Great River Arts presents Grand Ole Opry tribute

Sherwin and Pam Linton and The Cotton Kings will perform Friday, Sept. 23, at Great River Arts in Little Falls in a tribute to the stars of the Grand Ole Opry. Sherwin Linton will also share stories of the Grand Ole Opry performers he has shared the stage with starting in the 1950s.

Sherwin Linton playing guitar on stage.
Longtime performer Sherwin Linton plays the music of Johnny Cash in a 2008 tribute to the stars of the Grand Ole Opry.
Contributed / Sherwin Linton Entertainment

LITTLE FALLS — Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson — just name a country music legend and chances are Sherwin Linton has shared a stage with them at the Grand Ole Opry.

“We have an excellent band of musicians that perform our music and the music of the Grand Ole Opry traditional stars,” Sherwin Linton said.

Music lovers will hear hits by those performers and Linton’s stories of them when he and his band, The Cotton Kings, perform at 6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 23, at Great River Arts in Little Falls.

“The first time I performed in Little Falls was in April of 1969 doing a show with Roy Acuff and that was at the high school auditorium, I believe … so that takes us back quite a ways,” Sherwin Linton said. “And we've played in Little Falls a few times since at other venues.”

As a child, he learned to accompany his singing while playing the piano and guitar as a child and had his own radio show at age 16 on radio station KWAT-AM in Watertown, South Dakota.


Pam and Sherwin Linton
Pam and Sherwin Linton
Contributed / Sherwin Linton Entertainment

“Sherwin moved here in 1958 from South Dakota,” said Pam Linton, his wife and bandmate. “I was born and raised near St. Cloud, Minnesota, in a little town called St. Stephen.”

“Pam is a wonderful singer,” Sherwin Linton replied. “We have a band that includes keyboards, bass, drums, and also a steel guitar player who plays steel guitar, electric guitar, flat top guitar and banjo.”

The couple lives in Coon Rapids but her brother-in-law’s brother is KBLB-FM Program Director Bill Satre of the Baxter-based country station B93.3-FM.

“I have played in Brainerd many times at the Crow Wing County Fair and other venues up there, so we have quite a strong fan base in that area,” Sherwin Linton said.

He formed the “Fender Benders,” which became a popular ballroom and nightclub act from Minnesota to the West Coast, in the early to mid-1960s playing rock ‘n’ roll. His band was later renamed “The Cotton Kings” after his hit “Cotton King,” which he cut in 1966 in Nashville.

The Lintons and The Cotton Kings
Pam and Sherwin Linton and The Cotton Kings
Contributed / Sherwin Linton Entertainment

He headed to Nashville in 1966 where he recorded “Cotton King,” a song that catapulted him to the top of the country music charts, and Acuff became aware of Linton’s talents when they toured together in 1968.

Performing with Grand Ole Opry stars and to be associated with that historic venue has been an honor, Sherwin said.

“‘The Grand Ole Opry’ has a great history as the longest-running, continuous-running radio show on WSM Radio down in Nashville, Tennessee. It began in 1925,” he said.


George D. Hay was a prominent announcer and program director known for his National Barn Dance program at WLS in Chicago who launched the WSM Barn Dance with Uncle Jimmy Thompson, a 77-year-old fiddle player, on Nov. 28, 1925, the day the Grand Ole Opry was born.

“By 1935, they had their first vocalist and superstar Roy Acuff, who came on stage and sang ‘The Wabash Cannonball,’ ‘The Great Speckled Bird,’ and other songs, and he became the icon of country music and, in a way, still is,” Sherwin Linton said of the Grand Ole Opry and Acuff.

Linton toured with Grand Ole Opry stars on several shows across the nation, and in the early 1970s, he performed as a guest star on the Opry at the famous Ryman Auditorium in Nashville.

“Following Roy Acuff, we had Ernest Tubb, Eddy Arnold, Hank Williams, Lefty Frizzel, Webb Pierce, Marty Robbins, Loretta Lynn, Kitty Wells, Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash and a host of others … and we’ll be doing a little of their music,” he said of the Great River Arts concert on Friday.

If you go

  • What: Sherwin and Pam Linton, and The Cotton Kings in a Grand Ole Opry tribute.
  • When: 6-9 p.m. Friday, Sept. 23.
  • Where: Great River Arts, 122 First St. SE, Little Falls.
  • Tickets: $20 in advance at , or $25 at the door the night of the event.
  • Info: Call 320-632-0960, email or visit .

FRANK LEE may be reached at 218-855-5863 or at . Follow him on Twitter at .

I cover the community of Wadena, Minn., and write features stories for the Wadena Pioneer Journal. The weekly newspaper is owned by Forum Communications Co.
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