This has been a year with much to be thankful for. Sherwin's health is very good despite the twenty-two trips we have made to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN to recover from a dislocated shoulder, vocal surgery and a sinus procedure. With the repairs in place we head into 2012 with the energy to get a lot accomplished!
Sherwin's latest CD "Hillbilly Heaven" received three first round Grammy nominations. Being a small independent record label we were thrilled for this. The CD was also awarded the 2011 Rural Roots Music Commissions CD of the Year award. At age 72 and with 55 years in the industry Sherwin continues to be recognized for his talent as a composer, performer and producer.
We recently received a very special telephone call from Sherwin's friend Marty Stuart. Sherwin and Marty have known each other since the early 1980's when Marty was playing lead guitar in the Johnny Cash Show. Marty called to congratulate Sherwin on his great "Hillbilly Heaven" CD. He asked Sherwin for his e-mail address saying, "I want to send you something you can use in your promotion and share with your fans." Here's what Marty wrote:
"Sherwin Linton has been a great correspondent for country music for many years. He is the go-to guy for all things concerning authentic country music. In the midwest, Sherwin is a larger than life country singing, string bending, rhinestone wearing, boot heel dragging, fancy car driving, cowboy hat wearing, state of the art country music star if there ever was one. Most of all, he's my pal. I always enjoy his work." - Marty Stuart
For those who were not able to see our Christmas Show we've included a seven minute segment. Just click the Play arrow in the screen below.
We'll depart for two months and forty shows in the Rio Grande Valley of south Texas in mid January. We hope to see you at one of our mid-west shows before we leave and for those visiting us in Texas we look forward to seeing you there.
May each of you be blessed with a very joyous Christmas filled with peace and love and prosperity in the New Year!
Sherwin & Pam Linton
Minnesota's Biggest Country Music Star Releases His 25th Album in His 55th Year in Music
Sherwin Linton's new "Hillbilly Heaven" CD features an array of Country Music Stars, down-home studio dialogue and tender lifelines to some of the genere's best; CD Release Party set for The Fine Line Music Café, November 2, 2012. Sherwin is also scheduled for an acoustic in-store FREE performance at Cheapo Records on October 30th.
If there were a Mount Rushmore of legendary Minnesota music stars, Country Music singer, story teller and folk historian Sherwin Linton would be up there in his broad brimmed cowboy hat, finely chiseled in stone. The South Dakota native and long time Twin Cities resident proves again he's deserving of such grandeur in his new album, "Hillbilly Heaven" (Black Gold Records.) Loaded with guest Country Music stars ranging from George Hamilton IV, Williams and Ree, to Dawn Sears to Johnny Cash's and Lefty Frizzell's next-of-kin, singers Tommy Cash, David Frizzell and others, Linton's 25th album is the latest cherished milestone in a storied career as he celebrates his 55th year in music in 2011.
Sherwin and his band The Cotton Kings" will celebrate the release of the new CD with a concert November 2nd at The Fine Line Music Café in Minneapolis (318 North 1st Ave. Minneapolis, MN - 612-338-8100.) Tickets are $10.00 at the door. Doors open at 6:00 PM, with featured bluegrass guests, The Platte Valley Boys at 7:00 PM, followed by Linton and closing with the Folk-Blues Rockers, The Melvilles.
Sherwin will also be doing a FREE in-store performance Sunday, October 30th at Cheapo Records (1300 West Lake Street, Minneapolis - 612-827-8238) starting at 2:00 PM.
It's almost like being in the studio. "Hillbilly Heaven" offers endearing songs, down-home dialogue and fond reminisces with featured artists. Linton's collection of 14 tunes was recorded in November 2011 in Nashville, TN with longtime friends he's known since he first set foot onstage in Watertown, South Dakota in 1956. Just as he's done with a series of Centennial Albums he recorded in various railroad and farming towns throughout the Midwest, the new disc combines the singing of new numbers and many well known standards, interspersed with friendly dialogue that puts songs like Johnny Cash's "I Still Miss Someone" in perspective. (It was written at a family gathering one Sunday afternoon!) The listener almost feels he is in the studio as Linton jokes with Williams & Ree, talks excitedly with George Hamilton about their mutual love of Bob Dylan's songwriting, and George's bear trap memory of Minneapolis' notorious Flame Café before the duo covers "Forever Young," and fondly comments on David Frizzell's story about his brother Lefty's hugely sentimental classic and hit, "Mom and Dad's Waltz."
Other CD highlights include a stand out performance of "I Would Be In Love Anyway," a heartbreaking Frank Sinatra song sung with Brittany Allyn, Sherwin's daughter in-law and vocalist with the George Jones Show. Linton's own composition, "Jimmie Rodgers Memories & M"e with some unforgettable lines of Rodgers' best known songs, sung by Roy Harper. The charged opening number, "Neon Moon," written by Cowboy Joe Babcock, originally pitched to Sherwin in 1966 who heard it twice way back then, memorized it and remembered it! Linton is joined by Babcock and Jim Glaser from The Glaser Brothers who produced Linton's big hit, "Cotton King." The CD closes with Linton's re-write / update of his friend Tex Ritter's classic 1960 hit, "I Dreamed Of A Hillbilly Heaven." In Linton's version Johnny Cash meets him at the gate for Heaven's Music Tour!
Friends & Fan's won't want to miss these special music events! Add the dates to your calendar!
