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Singer Nikki Nelson found a fast road to stardom with Highway 101


If country music had an official Cinderella story, Highway 101's Nikki Nelson would be a contender for the role.

It was just two winters ago that the Tennessee-based singer was a waitress at the Nashville Palace -- a tourist attraction whose claims to fame are catfish, the frequent presence of off-duty Grand Ole Opry stars and that country superstar Randy Travis was once a dishwasher there.

At 18, Ms. Nelson had left her home near Carson City, Nev., (as well as her slot in her father's regional country band known as Nikki and Goldrush) in search of stardom in Music City.

"It was real scary," Ms. Nelson said of the move. "But I knew that's what I wanted to do and where I wanted to be."

Ms. Nelson's gumption paid off when one of her demonstration recordings made its way to Martha Sharpe, vice president of artists and repertoire for Warner Bros./Nashville. In turn, Ms. Sharpe presented the tape to Highway 101's Cactus Moser (drums), Jack Daniels (lead guitar) and Curtis Stone (bass), all of whom were seeking a female singer to replace band mate Paulette Carlson, who was embarking on a solo career.

From there, things moved quickly for Ms. Nelson, who became the newest member and lead singer of the band, which appears tomorrow at the Tangier Sound Country Music Festival, along with Travis Tritt, Pam Tillis, Marty Stuart and others.

"My last day waitressing was Dec. 13, [1990], and our first day in the studio to cut the 'Bing Bang Boom' album was Jan. 2," she said. "Then our first live gig was in Denver, Colo., on Jan. 16, so I had about a month to get ready for the live show and less than that to cut the album."

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