Those accomplishments resulted in an even bigger one last spring when Johnston was included in the 2019 induction class of the South Dakota Country Music Hall of Fame.
It takes most performers a lifetime to compile a hall-of-fame worthy resume. Johnston did it before finishing her sophomore year in high school.
In April, Johnston, now 16 years old, became the youngest-ever inductee into the S.D. Country Music Hall of fame. Formerly of Summit, she is just beginning her junior year at Lead-Deadwood High School.
“It was a total surprise,” she said about receiving the phone call from Hall of Fame director Wini Iverson. “I didn’t know I was nominated. I couldn’t believe it.”
The 2019 induction ceremonies for the Hall of Fame will be held Friday through Sunday, Sept. 13-15, at the South Shore School gymnasium. Events include an open jam at 6 p.m. on Friday, an awards ceremony at 6 p.m. Saturday and the inductions at 2 p.m. Sunday.
Despite Johnston’s tender age, she doesn’t plan on performing on stage much longer. She is focusing on her education and plans to attend Black Hills State University in Spearfish and eventually teach music, preferably in South Dakota.
“It’s hard living in the Black Hills to make it to all of the fairs in the eastern part of the state,” Johnston said about her shrinking performance schedule.
She has only taken the stage a handful of times this summer, including at the Brown County Fair in Aberdeen on Aug. 18. She will also appear at the South Dakota State Fair in Huron this year.
Johnston typically performs as part of the Sherwin and Pam Linton and the Cotton Kings show. In fact, it was Sherwin Linton who first put young Johnston on the stage when she, just 7 at the time, attended one of his shows and requested the song “Jackson.” Noticing her sweet voice and beaming smile, the veteran entertainer invited the girl onto stage to sing the song with him. The crowd loved it and Johnston became a regular feature of his shows, later being joined by her little sister Delilah.
Linton, himself a member of the state’s hall of fame, helped Johnston cut two CDs of classic country tunes, “I’m Little But I’m Loud,” made when she was 10 years old, and “You’re Looking At Country” two years later.
Both CDs received praise, with Bob Everhart of the Rural Roots Music Commission saying: “Through and through a most respectable, entertaining, fun, beautiful, and certainly ‘unique’ CD as this little girl pursues her love of America’s rural and roots music with unbridled pure love.”
The first album won an award for “Young Country Artist CD of the Year 2015” from the commission.
This update corrects Johnston’s age to 16.