Journey of Paulette Carlson
Minnesota’s Paulette Carlson spent nearly ten years in Nashville trying to break into the music business. She was holding down many odd jobs just to meet the day to day expenses. When the brass ring finally appeared, she found herself in the only mixed band in country music to feature a female lead vocalist.
Carlson had a brief recording deal with RCA in ‘83-’84. However, little things happened. Three totally forgettable singles landed toward the bottom of the chart. Then she was released from her contract. After her dismissal, Carlson decided to assess her situation pragmatically. Producer Paul Worley convinced her she needed a manager. In addition, he needs to put her in touch with Chuck Morris, who already worked with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.
Morris had a concept for a country group fronted by a woman. Carlson was just the perfect choice. Their connections landed drummer Cactus Moser, bassist Curtis Stone, and guitarist Jack Daniels (yes, that’s his name). The resulting conglomerate chose “Highway 101” as its moniker.
Initially, the group met with some resistance. MCA almost signed them, however, they ultimately declined. Finally, Worley approached Warner Bros. Division Chief Jim Ed Norman. He told Norman that the band was having difficulty obtaining a record deal. To Worley, it was perplexing that the group, which sounded so good to him. They were having such trouble getting signed. Norman saw the determination in Worley’s face. He smiled and said, “Let’s go make some records”.
They headed into the studio three different times before recording something that satisfied them. That song was “The Bed You Made For Me”. It brought instant results after its debut in January 1987. It climbed its way up to No. 4, so Warner Bros. “upped” their singles deal. They also rushed Highway 101 into the studio to cut an album. Their second release was the song “Whiskey, If You Were A Woman”, got as far as No. 2. The third single, “Somewhere Tonight”, sent the group to the top for their first of four times.
Rodney Crowell had the basic idea for “Somewhere Tonight” two years earlier. Then, he teamed with legendary tunesmith Harlan Howard. It was to emulate the Buck Owens/Harlan Howard classics of the early 1960s. Howard always insisted that Crowell did most of the work on the song. Howard also promised to make sure it got recorded. In addition, during the process, he gained some renewed interest in his songwriting capabilities.
The first artist to record “Somewhere Tonight” was Randy Travis. In fact, he did it a couple of times. However, Randy ultimately felt that the song wasn’t right for him and Warner Bros. bumped it from his “Storms Of Life” album. Thereafter, Warner executive Martha Sharp liked the song and salvaged it for Highway 101.
Less than a year after the group’s debut, “Somewhere Tonight” became the group’s first chart-topping single on December 26, 1987, and stayed at the summit for two weeks.