Every #1 Country Single of the Nineties: Highway 101, “Who’s Lonely Now”

“Who’s Lonely Now”

Highway 101

Written by Kix Brooks and Don Cook


#1 (2 weeks)

December 30, 1989 – January 6, 1990

Radio & Records 

#1 (1 week)

December 15, 1989

The first #1 single of the nineties – on the Billboard chart, at least – came from the reigning CMA Vocal Group of the Year.

“Who’s Lonely Now” was the lead single from Highway 101’s third studio album, Paint the Town.   Co-written by Don Cook and a pre-Brooks & Dunn Kix Brooks, it was band’s fourth and final chart topper.

The Road to No. 1

Highway 101 released one single that failed to chart, but beginning with their #4 hit “The Bed You Made For Me” in 1987, they scored ten consecutive top ten hits.  Three of these went to #1 consecutively: “Somewhere Tonight” (1987), “Cry, Cry, Cry” (1988), and “(Do You Love Me) Just Say Yes” (1988).

The No. 1

“Who’s Lonely Now” has a mid-tempo groove that simmers instead of burns, in contrast to many of band’s earlier hits.  The lyric is cutting in its joyful revenge, leading up to the killer line: “You know I’d like to help, but I’m seeing someone else.”

It’s a shame the energy is so low overall.  Perhaps the writing was already on the wall for the band, as Carlson’s vocal borders on disengaged. Highway 101 was one of the most important new acts of the late eighties, but even though this song was a hit, it is retrospective evidence that they wouldn’t be able to keep up with the blockbuster acts of the nineties.  This will be a very common observation as we go through 1990 and 1991.

The Road from No. 1

Highway 101 would score one more top ten hit, “Walkin’, Talkin’, Cryin’, Barely Beatin’ Broken Heart” (No. 4, 1990), a hit co-written by Hall of Famer Roger Miller.   After two more singles that went top fifteen, lead singer Paulette Carlson departed the band for a solo career.  They would have one top fifteen hit  (“Bing Bang Boom,” No. 14,  1991) with new singer Nikki Nelson, who earned the coveted stop after Trisha Yearwood turned down the opportunity.

“Who’s Lonely Now” gets a B.

Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

Previous: Introduction

Next: Keith Whitley, “It Ain’t Nothin'”



  1. Always enjoyed this one, along with most of Highway 101’s work. Throughout late 80’s, they had some of the most perfect sounding neo-traditional/honky tonk records, imo, and I always enjoyed Paulette’s unique vocals. This album and their debut, in particular, were very solid. My all time favorite song of theirs, though, is probably “Somewhere Tonight.” I also really enjoyed their first album with Nikki Nelson, including the singles “Bing Bang Boom,” “The Blame,” and “Baby I’m Missing You.”

    I always thought it was too bad that popular late 80’s traditional leaning acts like Highway 101, Ricky Van Shelton, Holly Dunn, Desert Rose Band, Sweethearts of the Rodeo, etc., weren’t able to continue their success into the 90’s for much longer. Btw, I had no idea at all that Trisha Yearwood was actually offered a gig as 101’s lead vocalist. You really do learn something new every day!

    Absolutely loving this feature so far!

  2. I liked Highway 101’s output but I was not surprised that Paulette Carlson’s career as a solo artist fizzled out. I had heard her RCA singles from the early 1980s and wasn’t terribly impressed with them and I bought two of her post-Highway 101 CDs and neither of them is anything special. I don’t know if it was the group dynamic, the songs, or simply the musical environment of the time, but as Jerry Reed put it “when you’re hot you’re hot and when you’re not, you’re not”.

    I agree with Jamie that “Somewhere Tonight” was their best song

  3. I do really like Paulette’s 1992 minor solo hit, “I’ll Start With You.” It’s another one of my all time favorites from my childhood. I have yet to check out more of her solo stuff, though. I do suspect that by the time she went solo, most people associated her with Highway 101 and preferred them together than apart.

  4. Surprised this made it to #1. About a dozen years ago, my youngest brother suggested i check out Baillie & the Boys. They never had a #1 but I’d rather listen to Kathie Baillie than Paulette Carlson. Saw B&B at the Bluebird Cafe in 2012.

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