November 2, 2011
Sherwin Linton's - Hillbilly Heaven CD Release Party
Fine Line Music Café
318 North 1st Ave.
October 30, 2011
Sherwin Linton's Hillbilly Heaven In-Store Concert
1300 West Lake Street
Rural Roots Music Commission Selects Hillbilly Heaven Traditional CD of the Year
It's exciting to announce that Sherwin's new CD "Hillbilly Heaven" has already received its first award! The Rural Roots Music Commission selected it for its 2011 Traditional CD of the Year Award an honor Sherwin received on August 30th at the National Traditional Country Music Festival in LeMars. IA. When presenting the award NTCMA President Bob Everhart stated, "Sherwin Linton might be the last of the mavericks and even the last of the 'Hillbilly Heaven' troop. The whole concept of this production is an impressive collaboration of songs, artists, musicians and memories. The CD insert is just about as interesting as the CD itself." Thank you to Bob and the rest of the voting members of the Rural Roots Music Commission for the award and your kind words.
Sherwin receiving the "2011 Traditional CD of the Year" awarded
from Bob Everhart, Rural Roots Music Commission
Sherwin, Pam & Maggie Mae, LeMars, IA. Fans can see all of us on the "Mid-West Country TV Show!"
Sherwin's Vocal Recovery, A Total Success
Many of you will remember that Sherwin had vocal surgery at the Mayo Clinic last April. We are pleased to say the surgery and recovery have gone very well! Sherwin has completed all of his post surgery vocal therapy and has been released by his surgeon Dr. Dale Ekbom. Sherwin continues with vocal lessons from his therapist Dr. Diana Orbello. With the help of Dr. Orbello, Sherwin hopes to become a better singer! Dr. Orbello challenges him with new material outside the Country and Folk Music genres and is hoping to have him singing in Italian someday soon!
Sherwin does deal with chronic sinus issues and is very susceptible to sinus infection. On October 6thSherwin and Pam were back at the Mayo Clinic for surgery to open the sinus passages above Sherwin's eyes. This was done with a procedure similar to an angioplasty of the arteries around the heart. Sherwin was conscious during the two hour operation and was able to tell the doctor when the passages were opened as he felt better immediately! These sinus issues are something Sherwin has dealt with for years and will continue to monitor and treat for the rest of his life.
We are so blessed to have a medical facility and doctors of the quality of the Mayo Clinic so convenient to access. We need to say "Thank You and A Job Well Done" to Sherwin's vocal surgeon Dr. Dale Ekbom, his vocal therapist Dr. Diana Orbello and his sinus specialist Dr. John Pallanch. You are all very special to us! Thank You!
Another Story From The Past: "That Sherwin Linton Scammed Me"
Sherwin has enjoyed writing stories from years past for the web site. Many fans have told me he is on the way to writing the book he has been encouraged to write hundreds of times. If that be the case, this story writing is probably a good thing, but as many of you know Sherwin just enjoys sharing the memories. This story does not reach back as far as some of the previous entries. It takes place in 2000.
That Sherwin Linton Scammed Me
In the 1980's and 1990's music festivals became in-vogue and Sherwin and The Cotton Kings were booked as part of many of these multiple day weekend events. The most famous of these in the mid-west is probably We Fest in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota. Many of the events now occur annually but equally as many were one time shots that failed and usually lost the buyer / sponsor a lot of money. When I'm called on for my thoughts about producing a festival I have one standard message I convey to the probable buyer. If you can lay $100,000.00 in cash on your driveway, soak it with gasoline, light a match to it and walk away unbothered then you have what it takes to produce a festival. If you can't do this flush the idea from your brain and move on. This was the advice given to a ballroom owner in Browerville, Minnesota in 2000. The owner of the establishment phoned me about helping him produce a Traditional Country Music festival Memorial Day weekend of that year. I explained to him that this was not a good choice of dates as it's considered the first weekend of summer and many families have annual plans to open cabins, visit cemeteries etc. I thought it would be better to wait until later in the summer. The buyer disagreed. I then explained advertising costs and needs and the other incidental costs of bringing in small national acts, hotels, meals, ground transportation etc. He assured me he could comfortably cover all of this. His mind was set on Memorial Day weekend and we should proceed. Using my band The Cotton Kings as a back-up band I booked our show and Stonewall Jackson for the Friday evening. A Minneapolis, Minnesota band, The White Iron Band would back Marvin Rainwater on Saturday afternoon and my show with Tommy Cash for Saturday night. We would open Sunday with our Gospel Show, a Country music set and then welcome Michael Twitty doing a Tribute to Conway Twitty his father Sunday evening. This was not a large or expensive line-up of talent but a lot for a small buyer. The contracts arrived for the Nashville acts and the required deposits were sent. All seemed in order until about two months prior to the date when I started inquiring about ticket sales and realized there were none because an advertising program had not been started. I began to hear from the buyer about the high cost of advertising. I reminded him that we had discussed this prior to booking the event and that he was way behind schedule and really had no choice but spend the advertising dollars if he hoped to have a crowd.
