Popular music seems to be today’s theme, so here’s a tribute, courtesy of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, to the Twin Cities’ longest-surviving country musician, Sherwin Linton.
Sherwin, now 64, started singing in high school in Watertown, South Dakota, where he had a band called the Fenderbenders. In the 1960’s he had a No. 1 hit on the country charts, Cotton King, and he was twice a contender for country music’s Entertainer of the Year. But he never quite made it big, and landed back in the Midwest where he remained a popular entertainer for many years. He was out of music briefly in the 1980’s, but couldn’t stay away.
Now, amazingly enough, he has attained the status of a hipster. This is partly due to the revival of interest in Johnny Cash; Sherwin has a deep voice that is strikingly similar to Cash’s, and for many years he has included a Johnny Cash set in his act. Cash, who was unfailingly generous to other artists, loved Sherwin’s versions of his songs and once, upon hearing him sing, took off his boots and presented them to Sherwin. Sherwin became a close friend of Johnny Cash’s younger brother, Tommy.
Now enjoying a renaissance, Sherwin is a hit not only with his long-time country fans, but with youngsters who consider authentic musicians like Cash and Linton cool. I love the Strib’s account of Sherwin playing at the recent Minnesota Music Awards:
“While he played, members of the punk-rock band the Soviettes and writers from City Pages danced near the front of the stage. The 20-something audience received Linton as ecstatically as the 70-somethings.
“‘This kid shook my hand after that and said, “Man, you’re the coolest man on the planet!'” Linton recalled, laughing. ‘I thought, “This kid hasn’t seen many performers.'”
That humility is typical of Sherwin; virtually everything he says in the Strib piece is self-deprecating.
Like Sherwin, I grew up in Watertown, South Dakota. I didn’t know Sherwin well, but his considerably-younger brother Kelly was a classmate and good friend. Because of my friendship with Kelly I saw Sherwin perform several times over the years. I came to admire him as a man who, although he narrowly missed the big time, never gave up or became bitter, but just kept performing and having fun. It is great to see him enjoying this kind of recognition as he approaches the end of his career. The photo below is of Sherwn in a recent performance.
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