By Marlys Good
Country Music Hall of Fame singer and musician Paulette Carlson will be sharing the stage at the Hand Across the Saddle (HATS) X event at the Herb Asp Community Center Saturday, July 28.
Carlson‘s road to the top of charts began when she started singing professionally in dance bars in Fargo, N.D. and in the Minneapolis area. She built a large local following before heading to Nashville in 1978. Soon after arriving in Nashville, Carlson was signed as a staff songwriter for the Oak Ridge Boys’ Silverline/Goldline Publishing Company.
In 1986, she founded Highway 101; her top hits were “Whiskey, If You Were a Woman,” “Somewhere Tonight” and “Cry, Cry, Cry.”
Carlson said she heard about HATS from HATS IX headliner Lacy J. Dalton. “Lacy told me she had been in Greybull (at the event) and told me I needed to ‘come on over there.’”
Event organizer Scott Good subsequently called her and Greybull here she comes.
Carlson has played in dozens of venues — small, big, in-between — but all different. “They were all wonderful. There was BillyBobs, fairs in Pennsylvania and the Midwest, Universal Amphitheater, lots of amphitheaters, Six Flags, venues in Canada…”
She loved them all; she “feeds” off the crowd. In Texas, it’s the dancing. ”If they like you they are dancing; in Minnesota they are enthusiastic but they clap politely,” she shared with a laugh. “Some are polite/kosher, some very raucous. I love them all.”
Her maxim is, “I give to folks and they give back to me. If I am having fun, they are having fun.”
The first song Carlson penned was “The Bed You Made For Me.” Although the petite singer said, “It was a singles deal and went out just before Christmas, which is (usually) a kiss of death. Who listens to the radio at Christmas?” But “The Bed You Made For Me” caught on and became a top hit.
However, the song that is nearest and dearest to her heart is one she penned in 2004, “Thank You Vets.”
The inspiration came when she was visiting her brother, who was seriously ill in the hospital.
“Gary was only 17 when he served in Vietnam. He was a medic with the 82nd Airborne. He got sick, was sent home, but wanted to go back. He had to push,” Carlson said. “But he did go back in 1969, this time with the 173rd.”
Carlson said she was heartsick at the treatment received by Vietnam veterans. “It was awful,” she said. Unlike veterans of other wars, those serving in Vietnam “never got their thank you. I knew it had to be heard.”
There wasn’t much time between “penning and performing,” and thanks to her husband, who financed it, it was completed just in time for Carlson to sing it at a “Welcome Home Vets” event held in Branson, Mo. in 2005.
“There were 30,000 veterans. It was in the afternoon and I could see their faces. They shared their stories with me; you know most of them never talk about it, but they did with me. It was part of their healing. It is the most important song I have ever written.”
Maybe HATS X gala-goers will get to hear this “most important song.”
Whatever Carlson sings, know she’ll be doing it from the heart, feeding off the crowd, their reaction to her and loving every minute of the it.
Carlson will share the HATS X stage with fellow Country Music Hall of Famers Lacy J. Dalton and Gary Morris, who will be making his fourth appearance.
Tickets are selling fast. Less than 60 of the 400 tickets printed for HATS X are still available for purchase. If you have plans of waiting and buying one at the door, you might be disappointed. Chances are there will be none left.
Check next week for some novel and unique donations going to the highest bidders in both the silent and live auctions, as well as comments from HATS founders Wilford and Beverly Brimley.