As I suspected this Traditional Country Music Festival was the best kept secret that Memorial Day weekend. Each act played to a nearly empty ballroom. I hoped somewhere the buyer had the funds to pay the balance due each of the Nashville acts. Sunday night after Michael Twitty and his group had left and my sound production equipment was packed and loaded the buyer handed me a check for the three days of services my band and I had provided and then explained that there were no funds to cover it and he did not know when he could make it good. All the Nashville acts had been paid. It was the \White Iron Band and my checks that were NSF. The White Iron Bands check was good when presented the second time. I was very pleased about that, but the picture was not so bright for me. After many telephone calls over the next week we were forced to deposit the check and have it stamped NSF on both the first and second presentations. Once this was completed we were forced to file suit in Todd County, Minnesota small claims court. We were awarded a date in August. Pam meticulously prepared our court case and would represent Sherwin Linton Entertainment in court. I don't think she left a stone unturned or a detail un-addressed. We drove to Long Prairie, Minnesota for our afternoon assigned time in front of the judge. About thirty minutes prior to our appointed court time we were asked to exchange evidence with the other party in hopes of coming to a resolution on our own. Pam offered her files asking for his materials. We were informed he had none, not even his copy of the contract! With that said Pam kept her files and we headed into court. I placed my large black hat on the table on the left side of the courtroom and took a seat next to Pam. The plaintiff took his place on the right side of the room. We stated our names and the judge invited Pam to explain what had brought her to Todd County Court that day. Pam articulately presented our case along with evidence including photos of the establishment and its parking lot and our signed contract. The judge looked over the items and then asked the plaintiff to rebut Pam's claims. In response he stood, pointed at me and shouted, "That Sherwin Linton scammed me!" The judge re-phrased his statement holding up the contract and asked the plaintiff, "Is there anything in this contract that these people did not do?" The plaintiff stood again and shouted, "That Sherwin Linton scammed me! He booked all his friends who could not draw a crowd and charged too much to come and scammed me!" The judge smiled and looked down at the contract for a moment. He then looked up and told the plaintiff that he was familiar with every name on the contract. Had he known about the event he might have come himself! He told the plaintiff that he could possibly have booked The Dixie Chicks because they were really popular at the time, but he doubted he could afford them! The judge slammed the gavel down and announced, "Ruled for Linton Entertainment!" I think the plaintiff left the court room by sky hook because he just vanished!
We now had a judgment and could attempt to collect our money. The court documents listed the plaintiff with a contract for deed arrangement for the ballroom property. The property owners were really excited to meet Pam by phone the evening she introduced herself as the party with the new lean on the property! With one acre of lakefront land adjacent to the property the ballroom was on, we thought we might get paid in land! After two years of negotiations and two sale attempts our lien was finally satisfied in cash when the complete property sold!
I've been asked what I learned from this whole ordeal. I guess that is, you can't save someone from making a mistake when their so set on the idea! Throughout my career I have experienced a few situations with buyers who were unable to fulfill their contractual financial commitment for my services. If I assemble these stories they would probably compose a fairly long chapter in a book.
Here are a few favorite photos from the past few months!
Special Guest, Eight Year Old Delany Johnston Singing “Jackson”
with Sherwin South Dakota State Fair
Sherwin & Pete Brooks "Rockin Out" - South Dakota State Fair
Sherwin playing the pump organ - Sunday Morning Gospel Show - South Dakota State Fair
Clay County Fair - Spencer, IA
Sherwin Recovering Well!
As many of you know Sherwin took a nasty fall last September, injuring and dislocating his left shoulder. His rotator cuff was torn severely as well as supporting tendons and ligaments. Because of substantial scar tissue from many previous injuries Sherwin's doctor felt that surgery may not be successful. Following the advice from his doctor, Dr. Sperling at the Mayo Clinic Sherwin began a regiment of therapeutic exercises. Sherwin is happy to report that the therapy has worked amazingly well! He has regained more motion than had been predicted and can now lift his arm directly above his head. There is still some discomfort but he continues to pursue the therapy on a daily basis and is encouraged and happy that he did not opt for the surgical repair. Sherwin feels that his ongoing faith in God and prayer has been a big factor in his recovery from what could have been a devastating injury.
With his shoulder on the mend it became necessary to address a vocal issue that Sherwin and his doctors had been monitoring for the past two years. Sherwin has had three vocal surgeries for vocal polyps in 1986, 1994 and 2000. Each of these surgeries was to remove a fluid filled polyp from the base of his vocal cords. Two years ago at a regular examination doctors at the Mayo Clinic became aware that a blood vessel in Sherwin's vocal folds was again appearing to surface. This was again examined in October 2010 and January 2011 without change. On April 11thSherwin was back at the Mayo Clinic for an examination. This time the vessel appeared to be taking on a slight firmness. Because of his light performance schedule in the spring of the year it was decided to surgically address this issue before it was able to progress to something larger and at this early stage when the recovery process could be less. Surgery to remove the 1 mm callous was performed on April 18th. Sherwin is observing silence and will have his first vocal therapy appointment on May 2 nd . With the help of Sherwin's vocal therapist Dr. Orbello and surgeon Dr. Ekbom at the Mayo Clinic, Sherwin should be back singing by May 26th! We're all excited to hear that great deep voice again!
Sherwin’s New CD “Hillbilly Heaven”
It's finally arrived! Sherwin's new duet CD "Hillbilly Heaven" is a great collection of stories and songs featuring many of Sherwin's Country Music friends.
The opening song "Neon Moon" written by Cowboy Joe Babcock was originally pitched to Sherwin in 1966. Sherwin heard the song twice way back then, memorized it and remembered it! Sherwin is joined by Jim Glaser from The Glaser Brothers who produced "Cotton King" and Cowboy Joe Babcock. Jim and Joe both toured with Marty Robbins so their wonderful harmony is evident on this recording.
George Hamilton IV reminisces about his years working with Sherwin at The Flame Café in Minneapolis. He then joins him on the Bob Dylan classic "Forever Young." David Frizzell joins Sherwin in the singing of his brother Lefty Frizzell's monster hit "Mom & Dad's Waltz." David talks about Lefty writing the song at the family home in Snyder, TX. Tommy Cash and Sherwin selected the Johnny Cash song "I Still Miss Someone." Tommy visits with Sherwin about being present when Roy Cash, Jr. and Johnny Cash wrote the song.
Sherwin has known the Country Music comedy team Williams & Ree for 40 years. The Moe Bandy, Joe Stampley song "Just Good Old Boys" fits this trio perfectly. Terry Ree shares his memories of being in the audience the night Johnny Cash removed his boots and presented them to Sherwin on stage.
The title song "Hillbilly Heaven" is Sherwin's re-write of his friend Tex Ritter's classic hit from 1960 "I Dreamed Of A Hillbilly Heaven."
Here is a complete list of all of the songs included. Sherwin Linton fans will want to add this classic CD to their collections!
Neon Moon, With Guest Performers Jim Glaser & Cowboy Joe Babcock
Hank Williams Will Live Forever, With Guest Performer Dawn Sears
Drifting Apart, With Guest Performer Dawn Sears
Just Good Old Boys, With Guest Performers Bruce Williams and Terry Ree
Mom & Dad's Waltz, With Guest Performer David Frizzell
Jimmie Rodgers Memories & Me, With Guest Performer Roy Harper
I Still Miss Someone, With Guest Performer Tommy Cash
I Was There When It Happened, With Guest Performer JoAnn Cash Yates
Forever Young, With Guest Performer George Hamilton IV
Spanish Guitars, With Guest performer Cerrito
As Long As I Live, With Guest Performer Pam Linton
I Would Be In Love Anyway, With Guest Performer Brittany Allyn
I Dreamed Of A Hillbilly Heaven, Sherwin Linton
Many radio DJ's have already given the project a big thumbs up as one of Sherwin's best!
“It is great! I must say that I have always enjoyed the old Tex Ritter song “Hillbilly Heaven.” The new re-write with the additional names - wow! I wept as I listened each time. Dave Carlson
Music Media Technology
STEP Anoka Technical College
As always, I am impressed with the authenticity of what you write and record. Congrats on another release in the line of many other good ones over your venerable career. Ken Abdo
Lommen, Abdo, Cole, King & Stageberg
This album is a really fine project, and I can tell that you and Pam and everyone involved put a lot into it. I will be spinning “Drifting Apart” and “Forever Young” (and the dialog tracts) on this Saturday’s “Good and Country” show on KFAI. Ken Hippler
Good and Country
KFAI Radio Minneapolis
Great job Sherwin! I’ve already played three cuts on my show! I’m a big Dawn Sears fan. I never realized you had her on stage with your show first. I love the Grand Forks story! Joe Morrison
KXRB Radio Sioux Falls
What a hell of an album, some of the best you’ve ever done. Every cut is great Brittany’s “I Would Be In Love Anyway,” “Mom & Dad’s Waltz” I love it! Bob Becker
Syndicated Radio Host
God has given you wonderful gifts Amigo. I am very honored to be part of your amazing vision! Cerrito
I think it sounds great! I think you have a project that you can really be proud of. Gregg Galbriath
Hillbilly Heaven Session Leader
The new CD “Hillbilly Heaven” is available online at www.CDBaby.com or can be ordered from Black Gold Records for $21.00 which includes the shipping charge.
Please send orders to:
Black Gold Records
P.O. Box 48100
Minneapolis, MN 55448
Sherwin’s Image Part of Shania Twain’s “Why Not?” TV Show Set
The 1980's and 1990's found Sherwin and his group The Cotton Kings making frequent trips to Canada with their music show. One of the more memorable locations was the Maple Leaf Hotel in Timmons, Ontario, Canada. Timmons is a small mining town that has annexed about fifty mining camps that encompasses many square miles allowing the city to collect revenue from the mines. The Maple Leaf was a very quaint hotel with a dark wood paneled lounge. The lounge was made popular by the music stylings of Stompin' Tom Connors. Tom stomped his foot on a board while accompanying himself on the guitar which ended up giving him the "Stompin Tom" moniker and he is a Canadian music icon. Little did anyone know that the cities most famous music entertainer was just beginning her music career at that time.
Timmons is also the birthplace and childhood home of Shania Twain. Shania has had a very popular music career and also a very tumultuous past few years since she learned of the infidelity of her husband / producer Mutt Lang. This brought about the end of their 14 year marriage and she has now remarried in 2011. Shania is making her return to the public eye with a new TV show "Why Not?" on the Oprah Winfrey Network, OWN. Why is this important to Sherwin Linton fans? The show producers have recreated the lounge at the Maple Leaf Hotel, where Shania's career began, as the stage set for this TV show. We have just granted permission to the producers to use the framed image of Sherwin and his group that has hung in the hotel lounge all these years as part of the stage set. Here's the photo to be looking for! "Why Not?" premiers Sunday, May 8that 10:00 PM Central on OWN!
Photo featured in the new Shania Twain TV show “Why Not?”
Saying Goodbye To Our Friend Johnny Harra
We were saddened to hear from our friend Ron Anderson of the recent death of Johnny Harra on March 30, 2011. For those who are not familiar with Johnny he was acclaimed by many, fans and critics alike as the best vocal impersonator of Elvis Presley.
Sherwin had known Johnny for more than 50 years. They first met when Johnny showed up for a talent contest at the Savoy Tavern in Minneapolis, MN where Sherwin and his group The Fenderbenders were playing. Sherwin recalls that he didn't think Johnny was old enough to be there but he came on stage looking quite a lot like Elvis and kicked into "That's Alright Mama." He definitely had the sound. Johnny won first place and would show up there and other places The Fenderbenders played in the Twin Cities for the next several years. In 1965 & 1966 Johnny was hanging out around The Frontier Club in Fridley, MN. He asked Sherwin if he would help him with his career. Sherwin actually signed Johnny to a contract and became his personal manager. Sherwin featured him regularly with his show and booked him for guest spots in other places as well. At that time Johnny went by his real name Harry Jay dropping his last name Lavett. Harry was having problems with a separation from his wife so he stayed at Sherwin's home from time to time. Somehow Sherwin's wife Mary Ann did not object as their three children just loved him and he would even babysit occasionally, allowing Sherwin and Mary Ann an evening out for a movie. Sherwin recalls returning home to find the living room stereo cranking loud, playing a sound track album from an Elvis movie and the kids, Buddy 5, Leilani 4 and Melody 3 following Harry around the coffee table singing with him like the girls in the movies doing songs like "Girl Happy," "This Is Livin'," or "Viva, Las Vegas" Now grown, the kids still have fond memories of these times. It was like they had Elvis himself for a babysitter!
