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Cottage Grove singer Darlene Nelson featured on country music show, lands state fair gig

Darlene Nelson is pictured with Steve Hall, producer and director of the "Shotgun Red Variety Show," after she sang "Cry" on the show taped in February. It airs July 11. (Submitted photo)1 / 2
Members of "Darlene And The Boys" band (from left) are Ed Sullivan, vocals, guitar and saxophone; Mike Peterson, vocals and drums; Brian Walstad, vocals and bass guitar; Darlene Nelson, lead vocalist, rhythm guitar and fiddle; and Ken Nelson, lead guitarist. (Submitted photo)2 / 2

"Darlene And The Boys," a band fronted by Cottage Grove resident Darlene Nelson, continues to be a force on the local music scene in addition to getting national attention.

Nelson, the featured singer, guitarist and fiddle player, is appearing on July 11 on a pre-recorded show on the Shotgun Red Variety Show from Nashville on the RFD Network. The network has more than 1.5 million viewers, according to Darlene's husband, Ken, who plays lead guitar in the band. The show will be on the Dish Network and on Direct TV.

"Darlene And The Boys" are also returning to the Minnesota State Fair Aug. 31.

Steve Hall, producer and host of the Shotgun Red show, contacted Darlene after hearing her on the band's CD recorded in the Nelson Recording Studio in Cottage Grove. Theirs was among 2,500 entries submitted to the show.

Darlene sang "Cry" with the "Shotgun Red Variety Show" studio band in the Texas Troubadour Theater in Nashville.

The band plays a variety of country and contemporary music.

Growing up in Cottage Grove, Darlene made her first public performance at a large family event when she was 5 years old, singing with her father.

The song was recorded by her family and is one of the songs on the band's new CD.

But the spark to continue singing came at St. Paul Park Junior High School when a music teacher encouraged her. "I entered a talent show and won," Darlene said while sitting with Ken for a recent interview.

She continued to sing with her dad and that led to her to appear in lead roles in Park High School musicals, including Laurie in "Oklahoma."

She formed her own band in 1987. After a local gig with another local band, the two groups went out for a late supper and Darlene met Ken, who was in the other band.

The route to the local success of "Darlene And The Boys" took a number of twists and turns but both needed day jobs to support their music.

Ken works as a custodian for School District 833 and Darlene, just short of attaining a master's degree in counseling, found another niche.

She worked as a housecleaner and founded her own company. "I love to clean," Darlene said, which also helps her keep her in shape for performing.

During the past year, Darlene made a new commitment to her music career by growing her skills playing her fiddle and guitar. She practices every day and also has been writing Christian-based music.

If you go

"Darlene And The Boys" will appear at the Minnesota State Fair at 10 a.m., noon, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. Aug. 31, on the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources stage.

For information about upcoming band appearances locally, or to purchase a CD, go to

Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
(651) 459-7600