KFWB Special: Along The Cherry Lane
Along the Cherry Lane is a portrait of a unique career, told in stories by Milt Okun himself and those who have been a part of his remarkable life in music. The book is rich with music history and anecdotes of run-ins with television network titans and music stars such as Elvis Presley. Okun explains his passion for music education and the intimate details of his production and publishing work with some of music’s greatest acts. The story is co-written by Richard Sparks, Okun’s son-in-law, an author known for his light-hearted and comedic approach to writing. Along the Cherry Lane is available on Amazon.
Collaborator with world-renowned Placido Domingo, conductor for Harry Belafonte, the man who brought John Denver to stardom and produced his most loved hits, Okun is also known for transforming three unknown singers who had never worked together into one of the most successful musical acts of their generation, Peter, Paul and Mary. He also founded Cherry Lane Music, the music publishing company for Elvis and DreamWorks among many other household names. He achieved great success in many different fields – often, as he tells it, almost by accident. And yet, he expected to spend his entire working life as a music teacher in New York City public schools.
An upcoming special on PBS profiles Milt Okun, Quincy Jones, and George Martin as three of the most influential music producers in history. From the Weavers to will.i.am and the Black Eyed Peas, Milt Okun has been a central figure in the continuing story of our musical heritage. His career has spanned over 50 years; from the folk revival to the new technological landscapes of the twenty-first century.
Richard Sparks is a playwright, lyricist and author whose body of work is as diverse as the artists Eric “Python” Idle, Placido Domingo, Dom DeLuise, and Hello Kitty — who have all recorded his lyrics.
Spark’s stage work links Winston Churchill and Rowan “Mr. Bean” Atkinson. His Schoolmaster sketch launched Rowan to stardom in John Cleese’s film The Secret Policeman’s Ball. He also wrote the book and lyrics for the West End musical, Winnie starring Robert Hardy and Virginia McKenna.
Sparks produced Stéphane Grappelli, Elvis Costello and Ian Dury (all at the same time) for “Fundamental Frolic a Charity Show” for the BBC TV. He translated Mozart and Humperdinck for the Washington, DC National Symphony Orchestra’s Il Seraglio and L.A. Opera’s Hänsel und Gretel.
He can also link poker legend Doyle ‘Texas Dolly’ Brunson to Enid Blyton via his books on the poker boom — Diary of a Mad Poker Player and Getting Lucky as well as his scripts for the UK TV series The Famous Five.
Sparks has authored a dozen plays including The Crimson Lizard and Blue Dot Disease, which have been produced throughout the UK and New Zealand. He created or wrote for several TV series ranging from Not the Nine o’Clock News to The Flying Kiwi.
He now concentrates on writing librettis for the Los Angeles Opera and recently co-authored legendary music producer Milt Okun’s memoir Along the Cherry Lane. Okun worked with artists such as John Denver; Peter, Paul and Mary; Placido Domingo, and many others. The book reads as an extended interview. It tells behind-the-scenes anecdotes and tales of the complex world of the music industry throughout a career which spanned 50 years.
Raised in England, Sparks moved with his family to California in 1992.