One Saturday night at The Frontier Club, Harry had parked his pride and joy 1957 Chevy convertible right in front of the club. In 1966 a 1957 Chevy was a nice car, but not vintage, just a nice old car but Harry was very proud of it. The club was packed at 10:00 PM when Harry was scheduled to do his guest performance. Sherwin recalls Harry suddenly bursting through the front door and hollering loudly as he strutted across the dance floor, "Hey Sherwin, ya gotta come help me, my wife is in my car and has a knife, she's gonna cut up the upholstery and the top. She thinks I've been chasing another woman! Ya gotta help me!" Well naturally the packed club emptied into the parking lot to watch an enraged woman cut up the top and seats of a classic 57' Chevy, and she did. Johnny was devastated and Sherwin really could not help him. The club owner said he could not use Johnny anymore because he emptied his club. Sherwin understood, but did book Johnny with his show in other upper mid-west venues however in the late 1960's Elvis impersonators were not a hot item.
Harry Jay went his own way and then in the early 1970's a Las Vegas management agency took him under their wing, changing his name to Johnny Harra. They began booking him in big rooms in Las Vegas. Following Elvis's death in 1977 Johnny actually was booked in Las Vegas for an extended stay doing a complete Elvis show with the entire orchestra and band that had backed Elvis including The Imperials and The Stamps Quartet.
After Elvis died one of the movies about him was titled "This Is Elvis." Johnny Harra was selected by Colonel Tom Parker to portray Elvis near the end of the film. By then Johnny had gained weight and truly looked like The King in his last years. Johnny later told Sherwin that Elvis's costumes which he wore in the movie fit him perfectly. Longtime friends and fans of Sherwin's will no doubt remember Red Freeman who fronted Sherwin's show for more than ten years in the 1960's and 1970's. After leaving Sherwin's employ Red had taken up locksmithing and moved to Memphis, TN. One night Red received a call from Graceland. He was told that Johnny Harra was there filming a movie and was to drive Elvis's 1956 Cadillac through the gates. They were not able to locate a key for the car and were wondering if Red would come out and assist them by making a key. Red remembered Johnny from The Frontier Club days when he was Harry Jay. Red put his guitar into his van and drove to Graceland. When he pulled onto the grounds and saw Johnny Harra he jumped out and hollered, "Harry Jay!" Johnny retorted, "How do you know me by that name?" Red broke into a chorus of "Cotton King!" They had a nice visit, a few laughs and Red made the key for the car and Johnny drove it!
Sherwin occasionally heard from Johnny in the 1980's and 1990's. About ten years ago Sherwin and Pam attended the annual MSRA Back to the 50's car show at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds where Johnny was performing. Sherwin and Johnny had a nice long visit to share old memories. Johnny sent Sherwin home with several of his amazing CD's. Johnny had put on weight but still looked and sang well.
Johnny had a true talent. Sherwin likes to remember his humble nature and Christian values and is glad he was able to help him in a small way in his early career. We will miss him.
Sherwin & Harry Jay (aka Johnny Harra) 1966
This month’s career story takes us back to April 1961 and answers a lot of questions on how Sherwin and “The Fenderbenders” brought their music to the famous “Flame Café” in Minneapolis.
“I Don’t Know If You’ve Got Enough Class To Make It In A Whiskey Joint”
In late July of 1960 my band The Fenderbenders and I were playing our first date in the Savoy Ranch Club on Nicolet Ave. in Minneapolis, MN. This was a dimly lit popular tavern that sold 3.2 (low alcohol) beer and was just one half block south of the famous “Flame Theatre Café,” where all the Grand Ole’ Opry stars played. The Savoy was owned by Ben Steinman. His twin brother Harold owned the big “Variety Ranch Bar” on 6th Street downtown Minneapolis. (Interstate 94 now runs under where the Savoy once stood.) I remember Ben telling me on our opening night, “You start exactly at 9:00 PM and do 45 minute sets with 15 minute breaks. Be back on stage right on the hour. Open each set with a fast song. Play until a quarter to 1:00 AM. No Encore! We have to get the people out by 1:00 AM. When a fight breaks out play loud and fast and look the other way.” He didn’t say, “If a fight breaks out,” he said, “When a fight breaks out!” It didn’t take long into the first night for that to happen on the crowded little dance floor. We had a great time there though. I guess fights were broke up pretty quick by a big bar tender / bouncer named Jim. Jim could jump across the bar and get everything quelled rather quickly; nevertheless I think Jim took quite a few punches doing his job. We built a big following while playing at this bar six and sometimes seven nights a week. There were a large number of young people who were regulars that were there every night and some of them had nickname monikers that were quite memorable like “Sputnik,” “Scooter,” “Crowbar,” and “Rocket 88.” Looking back it probably was something like the T.V. show “Cheers” and whenever I hear the song “Those Were The Days” the Savoy comes to mind.
Sherwin & “The Fenderbenders” Cal Houle & Bob Trebus “The Savoy Ranch” 1960
In late February 1961 after playing there for seven months, I asked Ben’s brother Harold Steinman if he would consider bringing us to his “Variety Bar” (Which sold hard liquor not just 3.2 beer.) downtown. Liquor places could pay more money as the musician’s union scale was higher. Harold was a big man with a Humphrey Bogart look and demeanor. He replied to my question in his bar owner raspy gruff voice, “I don’t know if you’ve got enough class to make it in a whiskey joint.” I thought to myself, “Well Harold, if you have enough class to own one I have enough class to play it!” I realized we were doing very well at “The Savoy” so they didn’t want to move us. I said, “Well, then I am going to see if we can get into The Flame.” Together Ben and Harold said, “No band from here ever went to The Flame! They hire stars and some top bands from Vegas and Canada!” The next day was Saturday and very snowy. Too snowy to drive, so I took the city bus from my home near Cedar Lake down to the “Flame Café.” I walked in and asked to see Ray and Abe Perkins, the owners. They took me into their little office and I told them who I was and that I would like to play “The Flame.” They surprised me by saying, “We know you, we like you and your band. We have been down the street to see you several times.” Ray said, “Could you start in two weeks?” I said, “Great!” They immediately wrote me a contract for a six week stand.
