Aside from church and the Brandon Golf Course, I don’t belong to any clubs or organizations like the Rotary, Lions or Optimists. I did, however, accept an invitation last year to become a member of theSouth Dakota Rock and Roll Music Association board of directors. Being an old rock ‘n roller myself, I have a sentimental attachment to the music of the late fifties and early sixties. It was simple innocent stuff to be sure but it was great fun for a kid to listen to and even more fun to play. Every town, no matter the size, had young guys saving up to buy guitars and drums so they could learn to play, form a band and become stars. Not many did, of course, but several came very close and there was always joy in the attempt.
On Sunday evening, May 24th, the association is going to hold the inaugural Hall of Fame induction ceremony at the Shrine Mosque (Formerly the Arkota Ballroom) in Downtown Sioux Falls at which seven of the early rock and roll bands from South Dakota will be honored. Not only that, but many groups have dusted off their instruments and will be performing the songs they did fifty years ago. For more information on who’ll be there and how to get tickets, click here.
In the weeks leading up to May 24th, I’ll be profiling the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame class of 2009, here on Lund at Large. Let’s begin with Gene Carroll and the Shades from Sisseton.
The band actually started out as the Harold Johnson Orchestra but when Elvis and Buddy Holly came along, they quickly switched to rock ‘n roll. “The Shades” came about because they figured it would be cool to wear sunglasses on stage. That idea was soon scrapped when they couldn’t see a thing in the dark clubs and ballrooms where they played. The Shades really become popular in the Dakotas and Minnesota..even recording an extended 45 record that is now a collectable cult classic. One reason for that might be because band leader Gene Carroll went on to gain fame and fortune under another name; Mean Gene Okerlund. Gene Carroll, heart throb rocker 1958 and as Hulk Hogan’s good buddy a few years laterYup, that Mean Gene who has spent some 40 years as a professional wrestling announcer and interviewer. Three years ago, he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame and he plans to attend our HOF ceremonies in person next month.
Sherwin Linton, who grew up in Watertown, is best known for his lengthy successful career in country music..but his roots are in Rock ‘n Roll. In 1956 at the age of 16, Sherwin got a job as a disc jockey at KWAT. Much of the music he played was rockabilly which inspired him to start a band of his own which became The Rocketeers. Sherwin Linton as a Rocketeer in the late 50’s ….still going strong after over fifty years.The band developed quite a following throughout the upper Midwest. Sherwin’s career really took off, though, when he moved to the Twin Cities and formed “The Cotton Kings” after his hit song, "Cotton King" which he recorded in 1966. Since then, he’s recorded over 25 albums and traveled millions of miles making music. And talk about staying power; in over fifty years as an entertainer, Sherwin Linton has never missed a gig.
I’ll feature more of the Hall of Fame inductees here next week.