Born to a musical family in Corsicana, Texas in 1973, Sparks was playing organ in the Sixth Avenue Baptist Church at age six. “My mother was a gospel organist and pianist at church, so she was showing me all of the popular church hymns of the day,” he recalls. “And then my daddy was pushing the jazz thing. He was a trumpeter and a straight bebop man. Dizzy Gillespie was his favorite trumpet player but he also loved Sonny Stitt, Sonny Rollins, Dexter Gordon and Count Basie, so I grew up with all that music. Later on he turned me on to Miles Davis and would always play Kind of Blue for me. And he also turned me on to Jimmy Smith and Jimmy McGriff, which is how I learned to play organ. Also, my daddy was a big Albert King, Albert Collins, B.B. King and Freddie King guy. So he got me into the blues too.”
The Hammond B-3 organ that Sparks received from his parents on his sixth birthday, and which he still plays to this day, is just one of the many keyboards in his arsenal on Schizophrenia. He favors vintage gear, including the Mellotron 4000, Hohner D-6 clavinet, Fender Rhodes electric piano, Mini-Moog, Oberheim OBXA, ARP Odyssey and Prophet-5, all of which had their heyday in the 1970s. ‘I just love all of those keyboards from that era,” he says. “They just have a different character.” Those vintage keyboards, which helped Sparks forge a distinctive voice as a highly sought-after sideman and studio player, come to the forefront on Schizophrenia.