“The Fenderbenders” were a Rock-A-Billy trio with Cal Houle on bass, Bob Trebus on rhythm guitar and me playing lead. I used to jump on a railing at the front of the stage then fly off onto the dance floor landing on my knees, lay back and play then get up and do a Chuck Berry “Duck Walk” across the floor and then jump on tables and play. Naturally this did draw some attention and get the crowd going. Well, that Saturday night and the following Sunday night I recall I really gave em’ my best performance at “the Savoy.” I was excited that we would be going to “The Flame!” On Sunday night when we were through it was customary for Ben and Harold Steinman to meet with me in a back room of the bar and pay me. Their Uncle Jack would always be there too and he had a strong Polish Jewish accent. Jack often gave me a special tip which was a jar of his homemade kosher pickles. After I was paid I said, “Well Harold & Ben, I really appreciate that you have had our band here at “The Savoy” for such a long stand. In four weeks from now I will have been playing in “The Flame” for two.” Harold said, “Huh,” so I repeated myself and Harold said, “Whadda ya mean?” His Uncle Jack piped up and said, “He means dat he es’ givin you hiz two veek notice!” Harold grumbled a bit and I left and went home to tell the exciting news to Mary Ann, my wife. So we played two more weeks at “The Savoy” and went to “The Flame.”
Marquee of the famous “Flame Café” with Tex Ritter, Ardis Wells & The Fenderbenders 1961
“The Flame” had two entertainment rooms, a large center stage bar in the front and then a huge dining room with a concert size stage in back. Two bands alternated 30 minute sets in the “Front Room” and the house band led by Dave Dudley and Dick Van Hale played the dining room and a featured Country Music star did three 30 minute shows each evening. “The Flame” was a nationally famous venue and we would also be featured as an opening act for everybody from Stonewall Jackson and Kitty Wells to Carl Perkins and Tex Ritter.
On April 1, 1961 during intermission I got a call that my wife Mary Ann had been taken by a neighbor to Mount Sinai’ Hospital and our second child, daughter Leilani had been born. I couldn’t wait to get out of “The Flame” that night to rush to the hospital and see “Sweet Lailani!”
Up until this time I had been working a day job as well, doing IBM computer programming. Well, it was the computers of those days. I felt I was going to be secure in my music career so I gave my notice and left that job so I could devote my full energy to music.
By the time I had been in “The Flame” for two weeks Harold Steinman was there nearly every night offering me a 1 year contract to play at his “Variety Bar” downtown. I just held out and stayed at “The Flame” for five months and then accepted Harold’s offer to double what “The Flame” paid.
In March, April and May, the spring of each year, I can’t help but reflect back to those good times when I was having such excitement playing the music I loved at “The Savoy” and “The Flame.” I remember Country super star Webb Pierce parking his custom Pontiac Bonneville convertible along the curb in front of “The Flame.” This car had “six guns” for door handles, long horns on the hood and a hand tooled leather interior with hundreds of real silver dollars placed into the dash and seats. This car had every garish feature possible! People loved to look at the car, but no one bothered it! During this time Ray Perkins also invited me to join him and Abe at a table where he introduced me to a friend of theirs named Isadore Blumenfeld. Mr. Blumenfeld bought me a drink and visited. He told me how he liked my voice and music. He came back at least two more times to see the show and visit with me again. Later I learned that he was also known as “Kidd Cann,” and was a major crime figure in Minneapolis. Blumenfeld was later arrested in Nevada and sent to prison for 25 years. Well, he was nice and pleasant to me. Everywhere I go, people still reminisce about “The Flame.” Several years later when I had a national hit “Cotton King” Ray and Abe Perkins booked me as a featured attraction in “The Main Room” at “The Flame.”
Sherwin and Pam enjoyed being back in Minneapolis for a few days and performing at the “North Dakota Winter Show” in Valley City, North Dakota. They enjoyed a sunny drive to Valley City on February 28th. The trip became exciting when they started receiving calls from friends and fans congratulating them on the five F.A.M.E. Awards they had received at the awards show in Pharr, TX that afternoon. Because of their North Dakota Winter Show performance they were unable to attend the awards presentation this year. Pam’s parents Tom & Nettie Trobec accepted Pam’s award for “Vocal Performance of the Year.” Dick Moebakken received “Bassist of the Year” and was able to accept Sherwin & Pam’s awards for “Duo of the Year,” “Show of the Year,” and Sherwin’s award for “Showman of the Year.” We feel very blessed to be so highly recognized. Sherwin and Pam flew back to McAllen, TX for their final three weeks of engagements and to enjoy a little more warm weather!
This has been a winter to remember with so much snow in the mid-west and unusual weather patterns all across the country. With this in mind we’d like to share another of Sherwin’s career stories.
