tiffin, OH


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