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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Country Music Superstars

Aired November 14, 2005 - 21:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, superstar ladies of country. Trisha Yearwood, three-time Grammy winner, engaged to country giant Garth Brooks. Martina McBride, more than 10 million albums sold. Barbara Mandrell, winner of more than 75 major music awards. Plus, American Idol winner Carrie Underwood, one of country's newest stars. And Jo Dee Messina the multi-platinum award winning singer. Some of country's biggest, most beautiful stars together next on LARRY KING LIVE.
Good evening. And welcome to an unusual edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Unusual in a couple of respects. We are in New York, that's not unusual. What is unusual is, the Country Music Association of America is here this year. The country music awards tomorrow night are in New York instead of out in Nashville. This is a historic first. And it's got New York all agog. The police love it. We've got all these people in ten gallon hats and cowboy boots walking around town.

And auspicious, too, because tonight, or right around this time 80 years ago, a Nashville music institution was born, the Grand Ole Opry. It was a radio broadcast. It became part of a building. And the Opry grew. Nashville grew and what was once a sleepy town is now Music City, USA.

and in honor of the Grand Ole Opry and 80 years, we have some outstanding country artists with us. They'll all be at the Country Music Awards tomorrow night. With us in studio in New York, Trisha Yearwood, the three-time Grammy winner, a member of the Grand Ole Opry. Her new album is "Jasper County" featuring her smash single "Georgia Rain." And she's engaged to a friend of ours, a fellow legend and Opry member, Garth Brooks.

Martina McBride, by the way, will be joining us shortly.

Barbara Mandrell is in Nashville. She joined the Grand Ole Opry at age 23, the youngest person ever to receive an honor. The winner of over 75 major music awards: Grammy, CMAs, Academy of Country Music Awards and People's Choice Awards, retired from country music in '97.

Here in New York is Carrie Underwood, winner of the American Idol on FOX television last season. And her new CD "Some Hearts" hits the stores tomorrow.

And in New York is Jodi Messina, the multi-platinum country singer whose been honored by the Grammys, the CMAs and the Academy of Country Music.

First Barbara, why did you retire?

BARBARA MANDRELL, SINGER: Well first of all, it's truly great to be back with you tonight. Larry, thank you. I've missed you.

I retired at the end of '97 after 38 years as a performer. And I was not bored. I was not unhappy. I was, I guess -- I'm trying to think of a modest way to say it, to me, my opinion was at the top of my game. And I really didn't have any more that was like different and unique to offer. And the public had been so great to me. And they're the reason really, as I'm sure you can appreciate this, that I was able to retire.

And for the first time in my life, because I started working when I was 11, to be what I call a normal person and be a stay-at-home wife and mother. And I found out that that's the hardest job on the face of the Earth.

KING: And you don't miss, you didn't want to be in New York tomorrow night on that stage singing?

MANDRELL: Oh, I'll be watching. I'll be laying in my bed at home watching.

KING: But you don't want to be there?

MANDRELL: I don't miss the performing. The only thing I could sale that I perhaps miss a little bit is being able to please people when I do that eye-to-eye contact that I used to kind of search for people in the audience as I was performing and see that they were pleased. Perhaps I miss that. But I meet an awful lot of nice people at the grocery store or wherever I go.

KING: All right.

Let's go around. Trisha why is the Grand -- first of all, are you getting married?

TRISHA YEARWOOD, SINGER: I am.

KING: When? Got a date?

YEARWOOD: Garth's my date.

KING: I mean a date on the calendar.

YEARWOOD: No, no, no. No, not yet.

KING: Soon? 2006?

YEARWOOD: Hopefully, yes.

KING: Hopefully on your part, his part, both parts?

YEARWOOD: Both parts. I'm touring, right now, busy. Just got to find the time. Get the dress, it takes awhile.

KING: What does he sing only at Wal-Mart?

YEARWOOD: Right now at the moment, pretty much.

KING: From the top of the world to the Wal-Mart store in Walla Walla Washington.

What does the Grand Ole Opry mean to the country singer?

YEARWOOD: I think, speaking for myself, becoming a member of the Grand Ole Opry was acceptance into an elite club of people who understand the history of country music and what it's about. And they decide that you appreciate the right things. And they invite you to be a member.