The Blizzard of ‘66
In the final days of January 1966 Sherwin & “The Fender Benders” finished a two month engagement at “The Flame Café” in Minneapolis. They played one week at “The Garden Supper Club” in Hutchinson, MN and then a Sunday night at “The Pelican Club” in Watertown, SD. They loaded their equipment into Sherwin’s 1965 aqua green Dodge van. Leaving Watertown on a cold Monday morning Sherwin recalls driving over snow packed highways traveling through southwest South Dakota, across the Nebraska panhandle into Wyoming and then to their next date at “The Covered Wagon” in Fort Collins, CO. This was a big supper club with dancing and entertainment. The club structure was a large domed top Quonset building with exterior decorations that made it look like a covered wagon complete with wheels and the ends of the building appearing as if you were looking inside the wagon. The owners had well furnished living quarters for the band on the property and Sherwin, Arlon Austin, Bob Trebus, and Roger Mews enjoyed their stay. With three weeks behind them in Colorado the group headed to Billings, MT and “The 17 Bar” for a two day stay and then to “The Little Nashville” in Mandan, ND for the first week of March. As the group headed into the club for their first night at “The Little Nashville” it had begun to snow. By the time the evening was over the light snow had become a raging blizzard. The band returned to the “White Fence Motel” and Roger Mews borrowed the van to take a friend back to Bismarck. Once in Bismarck, Roger was not able to return to Mandan because of the driving conditions. The blizzard continued for four days. The motel owner came several times each day to shovel the snow away from the cabin doors so the guys could get out if they needed to. Finally on Friday night the blizzard subsided. Sherwin, Arlon and Bob bundled up and walked downtown Mandan where the snow drifts were over the top of two story buildings. On Saturday afternoon Roger Mews began his efforts to get back to the “White Fence Motel.” Roger’s friend lived in the middle of a city block so Roger shoveled the van out of the driveway and then shoveled down the street to the plowed cross street. Once there he was able to drive back to the motel. Sherwin had contacted the club owner and he had arranged to have the parking lot plowed. By late afternoon “The Fenderbenders” were loading their equipment into the van with plans to depart for Minneapolis. The sunny cold following the storm lead to a very cold night. About midnight with Sherwin at the wheel they began the slow drive down the single plowed lane of the highway. Approaching each shelter belt and bridge with caution the van would enter a now tunnel as the plows had cut a passage through the large drifts. As Sherwin made the drive across the snow covered countryside weaving through stalled and abandoned vehicles he began to notice cattle standing along the fence lines. After several occurrences of this Sherwin’s curiosity forced him to pull the van to a stop on the edge of the road. He walked through the ditch across the top of the hard compacted snow to the fence line and observed a herd of cattle frozen from the effects of the storm but still standing up. An estimated 190 thousand head of cattle were lost in North Dakota due to this storm, which is still considered North Dakota’s worst blizzard in history.
At about 4:00 AM and four hours into the trip Sherwin navigated the van into another long drifted snow tunnel near a rest area 10 miles east of Valley City, ND. Unknown to Sherwin the snow plow had not cut a straight path through this large drift. About 100 feet into the drift the path veered right. Sherwin, not able to negotiate the curve ran the passenger side of the van up on to the edge of the snow bank flipping the van on to the driver’s side. With the van lying on its side across the single lane of traffic about 1/5 of the way through the snow drift tunnel the group exited the van climbing out the front passenger door. Not sure what to do the group walked down the road out of the tunnel, climbed the snow drift and walked to the shelter building of the rest stop. Finding it locked the group headed back to the van. As per Sherwin’s direction Bob, Arlon and Roger climbed back inside the van while Sherwin stood outside near the now exposed engine trying to keep warm and watching for any possible sign of traffic entering the tunnel. After about 45 minutes Sherwin heard an engine and began to see headlights reflecting on the bright snow walls of the tunnel. He ran toward the lights in hopes of flagging down the vehicle before it would hit the precariously positioned van. The Minneapolis Star Tribune delivery truck with two men inside came to a slow stop. Happy to see some help the now group of six analyzed the situation. The delivery driver suggested that with all of their efforts they could possibly pull the van back up on to its wheels. With care they unloaded all of the music equipment from the van, stacking it in the snow. They attached a tow chain from the delivery truck to the van and with five men pulling up and the help of the delivery truck they managed to get the van upright on its wheels. There was damage to the exhaust system which they wired up temporarily but the van started and was drivable with heat too! The Star Tribune driver had no choice but to back up to the east end of the tunnel to allow Sherwin and his Dodge van to some through. The group loaded the music equipment back into the van and with the Star Tribune delivery truck behind proceeded the remainder of the way through the long snow tunnel. “The Fenderbenders” made it to Fargo where the exhaust system was repaired and they could all get a hot meal. They made it back to Minneapolis by late afternoon Sunday. “Sherwin Linton & The Fenderbenders” were back on stage at “The Garden Supper Club” in Hutchinson, MN on Monday night!
Last December Bob Trebus was in the audience for Sherwin & Pam’s Christmas Show. While reminiscing Bob seemed to shiver as he said the coldest he had ever been was during “The Fender Bender’s” vigil in that snow bank near Valley City, ND.
Sherwin took an amusing Polaroid photo as "The Fender Benders" stopped to
check out the ghost town of Carter in southwest South Dakota.
Sherwin playing the double neck guitar he built and was able to assemble during the days he
spent in "The White Fence Motel" while waiting out "The Blizzard of 1966."
The Christmas holiday is behind us and we're heading strong into Sherwin's 55thYear in Entertainment! The year started with a live guest appearance on KFAI Radio's Live from Studio Five. This is a great two hour show hosted every Wednesday by Doug The Thug and M.J. Gilmore. Doug became a Sherwin Linton fan when he was working as a camera man at WTCN-TV Channel 11 in Minneapolis, MN in the 1960's and 70's and Sherwin was a frequent guest on shows hosted by Nancy Nelson and Mel Jass. Sherwin and Doug had a lot of stories to reminisce about! Sherwin and Pam performed a few selections live on-air and Sherwin was able to tell a few stories and share some obscure classics from his mammoth record collection! Sherwin even played one of his own early records a cover version of Chuck Berry's "Maybelline" which Sherwin recorded in 1956. You can stream the show live from the archive files on the station web site. Scroll to the bottom of the page and select the program Live from Studio Five.
