Custer singer and musician Steve Linde can often be heard performing for passersby on the sidewalk between Jenny’s Floral and the Custer County Chronicle building on Mt. Rushmore Road in the summertime. At other times he has sung and played his guitar and harmonica at open mic events around the area and in various other venues. But it hasn’t always been that way.
Linde said when he started playing guitar at the age of 14 he was so shy about performing in front of people that his own mother often stood and listened outside his bedroom door.
When she admitted that to him, he responded “Well, you can come in,” to which she retorted, “Every time I open the door, you quit playing.”
That’s why Linde decided to entitle his newly-released first CD “Hi Mom!”
The CD is a collection of a dozen covers Linde has performed live many times over the years, including such diverse tunes as Gordon Lightfoot’s “Early Morning Rain,” “I Still Miss Someone” written by Johnny Cash and the modern folk classic “Four Strong Winds.”
Admitting that his music is usually “pretty low key,” Linde says it took his friend and fellow musician Hank Fridell several years to talk him into putting his songs on record.
Finally this spring when the two of them were together at an event at High Country Guest Ranch near Hill City, a date for the recording session was set.
Linde said choosing the 12 songs to record was not very scientific, as he simply picked out a collection of songs he is accustomed to playing on the street.
“I just kind of did what I normally do,” he said. “I didn’t want to get too serious about things. It’s supposed to be fun.”
Since the recording came out, Linde said various fans have mentioned favorites that didn’t make it on the album, so he has plenty of songs left over for another CD if he decides to make one.
Part of the motivation for finally putting his songs on CD may have been his winning the Hill City Arts Council’s Steve Thorpe Award March 23 at the last open stage of the season at High Country Guest Ranch.
“It just kinda surprised me,” said Linde, adding that he doesn’t perform any original songs like other artists. But he said it appears “people like what I’m doing.”
Linde’s CD cover features a drawing of a cat sitting on a tree branch playing a guitar and singing “Hi Mom!” In the background is a sunset-colored saw blade.
He said the cover was designed by Cait Irwin, the daughter of a long-time friend, who asked him questions about his interests in order to determine what should be on the cover.
Linde essentially grew up in the family sawmill located near the Custer airport and told her the various sounds of the mill were relaxing to him. Hence the saw blade sun.
Favorite animal? “We’ve got house cats.” Therefore, a guitar-playing cat is featured.
Linde said he picks the songs he performs, not for the lyrics, but because of the way they sound to him.
“I either do or I don’t like the noise it makes,” he said. “The words can be great and they can be real meaningful for me but, boy, if the tune doesn’t work for me…”
Sound is important to Linde, and with good reason. He has been visually impaired his entire life.
Born with congenital cataracts, Linde was then diagnosed with glaucoma in the fourth grade. Later he suffered a detached retina and the cornea in his left eye went bad.
At the age of 7, Linde began attending what was then called the South Dakota School for the Visually Handicapped in Aberdeen (“It was kind of an adventure to me,” he said), attending that school for 10 and a half years before coming back to Custer to finish his senior year. He later went back to Aberdeen for college at Northern State, but admits he could have studied harder.
“You know the old saying,” he quips, “I didn’t let academics get in the way of my education.”
Today Linde says the sight is mostly gone in his right eye, but he still sees well enough with his left eye to be able to go hunting with his longtime friend and frequent musical partner Bob Hadlock.
“I shoot right-handed, but I shoot left-eyed,” he explained, noting that he has to sort of lean his head over his 30/30 to take a bead on the target.
He said, in past years, he has “gotten a couple nice deer,” but didn’t manage to hit anything last season.
“I got to throw some lead at ‛em,” he jokes, adding, after all, “It’s called hunting, not killing.”
Linde dedicated the album to his wife, Melissa, “the love of my life,” and is excited that his daughter Jessica will soon make him a “granddad.”
Linde and Hadlock performed Saturday afternoon at an official CD release party at Calamity Jane in Custer.