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Curtis Eriksmoen, Published July 31 2011

Eriksmoen: Award-winning country star born in Grand Forks

The first female country singer to appear regularly on network television was a teenager born in Grand Forks.

In 1967, Lynn Anderson signed a contract joining “The Lawrence Welk Show” after recording the hit singles “Ride, Ride, Ride” and “If I Kiss You (Will You Go Away).”

She went on to have 11 No. 1 hits, was the first female country artist to win an American Music Award, and first to perform to a sell-out crowd at Madison Square Garden.

She sang for five U.S. presidents and a number of the world’s royalty. Her signature song – “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden” – became No. 1 on the country charts and was No. 3 on the Billboard pop chart.

Because of her enormous success, she is often called “The Great Lady of Country Music.”

Lynn Rene Anderson was born Sept. 26, 1947, in Grand Forks to Casey and Elizabeth Jane (Haaby) Anderson. Both of her parents were musically gifted. While growing up in Grand Forks, Casey was a member of a trio that performed popular music, and Elizabeth (Liz) sang solos in her church and performed duets with her older brother.

While in Grand Forks, the two big loves of young Lynn were music and horses. She spent much time with her grandparents, Carl and Grace Anderson, founders of the North Dakota Saddle Club in Grand Forks.

In the early 1950s, the Andersons moved to Redwood, Calif., and by the middle of the decade, she became a featured singer at local events. In 1957, the family relocated to a ranch near Sacramento, and Lynn entered her first horse-riding competition. She later became “one of the finest horsewomen in the U.S.,” garnering 700 trophies and awards, including 16 national championships and eight world championships.

Besides her equestrian honors, Lynn was also beginning to establish her singing career. In 1963, she became the featured girl singer on the local television show, “Country Caravan.”

Her mother, Liz, had established a reputation as one of the top composers in the country and, in 1964, began turning out hit songs as a singer. In 1965, Lynn accompanied her mother to Nashville. In a hotel room, she participated in an informal sing-along with Liz and country stars Merle Haggard and Freddie Hart.

Observing this high-spirited occasion was Slim Williamson, owner of Chart Records. Highly impressed with Lynn’s talent and potential, Williamson invited her to record for his label.

Liz composed a couple of songs for Lynn that became country hits in 1967, “Ride, Ride, Ride” and “If I Kiss You.” The latter song soared to No. 5 on the Billboard country charts. In September she was asked by another North Dakota born musician, Lawrence Welk, to join his popular television show. “Her time on the show may have been brief (1967 to 1969), but she was so popular that she parlayed it to a very successful country music recording career.”

In 1968, Lynn married producer and songwriter Glenn Sutton, who composed several songs for her. In 1969, she recorded “That’s a No No,” which peaked at No. 2 on the country charts. In 1970, Lynn signed with Columbia Records and, during the next two years, recorded the hit songs “He’d Still Love Me,” “I’ve Been Everywhere,” “Rocky Top,” “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels” and “Rose Garden.”

“Rose Garden” not only went to No. 1 on the country charts but climbed to No. 3 on the pop charts in the U.S. It was also a huge hit internationally, reaching No. 3 in Great Britain and No. 1 in Germany, Canada, Norway, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and Switzerland.

“Rose Garden” remained the biggest-selling recording by a female country singer until 1997. Lynn won a Grammy Award in 1971 and received the Academy of Country Music’s Top Female Vocalist Award in 1970 and 1971.

During the next three years, Lynn Anderson recorded a number of major country hits, including: “You’re My Man,” “How Can I Unlove You,” “Cry,” “Listen to a Country Song,” “Fool Me,” “Keep Me in Mind” and “What a Man My Man Is.” In 1974, she won the American Music Awards’ Favorite Female Country Artist Award.

In the later 1970s, Lynn returned to television hosting her own special and making guest appearances on specials hosted by Dean Martin, Bob Hope, and Glenn Campbell. She also appeared on the popular shows “Starsky and Hutch,” “Hee Haw,” “Midnight Special,” “The Tonight Show” and “The Brady Bunch Hour.”

Lynn also joined Bob Hope in entertaining the troops as they returned home from Vietnam, which she considers her greatest musical accomplishment.

Lynn stopped recording with Columbia in 1980, switching to Permian Records, MCA, and Mercury Records. In the 1990s, she turned her attention to putting on solo concerts in Europe and then began performing in concerts with the nation’s top country artists, including Martina McBride, Ricky Skaggs, Charlie Daniels, and Reba McEntire. Lynn is an avid football fan and often sings the national anthem at NFL games.

Along with all her music and equestrian awards, Lynn has been honored by the American Rose Society, which named a popular hybrid rose after her. She was inducted into the North American Country Music Association’s Hall of Fame in 1999. On June 15, 2000, the governor of Tennessee proclaimed “Lynn Anderson Day.” Her rendition of “Rocky Top” is the theme song of Tennessee.

Today, Lynn is still a popular concert attraction, frequently participates in horse competitions, loves trout fishing and frequently entertains guests with her homemade salsa, “Nacho Mama.”

“Did You Know That” is written by Curt Eriksmoen and edited by

Jan Eriksmoen of Fargo. Send your suggestions for columns, comments

or corrections to the Eriksmoens at cjeriksmoen@cableone.net.