So to me, it's the highest honor to say I am in this club. I get to be a member along with Porter Wagner. And I get to be in this club.

I mean, it really -- that understand the tradition of what came before and don't necessarily have to sing exactly the same kind of music for them to be accepting of you.

KING: I emceed there one night when my wife sang. She's got a new single and CD. And I introduced her. And I walked by this circle in the middle of the stage. And they all said, you are standing in hallowed ground. What is that?

YEARWOOD: It's a circle of wood that was taken from the Ryman Auditorium and the Opry moved from there in 1974 out to the Big Opry House but they took a piece of that floor. And that's the floor that Patsy Cline stood on and Hank Williams stood on.

So, it's a -- there's definitely a feeling when you stand on that piece of wood. It's different -- it's different from the rest of everything else.

KING: And the audiences are wild and backstage is crazy, right?

YEARWOOD: Yes.

KING: Carrie, what does it mean to you as a young performer, an American Idol winner, a new album.

CARRIE UNDERWOOD, AMERICAN IDOL WINNER: I mean, the Grand Ole Opry is something to work towards. It's the pinnacle of, you know, country music performing. And I think those who you know, are accepted into it kind of realize you know, I'm here. So someday I...

KING: Have you worked there yet?

UNDERWOOD: I have performed there once. And I'm going back in December. And I'm very much looking forward to possibly, hopefully someday being a member myself.

KING: What's it like to walk on stage? UNDERWOOD: It's just a great feeling. You know, all the people that come to watch. Most likely they've been coming for a while and been to many shows. And you know, the band is awesome. And it's a great feeling.

KING: And they do shows every week?

UNDERWOOD: Uh-huh.

KING: And they do two shows on Friday and Saturday night. They really roll long.

Jo Dee Messina, you've done it all, what does the Grand Ole Opry mean to you?

JO DEE MESSINA, SINGER: Well, that's kind of like the home place for country music. That's where, you know, they used to have the radio broadcast out of there. You know, it's what America first knew of country music came from the Grand Ole Opry. And so it's such a huge piece of history as far as this format goes.

And just to walk out there, like you asked Carrie what's it feel like. You know, being a fan of country music, and to actually be able to walk on to that stage, or like Trisha said about that piece of wood that's right in front of the microphone, to stand in that spot that all of the legends, all the people that you grew up admiring once stood on that spot. I mean, that's a cool feeling.

KING: You got the WSM Radio, is that the radio station that broadcasts all the Grand Ole Opry and been there as long as Nashville has. And all the shows are on the radio, right.

MESSINA: Yes. They're broadcast on the radio.

KING: Barbara, why did you choose country? Was it your natural way of singing or did you say I've listened to them all, I like this?

MANDRELL: I was 11-years-old, and had started playing steel guitar, two weeks later saxophone, and steel guitar is kind of wonderful for country music. And my mother and father played, you know for fun. And so it just happened. It was around me, and I loved it.

KING: Trisha Underwood, Martina McBride joining us soon, Barbara Mandrell, Carrie Underwood, Jo Dee Messina. The Grand Ole Opry is 80 years old. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE. We're celebrating the 80th birthday of the Grand Ole' Opry on the eve of the Country Music Awards, which this year comes from New York City.

And added to our panel is a great star in country music, Martina McBride has sold more than 10 million albums. Her new CD "Timeless" is currently number one on Billboard's Country chart and top 10 on the hot hundred albums chart.

And she has been a member of the Grand Ole' Opry since '95. Before we get into some individual stories, what did it mean to you to be made a member?

MARTINA MCBRIDE, HAS SOLD MORE THAN 10 MILLION ALBUMS: It's amazing. I mean it's, you know--the Grand Ole' Opry is such a big part of our heritage in Country music. And it's an honor.

You know, I'll never forget the day I was asked to be a member. And, you know, I don't take it for granted. Because you don't -- not everybody gets to be a member. It's just a really a wonderful thing. I'm proud of it.

KING: Sing there a lot?

MCBRIDE: Yes, I do actually.

KING: Different when you sing there?

