Herald JournalHerald Journal, June 13, 2005

Song inspires Winsted native Carlson to come out of retirement

By Ryan Gueningsman
Staff Writer

What started with one song for Winsted native Paulette Carlson has led to a new album, a performance at the first national homecoming event for Vietnam veterans – and the chance to step out of retirement and get back into the country music scene.

Carlson was the lead singer of Highway 101, which splashed on the national country music charts in 1987 with “The Bed You Made For Me,” which she wrote. The band combined a respect for traditional country roots while adding the energy of rock to its performances. Highway 101 toured with George Strait and Randy Travis for some of its early dates.

After leaving Highway 101 in 1990 to pursue a solo career, Carlson reunited with two of her three former bandmates for a “Reunited” album in 1996, and retired shortly after.

“Our daughter Cali was five at the time and didn’t want to be on the road,” Carlson said from her Nashville home. For the past eight years, Carlson has been helping her husband, Randy, who is a surveyor, as well as being a mother.

Occasionally she would do some songwriting, but she did not see herself getting back into the music business.

“I never thought I’d go back,” she said with a laugh. “Then, ‘Thank You Vets’ came to me last fall.”

“Thank You Vets” is the one song that has led to her move back to Nashville. She penned the song following speaking with some of her family members and friends who are Vietnam veterans, and did not necessarily receive the recognition they deserved when they returned to the United States after serving. She especially cites her brother, Gary Carlson of Henderson, as “the stimulus for the song.”

“This song wrote itself within 10 minutes,” Carlson said. “When a song comes through like that – you know it’s meant for people to hear, so that’s why I decided to go back to work. I knew almost immediately.”

A whirlwind of excitement and hard work has been the result of her decision to get back into the music business. About eight weeks ago, she moved back to Nashville from Alaska, where she had been living in her retirement.

Starting with “Thank You Vets,” Carlson began working on other songs for a new album to be released this week.

“This is probably the quickest anyone has ever made a record,” she said with a laugh. The reason she wanted to make sure the album was done was so that it could be available for her performance in Branson at “Welcome Home – America’s Tribute to Vietnam Veterans” today (June 13) to Sunday, June 19.

She said her new album, called “It’s About Time,” is a country CD that features support of soldiers and families.

“When I came to town, I didn’t expect to be doing an album so soon – I had to write some more songs,” she said. “It’s About Time” features a Celtic-style song, as well as a song with a Cajun beat to it.

“We spent three days in the studio, and I averaged about three hours of sleep a night during that time,” she said.

Her new album will be available on her new web site www.paulettecarlsonmusic.com. She said she is also looking forward to doing some tour dates and getting back into the full swing of things. Another project she was involved in recently was recording a song with The Bellamy Brothers for their upcoming album “The Bellamy Brothers – Angels and Outlaws Volume Two.”

For more information, Carlson can also be reached through her management at dalbrepaulette@aol.com or by calling Carlson’s manager Diane Albricht at (701) 232-1354.

Carlson to perform at vets homecoming in Branson

She heard from a friend of hers, fellow artist Jan Howard, about a concert event that would be the first national homecoming for Vietnam veterans, and knew that she had to be a part of it.

With her new song under her belt, she is looking forward to using the celebration to share the message through her song.

“It’s too important of a song to just have stuck on the shelf,” she said. “It gives the fellows recognition they never got.”

The celebration is a week-long event and features other artists like The Doobie Brothers, The Beach Boys, Creedence Clearwater Revisited, The Oak Ridge Boys, and Tony Orlando.

Carlson has also been asked to be the guest speaker for the 101st Airborne unit for the event, which she said she is nervous about.

“I sing. I don’t speak,” she said with a laugh, noting she felt it’s an honor to have been asked by the group to be a speaker.

For more information on the event, visit www.operationhomecomingusa.com.

Carlson’s earlier years

Winstock hasn’t been Winsted’s only connection to the country music industry – Carlson was making her way up the charts with Highway 101 in the late 1980s and early 1990s before the now annual festival located just outside of Winsted was ever thought of.

Carlson’s father, Herb, owned and operated Herb’s Bakery in Winsted for several years. The family moved to Moose Lake when Paulette was in eighth grade, but moved back to the Winsted area several years later.

Her mother, Madge, still lives in Winsted, and brother Joe (with his wife, Colleen) operate Carlson’s Orchard at the home farm.

Carlson enjoyed singing as a child, often going to neighbors’ homes in Winsted and asking if she could come in and sing for them.

A local highlight was having Highway 101 perform a concert in the Holy Trinity school gym for Winsted’s centennial in 1987, just as “Whiskey, If You Were A Woman” was climbing the charts.

Carlson began singing professionally right out of high school, working in the Fargo and Minneapolis areas for about seven years before heading to Nashville.

“If you want to be in the music business, you have to be where the industry is,” she said at the time.

Carlson had three singles that made the charts but weren’t overly successful before manager Chuck Morris put together the band Highway 101. It included guitarist Jack Daniels, drummer Cactus Moser, and bass player Curtis Stone.

The band eventually released six albums and had a string of more than a dozen hits, four of which went all the way to number one on the charts. Members then went their own ways for individual projects.

Highway 101 received the Vocal Group of the Year awards from both the Country Music Association and Academy of Country Music two years straight – 1988 and 1989. The band was also named International Group of the Year in 1989 and 1990, and had three Grammy nominations in 1988 and 1989.

Carlson, Daniels, and Stone got back together for a “Reunited” album in 1996 which included a mix of new music and some of their greatest hits.

Highway 101 Singles

• “The Bed You Made For Me” - #4 (1987)

• “Whiskey, If You Were A Woman” - #2 (1987)

• “Somewhere Tonight” - #1 (1987)

• “Cry, Cry, Cry” - #1 (1987)

• “(Do You Love Me) Just Say Yes” - #1 (1988)

• “All The Reasons Why” - #6 (1988)

• “Setting Me Up” - #7 (1988)

• “Honky Tonk Heart” - #4 (1988)

• “Who’s Lonely Now?” - #1 (1989)

• “Walkin,’ Talkin,’ Cryin,’ Barely Beatin’ Broken Heart” - #6 (1989)

• “This Side of Goodbye” - #12 (1989)

• “Someone Else’s Trouble Now” - #11 (1990)

• “Bing Bang Boom” - #10 (1991)

• “The Blame” - #17 (1991)

• “Honky Tonk Baby” - #24 (1991)

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