Nikki Nelson – ACM award winner Highway 101
Nikki Nelson: Recorded March 10, 2021
Chris McKay interviews singer/songwriter Nikki Nelson, lead vocalist for ACM Award Winning “Highway 101”. Fun interview sharing her start in Country music with her Father Gene and their band “Nikki and Gold Rush”. Working at the the infamous Nashville Palace, watching the stars on stage from behind the bar only to come full circle by becoming a star herself on that very stage.
Notes from Chris McKay: If you couldn’t tell by this interview, I’ve been head over heels about Nikki from the first time I heard her as lead for Highway 101 after the departure of Paulette Carlson. I was not a big fan of Paulette’s voice yet loved the music Highway 101 presented over the years. Nikki to me became the icing on the cake for this ACM award winning band band. Over the years I was able to meet with her and her Father Gene Nelson who played locally in Fallbrook, CA. She continues to sing, write and perform in Nashville and I can’t wait to see what happens with her new single.
From Wiki: Nikki Nelson (born January 3, 1969 in La Mesa, California) is an American country music singer. At the age of seven, her family moved to Topaz Lake, Nevada. In 1991, she replaced Paulette Carlson as lead vocalist for the band Highway 101, and their first album together was that year’s Bing Bang Boom.
She also sang lead vocals on the band’s next album, 1993’s The New Frontier.Carlson returned to Highway 101 in 1995 for the album Reunited, and Nelson signed a solo recording deal with Columbia Records, Nashville. She released the single “Too Little Too Much” in 1997 and charted at No. 62 on the Hot Country Songs charts. Chrislynn Lee replaced Carlson after the Reunited album, and remained that band’s lead vocalist until 2006, when Nelson rejoined.
From Wiki: Highway 101 was an American country music band founded in 1986 by Paulette Carlson (lead vocals), Jack Daniels (guitar), Curtis Stone (bass guitar, mandolin), and Scott “Cactus” Moser (drums). With Carlson as lead vocalist, the band recorded three albums for Warner Bros. Records Nashville and charted ten consecutive Top Ten hits on the Hot Country Songs chart, four of which went to Number One.
After Carlson left in 1990 to pursue a solo career, the band recorded a fourth album for Warner with Nikki Nelson on lead vocals before exiting the label. One album each followed on Liberty, Intersound, and Free Falls Records under various lineups.
Before the band’s foundation, Carlson recorded on RCA Records as a solo singer. She made three appearances on the Hot Country Songs chart in that timespan: her singles “You Gotta Get to My Heart (Before You Lay a Hand on Me)”, “I’d Say Yes”, and “Can You Fool” respectively reached No. 65, No. 67 and No. 72. Carlson founded Highway 101 in 1986 in Los Angeles, California, with guitarist Jack Daniels, bassist Curtis Stone (son of singer Cliffie Stone), and drummer Scott “Cactus” Moser, all three of whom were session musicians. Stone and Moser (and Cliffie Stone) appeared in the 1986 film Back To School as members of a bar band.
In 1987, the band signed with Warner Bros. Records Nashville, debuting that January with the single “The Bed You Made for Me”, which Carlson wrote. The song spent twenty-four weeks on the Hot Country Songs chart, reaching a peak of No. 4.
Following it were “Whiskey, If You Were a Woman” at No. 2 and two straight No. 1s: “Somewhere Tonight” (written by Rodney Crowell and Harlan Howard) and “Cry, Cry, Cry”. After the chart success, Highway 101 was nominated and won the award for Vocal Group of the Year at the 1988 ACM and CMA Awards.
101² followed in 1988. Its first single, “(Do You Love Me) Just Say Yes”. became the band’s third straight No. 1 single; following it were the Top 10 hits “All the Reasons Why”, “Setting Me Up”, and “Honky Tonk Heart”, at No. 5, No. 7 and No. 6 respectively.
The next year’s Paint the Town accounted for the band’s final Number One, “Who’s Lonely Now”, followed by “Walkin’, Talkin’, Cryin’, Barely Beatin’ Broken Heart” (originally released by Johnnie Wright) and “This Side of Goodbye”. A Greatest Hits album in 1990 included the No. 14 single “Someone Else’s Trouble Now”.