MCBRIDE: It is, it is. Little butterflies and, you know, especially when we do it at the Ryman Auditorium where it's such a ...

KING: It's something to go back to the old place.

MCBRIDE: That's right. And, you know, you're standing there, and there's where Hank Williams sang and Patsy Cline and all the greats.

KING: All right, let's go around. So much of Country music is personal. We'll go around starting with Jo Dee this time. Does the trials and tribulations of your own life come into your music?

MESSINA: For me more recently, I guess, because I've done more song writing for my music, I mean for my records than in the past, but I think that's the beauty of Country music is the relatability.

And the fact that you feel right at home when you're listening to it. And so I think in all of our music, that's how we, you know,grow that fan base is the relatability and the realness of the subject matter.

KING: Why are so many of the success stories based on unhappy instances in people's past?

MESSINA: Well, you tell me. Society's got plenty of things these days to look at.

And, you know, I think a lot of times when you're hurting or you're going through something, you feel alone. And the music itself is some sort of reassurance or let's you know that you're not alone in that, whether you're going through a divorce or losing a loved one or just struggling with a day-to-day trying to get the kids off to school or whatever.

I think that everybody has that. And I think when you're in that spot, you feel very much alone. And the music let's you know that you're not.

KING: You're a little young for pain, right, Carrie? What's the worst thing that ever happened in your life? The diaper was leaked.

UNDERWOOD: Hives. No, I mean, I'm finding my way through everything. And, you know, right now, you know, a lot of my songs are happier songs. So maybe someday, hopefully, they'll continue to be happy songs.

KING: You haven't felt any real pain yet?

UNDERWOOD: I mean, I'm 22, you know.

KING: I have ties older than you.

UNDERWOOD: Ties, that's funny.

KING: What about you, Trish? Life's been pretty good for you.

YEARWOOD: Yes, you know, but I think, I mean, even when I was 14 years old and wanting to be an artist, I was singing Linda Ronstadt songs about love and loss and betrayal having had no life experience.

I think that just the emotion in music, it was there. And I like all kinds of songs. The songs that are, you know, kind of roll on the floor and wallow in self pity, those songs make me happy. You know, I like a really good gut wrenching song.

KING: There's some sickness involved in it.

YEARWOOD: I guess that may be so.

KING: It is the saddest song you like.

YEARWOOD: When you're happy you want to hear a song that makes you feel happy. And when you're having a bad day or you're sad, you want to hear somebody who commiserates with you. And you can find that. There's a little bit of everything.

KING: You know, Barbara, Anthony Quinn once told me about Frank Sinatra, that when he sang a song of pain, he felt your pain, that you could -- he understood what you were going through through his music. Do you feel that in Country music?

MANDRELL: Sounds like really good PR to me. I don't know.

KING: Well, he was able to move you when you listened to him.

MANDRELL: His voice--I think, you know, to each his own. But, I think that all my friends that are there, I think they'll all agree with me maybe, but for me, it was when I was singing, whatever I was singing, I was living it for those three minutes or whatever the length of the song.

For real. I mean, it's like you're acting. You're living the pain or the joy or the romance. And so, but I don't know about feeling someone else's pain.

KING: But, you don't bring your own pain to it?

MANDRELL: Sure you do. You do that, yes. In acting or singing.

KING: In three minutes.

MANDRELL: Sure you do. I mean, don't you have to sometimes recall to call up old memories of, you know, to -- sure. And the lyrics are different to you when you're performing it.

KING: Yes.

MANDRELL: Especially in the recording studio because right then, it's all about what does it sound like, not what does it look like or anything. You have to really, really make it special and make people totally believe you.

KING: What is it like for you, Martina? Life hasn't always been roses, right?

MCBRIDE: Well, not every day. You know, we have good days and bad days. Everybody does. I think what Barbara was saying is true. It's about relating to the lyric. Even if it's something you've never been through, there's something in there that you can empathize with or even if it's a story that you're telling, you know.

For instance, the song "Independence Day," I've never lived through that story. But I can have compassion for the woman in that story. So it's just something you tap into that -- and you just sing with your heart.

KING: What makes Country different?

