‘Johnny Cash Story’ coming to Marion Ross theater

Published 7:07 pm Friday, April 7, 2023

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Sherwin Linton sounds like Johnny Cash, or so he’s been told.

And at 7:30 p.m. next Saturday, Linton, his wife, Pam, and The Cotton Kings will perform “The Johnny Cash Story” at the Marion Ross Performing Arts Center.

“We’ll talk about him, do his songs, and Pam will do some of the June Carter songs and the Anita Carter songs,” he said, referring to the Carter family, who played a major role in Cash’s life.

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The Carter family was one of the first performing families to find success in the music scene, and Linton got to know about the family, something that helped him develop a close insight to Cash, his life and career

And while he’s performed tributes to other musicians — including Elvis, Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly — he likes Cash because he had a voice he could “slide into very easily because of the timbre and range of my own voice.” Linton also felt the two grew up in similar lifestyles.

Sherwin’s interest in Cash started after he obtained a Cash album back in 1955 while working as a DJ for a radio station in Watertown, South Dakota.

“My mother would not let me sing ‘Folsom Prison Blues,’” he said. “She didn’t want her 16-year-old son singing songs about shooting people and going to prison.
“Of course, I’ve sung it many times since then.”

Growing up, he learned Cash’s songs. And on Aug. 9, 1971, Linton and his band recorded a tribute album, “Hello, I’m Not Johnny Cash.” It was recorded at a state penitentiary in South Dakota after former Gov. Richard Kneip suggested doing it at a prison.

“It became a best-selling album,” he said. “Johnny Cash even liked it himself so well that he wrote me a letter of endorsement and had me on his show several times.”

According to Linton, Cash told him no one performed his songs better than Linton..

“That is really a nice compliment,” he said.

Linton first started performing tribute shows some time in the ’60s.

“I remember one time we were playing in a venue, … and during intermission I was talking to somebody,” he said. “We talked about Johnny Cash, and he said, he hasn’t had a hit in years. He was big in the ’50s but then he hasn’t had nothing since then.’

“I said, ‘You’re wrong.’”

And he proceeded to go back on stage and play a medley of Cash’s songs for an hour. Following that, he and his band received a standing ovation.

Linton has loved music since he was a child growing up in a musical family in South Dakota in the 1940s. His sister played piano, while his parents sang songs around home and in the car.

“I learned a lot of songs from them that way,” he said.

When he was 10, he started taking guitar lessons from a co-worker of his father’s. Following his family’s move to Watertown, he put together a band with classmates, Sherwin Linton and the Rocketeers. He and the band landed a live show at the local radio station, where he also served as a part-time DJ.

“Soon we were playing dances around the northeast South Dakota area,” he said.

He moved to Minneapolis in 1957 and started another band, The Fender Benders, before going to Nashville and recording. It was as at that time he recorded “Cotton King.”

As for the band, Sherwin Linton said they were named after that record.

Besides Albert Lea, Sherwin & Pam Linton and The Cotton Kings will be at the Nebraska and Iowa state fairs, among other places this year.

“I love music,” he said. “The joy of performing, I enjoy singing.”

Doing this for 10 years has taught him the importance of being kind, friendly and remaining humble.

Besides performing at the Marion Ross Performing Arts Center, the band has performed previously at the Freeborn County fair.

Tickets are available through the concerts and events page at actonbroadway.com. They can also visit the box office during business hours or calling the ticket office during business hours at 507-377-4371. The 24/7 phone service is 877-730-3144.