Country band Highway 101’s songs “strike a nice balance between the stand-by-your-man country tradition and punch-your-man-in-the-nose modern feminism,” according to Ralph Novak of People. Composed of vocalist Paulette Carlson, drummer Cactus Moser, bass player Curtis Stone, and guitarist Jack Daniels, Highway 101 made a stunning impact on the country charts in 1987 with their first album. Aptly titled Highway 101, the disc spawned three hit singles— “Whiskey, If You Were a Woman,” “The Bed You Made for Me,” and “Somewhere Tonight,” and received rave reviews from critics, including Michael Bane in Country Music, who declared that “Carlson is the woman singer we’ve been waiting for, and she’s backed by… one of the most versatile and off-beat bands in country music.”
As Patrick Carr reported in Country Music, Highway 101 is “not a group of longtime friends who graduated to the recording studio and the concert circuit after years together in the honky tonks. It is in fact that supposedly most artificial and soulless of musical aggregates, a band which began as a businessman’s
Formed in Nashville, TN, in 1986; group consists of Paulette Carlson (vocals); Cactus Moser (real name Scott Moser) on drums; Curtis Stone (bass); and Jack Daniels (guitar).
Signed recording contract with Warner Bros. in 1986. Recording artists and concert performers, 1987—.
Awards: Named vocal group of the year by the Country Music Association, 1987.
Addresses: Record company —Warner Bros. Records, Inc., 3300 Warner Blvd., Burbank, CA 91505.
bright idea.” Carlson, however, was the core around which Highway 101 formed. She had been a songwriter in Nashville, Tennessee, and even had her own singing contract with RCA, but she didn’t have a manager. When she found one—Chuck Morris, who also managed the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and Lyle Lovett—he suggested that she try to make her mark as part of a group. Carlson had spent many years before coming to Nashville performing with various bands, and she was happily receptive to Morris’s idea. Morris and Carlson rounded up a suitable drummer and bass player—Moser and Stone—and Stone contacted his friend Daniels. They got together to see how well they worked as a team, and everyone involved liked the results. The newly-formed band decided to take their name from a state highway that runs near Carlson’s hometown, Winsted, Minnesota, and signed a recording contract with Warner Bros. in 1986.
The male members of Highway 101 had all come from a background of lots of studio work for other stars, and Stone confided to Carr about their initial recording sessions together: “It was an interesting thing when we first went into the studio. From all our session work we’d done… each of us had learned to go in and play what we thought the producer would want to hear, ’cause that’s the way it is in this business.” But Paul Worley, Highway 101’s producer, felt that the band should come up with its own, original sound. Apparently, it was a struggle. Carlson told Carr that the first tracks they created “sounded sort of, well, country-pop.” But when they went back to the studio, they decided to record one of Carlson’s own compositions, “The Bed You Made For Me.” As Carlson announced to Carr, “When we cut it, we knew we had the Highway 101 sound.”
“The Bed You Made For Me” proved to be one of the debut album’s hits. Reviewer Bane recalled: “The first time I heard [the song] on the radio, I stopped dead in my tracks… The Bed You Made For Me’ is about hurt and strength, and I for one like to hear those kinds of sentiments.” Another of Highway 101 ’s hits was “Whiskey, If You Were a Woman,” which Bane praised as “the hands-down best drinking song… in years.” He also “particularly liked” the album’s third hit, “Somewhere Tonight,” which laments a lost lover.
The band’s second album, 101 Squared, didn’t fare as well with the critics, but did provide another big hit, “Just Say Yes.” Novak hailed Highway 101’s 1989 release Paint the Town, however, as being “full of lively, smart songs… with intensity… emotion… and… verve.” Noteworthy cuts from Paint the Town include the hit “Walkin’, Talkin’, Cryin’, Barely Beatin’ Broken Heart,” “I Can’t Love You, Baby,” and the title track. Carr summed up the band’s feelings about the album as “accurately reflecting both the creative fire they had when they first found their sound and the creative growth since then.”
Highway 101 (includes “The Bed You Made For Me,” “Cry, Cry, Cry,” “Whiskey, If You Were a Woman,” and “Somewhere Tonight”), Warner Bros., 1987.
101 Squared (includes “Just Say Yes”), Warner Bros., 1988.
Paint the Town (includes “Paint the Town,” “Walkin’, Talkin’, Cryin’, Barely Beatin’ Broken Heart,” “I Can’t Love You, Baby,” and “Sweet Baby James”), Warner Bros., 1989.
Country Music, September/October, 1987; November/December, 1988; November/December, 1989.
People, August 31, 1987; October 9, 1989.
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