MESSINA: I think the realness of it and the industry itself is such a small--I know when I was -- I grew up in Massachusetts so, it seems odd that I sing Country music.

And I remember when I was a kid just the whole industry is just based in a small area. It's really -- it's almost like a family- oriented industry, which is what drew me to it, you know, years ago when I went down to Nashville.

And I think it's just real, you know. And there's something you can grab on to. And it isn't all sad and isn't all about pickup trucks. And I think sometimes we get a bum rap for that, you've just got to contain jail history and pickup trucks and beer cans and whatever.

But I think the fact that for me I can reach out and grab it. There's a realness to Country music.

KING: We'll be right back with our panel on this 80th anniversary of the Grand Ole' Opry. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (MUSIC)

KING: Boy, don't we miss her.

(CROSSTALK)

MANDRELL: I wanted that hair. I tried everything to get it too.

KING: Barbara wants (INAUDIBLE) hair. A little joke, Barbara.

Barbara, not getting too serious, but you battled depression, didn't you?

MANDRELL: Did you say Barbara, Larry?

KING: Yes.

MANDRELL: I'm sorry. Sure, I really did. But I had a real serious head injury after being in a car crash after...

KING: Yeah, I remember.

MANDRELL: ... being hit head-on. So, so -- yeah. Depression is a terrible, terrible thing.

KING: Did you sing while you had it?

MANDRELL: No. No, I didn't. That's a whole another story. I never thought I would ever sing again or be Barbara Mandrell again, or any of that. But praise God, my father changed my mind and told me to do at least one more show. And then if I liked it, keep going. If I didn't, then quit, because he didn't want the car crash to dictate that.

So I think my father being my manager my whole career, he shared with me the unspeakable really joy and pride that we as Opry members have. And I have enjoyed hearing some of you, my friends, describing -- it's a very huge honor. It's so special. It's the longest-running radio show in existence ever. There's something to be said for the great success that it's had. And so...

KING: Were you a better performer, Barbara, after you battled through it?

MANDRELL: Oh, I would like to think. I wanted to be better every time out, every show. So yeah, I hope I got better. I didn't want to ever just spin my wheels. I was always looking for higher ground, you know, and to deliver better goods to the public, you know, to the audience.

KING: Jo De, you had an alcohol problem?

MESSINA: Yeah, looking back, it was just a really kind of rough point in my life where I needed to stop and say, OK, I got to look at me for a while. Kind of a struggle. I don't want to pin it to one thing or another. But yeah, I mean, I think we all go through that. And I was lucky enough to be able to stop and step off the merry-go- round for a while, and learn some things about myself and about, you know, just appreciating the simple things in life.

KING: How were you able to stop?

MESSINA: I was able to -- oh, I just took time off. I took time off and went away for a while, and started to look at me, look at myself and realize what's important.

I used to work seven days a week, 24 hours a day. I did everything from learning how to pack my truck, to knowing what kind of gear we were renting, to, you know, how many lighting trusses and lighting points we needed to hang the trusses. And I just was really involved.

KING: You were hands-on.

MESSINA: Too much. You know, too much. I almost went crazy. I just almost went crazy, at that point, you know, trying to run a business, and then I -- I was at the end of a nine-year relationship at that point. I felt, you know, just overwhelmed with everything and was able to kind of step out and step off. And how lucky was I to have a job that allowed me to take six weeks or so to step out.

KING: Were you better when you came back?

MESSINA: Oh, yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. I had my record come out. First time in five years that I had had something with all new material on it. And just to release the record, it wasn't about the awards, chart position or nothing, it was just about, oh, my God, I get to sing. You know, I got a new record out there. I'm excited. And so I think I was so grateful for that, that when the first single came off of this record, I never looked at the chart. I don't look at the chart, I couldn't tell you where my album is, my single is. I just got a new appreciation for what I do and for people and just getting out and seeing today.

KING: What has the relationship with Garth Brooks done to or for your career?

YEARWOOD: I don't know. I don't know how to say what it's done for my career, except for I get a lot of "where's Garth?" at my shows. And my current answer is that he would have been here, but he's -- the laundry was piling up. That's my current answer.

KING: You were singing before you met Garth, right?

