ST. CLOUD - I have been a big fan of the country music band Highway 101, and their lead singer Paulette Carlson, for years.  So when I heard that Carlson was going to be in St. Cloud for a benefit for the VFW Post 428, I jumped at the chance to meet her and see her sing.

Paulette Carlson, Photo by WJON.com's Jim Maurice

Carlson was born in Hutchinson, Minnesota, she graduated from Moose Lake high school.  She started her singing career playing in clubs in Minneapolis and Fargo, before heading to Nashville in 1978.

She formed the band Highway 101 in 1986, and they quickly became a top group in country music.  Their first single, "The Bed You Made for Me" went to number four on the charts.  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 charts, four of which went to Number One.

Carlson left the band in 1990 to start a solo career.

Carlson was also instrumental in getting the popular Winstock Country Music Festival off the ground.  She was the headliner for the first concert in Winsted, Minnesota back in 1994.

During the benefit  on Saturday night, Carlson - now 61 years old - took the time to mingle with the crowd, sign autographs, take some pictures, and of course sing.  Backing her up was local band Kevin Lange and the Mississippi Drifters.  And, in my opinion, she sounds just as good today as she did back in the late 1980s.

She also dance with anyone who was willing for $5, money that went to the VFW auxiliary benefit.  Organizers say she donated her time for the cause.

Carlson told me she flew in to St. Cloud from Alaska.  And she says she also lives in Montana.

It was nice to see that Carlson continues to maintain her Central Minnesota values, and generosity.

YouTube video of Highway 101 and Paulette Carlson singing their first single: