Midwest country music entertainer Sherwin Linton is marking his 61st year in entertainment and the 50th anniversary of his 1967 chart topping hit, “Cotton King.” This is also the singers 44th year of entertaining at the S.D. State Fair, with three shows daily on the Centennial Stage on the agenda.
Linton was on top of the charts across the United States with “Cotton King.” How did this country, rockabilly singer with roots in South Dakota happen to hit with a song about cotton?
Sherwin Linton had just entered into a production and recording contract with the Glaser Brothers of MGM Records and the Grand Ole Opry. Producer Chuck Glaser introduced Sherwin to songwriter Wayne Carson Thompson, writer of “The Letter” for The Box Tops and “Always On My Mind” for Elvis Presley and Willie Nelson.
Linton told Thompson that he would like a song of southern life in a rural setting with a positive philosophical message. The following day, Thompson returned with a demo tape of a song, “Cotton King,” which Sherwin thought was perfect. Two days later on Oct. 12, 1966, Linton recorded “Cotton King” at Nashville’s famous Bradley’s Barn studio with Chuck Glaser producing and Nashville’s A Team musicians, including the legendary John Hartford on five string banjo and dobro plus the Nashville Sound’s vocal group.
The song was released in late April 1967 on Bell Records newly formed New World label of New York City.
“I remember getting calls from friends at 3 a.m. telling me they had heard “Cotton King” on all-night 50,000 watt stations, so that was exciting.” Linton said.
By mid-July, “Cotton King” was in the Top 10 on major stations from coast to coast and No. 1 in the upper Midwest on KFGO in Fargo, N.D, WNAX in Yankton, and KTCR-Minneapolis, Minn.
Soon Sherwin was known by fans as “The Cotton King,” an unusual moniker for a man from South Dakota.
“The only cotton I ever picked was when I bought a new t-shirt!” quipped Linton, who soon changed the name of his band from “The Fender Benders” to “The Cotton Kings.” He has been the recipient of personalized artwork depicting “Cotton King” on belt buckles, jewelry, clothing and even a large framed mosaic.
Since 1973, Linton has become a mainstay attraction annually at the South Dakota State Fair. Ten years ago, the fair honored him by naming a street on the fairgrounds “Cotton King Avenue.”
“If I forget to sing “Cotton King” on a show I hear about it from disappointed fans,” Linton said. “We have recorded hundreds of songs including over 50 singles and 25 albums but “Cotton King” is definitely my signature song.”