YEARWOOD: Yes, I was. We met as demo singers, actually. We were both singing demos for publishers and songwriters for 10 bucks a tune. So I've known him for almost 20 years now. And...

KING: Was it love right away or not?

YEARWOOD: It was a connection right away. You know, I would say that there was something special about our voices together immediately. And a friendship immediate. You know? And what's wonderful now is that most relationships -- and I've been very guilty of this myself -- you get way, way far along the line before you realize you never really got to be friends. And in this relationship, we've had a really great friendship for a long, long time. And now, it's just wonderful.

KING: How did it develop?

YEARWOOD: It's hard to...

KING: I mean, one day you looked up and said, I love him?

YEARWOOD: No, it wasn't like that. It was really more of -- it really was more of a realization that this man is continually in my life for a reason, and the reason changed. And it was inevitable. It just seemed to be inevitable.

The way that he has affected me most is that there's just -- there's a confidence factor that I have that I don't think I had before. And I have to credit him for some of that, because he's always been my biggest fan, and he's a really big believer in me, and has encouraged me to believe in myself more.

KING: Well, with all this time, why haven't you had a date? I don't mean to be prying, I mean, (INAUDIBLE), you know. You're eligible for Medicare.

YEARWOOD: Well, we may. We've done everything right. That's nice, Larry. No, we've done everything right, you know? Garth has three girls. And we -- I earned my way into this family. It wasn't like all of a sudden, oh, here I am, I'm part of the family. I learned how I got to know the girls, and we didn't get engaged until they were ready. Until they...

KING: You married other people in between, right?

YEARWOOD: Yeah, we were married -- we were married while we were friends.

KING: And you got engaged on stage?

YEARWOOD: We did, yes.

KING: Did you expect it?

YEARWOOD: No. No. I mean, you know Garth. He is a pretty private guy. And I would never have expected it to happen in a public setting.

KING: How did he do it?

YEARWOOD: Well, he was being honored with this bronze statute, and he had told the artists that he wanted his wedding ring to me on this bronze if it was going to stand forever, which was very romantic. We thought it was going to be a private ceremony, but it ended up by the time -- between the seven months that the statue was commissioned and it happened, that it was in front of 7,000 people. But when the cover came off the statue, he knew he would have some explaining to do, with the ring on the hand. So he said, that was the moment. And there he went.

It was pretty surreal.

KING: Johnny Cash did that.

YEARWOOD: He did?

KING: Got married, proposed on stage.

YEARWOOD: He did. Well, that worked out.

KING: What about your love life, Martina? Where are we at with you? And why am I into this?

MCBRIDE: Because you're a romantic guy.

KING: Yeah, I know. I'm a romantic.

MCBRIDE: Well, I've been married for 16, 17 years? Sixteen and a half...

KING: You're checking with...

MCBRIDE: I'm checking with somebody. A long time. I got married in 1988, and -- in May of 1988 -- and just married my best friend. And we're still best friends. He's my very favorite person in the whole wide world.

KING: Children?

MCBRIDE: We have three children. Three daughters.

KING: But you still call him best friend. That's interesting. I'll pick up on that.

And, oh, by the way, I hate to make a break -- Carrie, do you have anyone in your life?

UNDERWOOD: No.

KING: But you grabbed your ear. That's a tell-tale sign.

We'll be right back with -- I'll reintroduce the whole panel. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MUSIC)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MUSIC)

KING: Wait a minute. That's your song, right? But that ain't you.

MCBRIDE: No.

KING: Who was that?

That was Carrie.

KING: Stealing material.

UNDERWOOD: That is me.

KING: Why did you pick that song?

UNDERWOOD: Well, I mean, I picked it for the show because obviously it's a great song.

KING: Is that the song you won with?

UNDERWOOD: It could have been. I don't know. I just sang it on the show at some point. And hey asked me to do it on tour so I did.

KING: You're the first country singer to win.

UNDERWOOD: Yes, sir.

KING: What was that like when they announced who the winner is, that moment.

UNDERWOOD: It was amazing. It's one of those moments that everybody has those moments when you get engaged or you have a baby or something like that. It's one of those moments you'll remember forever. That moment I am going to remember forever.