A portion of the show is also filmed. Click on the start button below to view the video.
Last month in celebration of Sherwin's 55thYear in Entertainment we started a series of Sherwin's career stories and facts. This month let's go back to January 1958.
A Life Time Decision
In the spring of 1957 Sherwin graduated from Watertown High School in Watertown, South Dakota. He worked the summer on the extra gang for the Great Northern Railroad. In January 1958 Sherwin headed for Minneapolis, Minnesota where he had enrolled at Brown Institute of Broadcasting. Having had his own radio show on station KWAT in Watertown since the age of sixteen Sherwin had decided to pursue a career in radio. With about $300.00 in his pocket and some stern advice from his father Harry, "Sherwin, your job when you get to Minneapolis is to GET A JOB and not depend on your railroad unemployment." Sherwin set out for Minneapolis in his yellow and black 51 Chevy hard-top. Pulling away from the family home at 527 West Kemp Sherwin headed through town and to the intersection of US Highways #81 and #212. There he pulled to the side of the road contemplating his future. Should he head east to attend radio announcers school in Minneapolis or should he turn south and go to Memphis, Tennessee. Though he was only 18 Sherwin knew from his radio experience that the best producers and songwriters were in Memphis turning out the great new Rock-N-Roll recordings at Sun Records. Could he join the ranks of Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and some of the other Rock-A-Billy stars? After contemplating for an hour or more, parked there on the side of the road, Sherwin pointed his car east toward Minneapolis fulfilling a promise to his mother Perline to attend school. The loud glass packed mufflers on his Chevy echoed through the coteau hills of South Dakota on that day.
That one hour in his car is still a vivid memory for Sherwin. "I've never regretted my choice." Sherwin says, "If I'd gone to Memphis I wouldn't have met the people I've met. I might have made it big, or I might have become a victim of the drug culture. Many of the Sun Records stars I admired have struggled with substance abuse and the trials of fame. Some, like Elvis Presley died young. Of all of the Sun Records super stars the only one still living is Jerry Lee Lewis. I'm still able to do what I love with people I love! I continue to be blessed!"
Happy America Month!
Summer is here and there is so much excitement in the air! July is always a busy month for Sherwin and “The Cotton Kings.” (Check the schedule for show dates in your area!) Sherwin and Pam spent the July 4th weekend in Hazel, South Dakota! Sherwin attended elementary school in this quaint little northeast South Dakota town and decided to take the holiday weekend off from performing to attend the “All School Reunion.” It was a great time to reminisce with longtime friends and visit Hazel once again, something Sherwin likes to do. Sherwin always likes to take friends to Hazel and “show them around” the little town he has such happy memories of!
Read on to find all the new news for Sherwin Linton Fans! There are some new snapshot photos to share too!
Twin Cities Metro Magazine
This month open with a real bang with Sherwin being featured in this month's issue of Twin Cities Metro Magazine. You'll find him right there in the centerfold section of the magazine in the Self Styled feature. Editor Mary O'Regan visits with Sherwin about the development of his stage image and his career history. The Q & A story is complimented by a great photo by Eliesa Johnson from Photogen, Inc. The magazine is available at Border Books, Barnes & Noble Booksellers, Cub Foods and most Twin Cities newsstands. For outstate Minnesota friends & fans click here to read the article, I think you'll enjoy it!
Sherwin’s 2nd Annual 70th Birthday Bash
Party preparations are being made for “Sherwin’s 2nd Annual 70th Birthday Bash” at the Cabooze in Minneapolis on July 30th! Sherwin will perform a long set and welcome special guest bands “The High 48’s,” “The White Iron Band,” and “Molly Maher and Her Disbelievers.” The doors open at 7:30 PM and the music begins at 8:15 PM. Gather your friends and join us at “The Cabooze” for a great evening of music and celebration!
Nebraska & Kansas Fan’s To Meet & Greet!
Sherwin, Pam and “The Cotton Kings” are returning to southeast Nebraska July 17th for the Jefferson County Fair in Fairbury, Nebraska! This is a great All-American County Fair with loads of food, fun, exhibits, carnival rides and great grandstand entertainment too! Sherwin’s fans and friends are invited to gather in the Grandstand at 4:00 PM for a meet and greet and a chance to visit with Sherwin and Pam prior to the 7:30 PM show. Bring your favorite old stories and let’s catch up on what we’ve all been doing! We miss the great friends and fans we so seldom get to see!
The Shorewood Our New Twin Cities Home
You’ll find Sherwin Linton fans and friends gathering at “The Shorewood Bar & Grill” on select Thursdays from 7:00 PM to 11:00 PM each month through November. The Shorewood has great food and atmosphere with a comfortable dance area too! Check Sherwin’s schedule for dates.
Get your Christmas Show Tickets Early
Sherwin, Pam and “The Cotton Kings” will present their Branson Style Christmas Show in the Twin Cities in 2010! “The Shorewood Bar & Grill” will host this highly acclaimed holiday event December 16-18, 2010 (Dec. 16 7:00 PM, Dec. 17-18 7:30 PM.) The 75 minute holiday show will be followed by variety entertainment dance shows that will keep everyone in the holiday spirit! Get your advance tickets at “The Shorewood” beginning July 22nd. Make your plans early as seating for this show is limited.
The Shorewood Bar & Grill 6161 Hwy. 65 Fridley, MN 763-398-0088
Here are a few recent snap shots!
Sherwin & Pam
Minnesota Twins Opening Day Target Field April 12, 2010
This is the bronze statue of #34 Kirby Puckett!
Sherwin’s “Big Beat” Mustang lined up for the Hazel, South Dakota July 4th Parade!
Sherwin Hazel, South Dakota Gas Station July 4, 2010
Sherwin & His Brother Gene Celebrating July 4th Thomas, South Dakota