KING: Our guests are Trisha Yearwood, Martina McBride, Barbara Mandrell, Carrie Underwood and Jo Dee Messina. What was your big break, Barbara?

MANDRELL: My big break. There were just like many that came along, you know, first job, and from that I went immediately from Vegas, which was the first job back to my home in California and I became a regular on the television show called "Town Hall Party" every Saturday night for over a year. And then that led to entertaining the military for four years. And be going all over the world. And that led ...

KING: What was the first hit record?

MANDRELL: What do you mean by hit? They were all chart -- they were all chart records.

KING: What do you regard as your personal record that made it for you?

MANDRELL: My first number one record was, I want to say it was probably two years or -- no, about a year and a half into my recording career. It was a song called "the Midnight Oil," which was the first that I know of where a woman really said, and tonight I'll cheat again. And tomorrow I'll be sorry.

I mean, it was a really powerful lyric that was really for a man usually. But it was -- it did well for me.

KING: Wow. What was yours, Martina? You're a new mother, right.

MCBRIDE: I am.

KING: Four months old.

MCBRIDE: Four months old.

KING: You don't look it.

MCBRIDE: Thank you.

KING: You out working and everything?

MCBRIDE: Out promoting the album and not really touring yet. We're starting that in January.

KING: What was your big -- for want of a better term -- break?

MCBRIDE: Well, as far as songs, I mean "Independence Day" is probably still my signature song. My first number one song was "Wild angels." But like Barbara said there's a series of little breaks along the way. I don't think you can point to one big break.

KING: The hardest thing is getting the hit record, isn't it?

MCBRIDE: Yeah. It's still hard. Yeah.

KING: How the radio station chooses what they play. How do you get air play? That's chosen by program directors not disc jockeys. Radio has changed. Are you radio dependent?

MCBRIDE: I don't know about radio dependent. I have an interesting -- this new album I recorded an album country classics.

MANDRELL: It's fabulous.

MCBRIDE: Thank you.

MANDRELL: It is fabulous.

MCBRIDE: It was so much fun. But I think we definitely all you know, have a great relationship with radio. It's important to have a good relationship with radio. And of course, everybody wants to hear themselves on the radio. So it's exciting.

KING: How important is it for you? What was your break, Trisha.

YEARWOOD: Like Barbara said, it wasn't one big thing. My first hit record was my first single called "She's in Love with the Boy," which defined my career. Still probably my signature song. Which is a blessing and a curse because the first single to do so well, then the challenge is to continue to put out songs that people feel that way about.

KING: What have you done lately?

YEARWOOD: Exactly, so it's harder and harder. So I've been lucky, I've had a couple other songs that were close in that to identify me with, but -- and I think that for me, radio is an important element. It's not the only thing. And it's becoming that there are so many outlets now for artists. I've always been of those artists that's been hit or miss. Some songs are really commercial and really work and some are maybe not as radio friendly but they still seem to work with the fans.

KING: But you do need an act, right, once you're in a concert, you've got to know what you're doing.

YEARWOOD: You've got to try to relate.

KING: You can't sing one song after another just to sing it, right?

YEARWOOD: You've got to find a way to relate to your audience. And I think we probably all do it differently.

KING: For starting out, what Jo Dee, advice would you give Carrie?

MESSINA: Oh, God.

KING: This is your first record, right? "Some Hearts" in stores tomorrow.

MESSINA: What advice? Oh, man.

KING: Should she have high expectancy or not.

MESSINA: Just keep in mind why you're doing it. You're doing it for the music, you're doing it because you love to sing. That's -- and that will always be there, that love. You can't dictate what a record's going to do or how it's going to sell. So you know, keep an eye on why you're in it. Don't get lost in the craziness once you are diving in. And mainly, really, this is an important thing to anybody, be true to yourself. You're going to have hundreds of people saying you should do this -- and then you look in the mirror and you're like who is that. I have no clue. So just, if it feels wrong in your gut, don't do it. That's my advice. Follow your gut.

KING: Don't try to be what you're not.

MESSINA: Yeah. Sometimes we want this so bad you'll be surrounded which groups of people telling you this is what you should do, this is what you should be, this is how you should act. And after awhile, you know, you forget the person that originally started this. The funniest thing for me that I've learned, I've gone back to being plain old me. And people say you've reinvented yourself. I'm actually no, I'm kind of doing my old thing.

KING: We'll be right back with this great group of talent.

(MUSIC)

(COMMERCIAL)

(MUSIC)

KING: Must be some feeling, huh, when they're all jumping up and down.

MCBRIDE: It's awesome.

KING: I love you, Martina, marry me, Martina. Take me, Martina. You're singing that. Do you always know what city you're in?

MCBRIDE: Oh, yeah.

KING: You're sure.

MCBRIDE: Yeah.

KING: Thank you. The name Grand Ole Opry, how it came into being, the show leading into it on radio was opera music. And the deejay said for the past 60 minutes you've been listening to grand opera and now we're going to present some Grand Ole Opry.

From no audience to a small studio audience to a 4400-seat auditorium. And tonight, we recorded this a little earlier because tonight, tonight, at Carnegie Hall, country music stars will perform an 80-year appreciation for the Grand Ole Opry. Remember the first time you went on stage there, Trisha?

YEARWOOD: It was today in sound check. I'd never been there before.

KING: What was that like?

YEARWOOD: Amazing. I walked out and literally was talking to Vince Gill about it, took my breath away.

KING: Great acoustics.

YEARWOOD: And just to walk in there. I've seen the balconies in so many photographs and I just -- I said I just have to not try not to cry. It was amazing.

KING: Barbara, what do you make of the idea the Grand Ole Opry at Carnegie Hall?

MANDRELL: I think it's wonderful. Carnegie Hall is so famous to us all and the Grand Ole Opry house is so famous for us all. And how wonderful for it to be there. I'm sure the girls have played there, I've played there before. For the Opry to be saluted.

KING: Wait a minute. None of them have played Carnegie Hall.

MANDRELL: No?

KING: No.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Class by yourself, Miss Mandrell.

KING: That's a good way to handle it. I'm sure the girls ...

MANDRELL: No, I made a mistake. It's probably the first mistake I've ever made. It was not Carnegie hall. It was Madison Square Garden. I'm sorry.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I haven't played there either.

MANDRELL: I give up. Anyway ...

KING: How about the Loew's Oriental Theater in the Bronx?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Iowa state fair.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Been there.

MANDRELL: You guys are having too much fun there without me.

KING: But you played Carnegie, right?

MANDRELL: Me?

KING: Yeah.

MANDRELL: No, that's what I said. I got that wrong. It was Madison Square Garden. So I didn't get to. But I think it's marvelous.

KING: What was it like, Jo Dee, the first time you played the Grand Ole Opry.

MESSINA: I was terrified. That day it was broadcast from the Ryman Auditorium where everybody stands back in the hallway. There aren't really dressing rooms anymore.

So Barbara was bragging about having that bathroom where the women were. I don't think we had that. It was lined up in the back hallway and you walk on and go. You hope it's in tune and you hope you can hear. You just go. Terrified.

KING: Very appreciative audience.

MESSINA: Very much so. Country music is that way. They have loyal fans beyond explanation. They stick with you. And we're lucky.

KING: What was it like Martina for you first time on stage at the Grand Ole Opry?

MCBRIDE: Like Jo Dee said I was just terrified and nervous and was out there singing my very first single. And had my little short skirt on with my cowboy boots and little white suit that I had especially chosen. It was just a big night. It was fantastic.

KING: Are you scared of all this Carrie, of what's coming?

UNDERWOOD: You know, I find myself scared quite often. But it's a good scared because you know, one way or another, whether things go great or whether things go horribly, I'm getting a shot. So it's great.

KING: It must seem a little -- sitting around with these people you've probably listened to for years. And now you're suddenly on the same program with them. Now you've got a record coming out tomorrow. It's got to be a little awe-inspiring.

UNDERWOOD: It is. But like I said, it's great. And it's a chance of a lifetime.

KING: You're going to make it. We'll be right back with more. Eightieth anniversary of the Grand Ole Opry. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: That's a good song. All right. Choosing material, Trisha. What is it gut feeling only?

YEARWOOD: Yeah. I'm not a song writer. So it's a challenge for me to find songs that feel like they're mine when I'm done with them. I like songs for the same reason you do. Something -- I might hear something and think that's me, I want to sing that. Or sometimes I don't know why I like a song but can't get it out of my head. It's a gut reaction. And you go with -- Those are all good reasons to record songs.

KING: Have you guessed wrong a lot by you didn't think this would do well and it didn't or you think it would do well and it didn't?

YEARWOOD: I would say I haven't guessed wrong on choosing songs because I don't choose them thinking this will be a single. I think about that eventually. But in the beginning, it's all about do I love the song or not. And then after you've made a record you try to figure out what singles are going to be.

KING: What about you Jo Dee?

MESSINA: Pretty much the same thing. The relate-ability. As far as the question about any songs you thought would do good but didn't, there was a song I passed on, we all have these stories. The songs we pass on. A song called "I Hope You Dance," which I still to this day, think that there's no regrets there because I think that ended up exactly where it should be, Lee Ann Womack had cut that and made it her own.

KING: Why did you not do it? MESSINA: It sounded almost as if it was speaking to a child. I think. And I don't have kids. I have dogs. It doesn't apply. It doesn't.

KING: What about you, Martina?

MCBRIDE: It's like Trisha said. It's really a gut instinct. It's just -- If you hear it, we all listen to so many songs for each album. You know it when you hear it. You just know that's the one I want to sing.

KING: Have you guessed wrong a lot?

MCBRIDE: Not too much.

KING: One way or the other?

Did a song ever surprise you -- you didn't think would do that well and it did.

MCBRIDE: I was surprised. We all have those. I hate to keep naming my own songs. I was surprised by "Concrete Angel," how well it did. I was afraid it was a little too serious. It's a song about child abuse. I was afraid it was a little too much. But that's the song that people -- some people -- so many people have grabbed on to that song. And even young girls especially.

KING: Barbara, having the career you've had there must have been songs you expected to do well that didn't and other side, surprised you and did well?

MANDRELL: Sure. But I also, I'd love to share with you too, I was a person that felt very blessed because there was a young lady and gentleman named Kai Fleming (ph) and Dennis Morgan that wrote lost and lots of songs for me for their publisher and my producer Tom Collins and they would write them especially for me.

In fact, the one you commented on, "I Was Country When Country Wasn't Cool" was written from a conversation that we had had Kai and Dennis and I about my life in country music and things that happened. And then they wrote that song. It was like reading my own story. And so I was very -- they wrote wonderful songs like "Years" and "Sleeping Single in a Double Bed." And I was always very fortunate to have them in my life.

KING: We're going to take a break and when we come back, we'll find out what's next in the extraordinary lives of these extraordinary people. Don't go away.

(MUSIC)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MUSIC)

KING: What's next, Trisha? YEARWOOD: Finishing up a tour, a wedding to plan, you know.

KING: Ah. But definitely next year, right?

YEARWOOD: If you say so.

KING: I'm not saying so. We've still got a month. Let us know, okay?

YEARWOOD: I will.

KING: What's next, Jo Dee.

MESSINA: Touring up until the 15th of December and going to take a couple weeks off for the holiday and start back up again promoting the new record.

KING: Touring in a bus.

MESSINA: Yeah, for the most part. We fly here and there.

KING: Martina?

MCBRIDE: I'm starting my tour in January. To promote the "Timeless" album.

KING: How many cities?

MESSINA: I think 25 or 30. I've been off the road for ten months. Obviously having a baby. So I'm excited to get back out there.

KING: Are you going to tour, Carrie?

UNDERWOOD: You know, a tour is in my future next year. And tomorrow at the CMAs I get to perform there. I'm so excited. So a lot of cool things going on.

KING: It's exciting for you tomorrow night?

UNDERWOOD: Yes, I'm nervous.

KING: National television. Are you going to do the song "Some Hearts"?

UNDERWOOD: No, I'm doing "Jesus Take the Wheel," my first single.

KING: I see. And Barbara, what are you going to do, sit in bed and drink hot milk and ...

MANDRELL: I'm going to go next door here and tape some comments about our friend Dolly Parton for another show and yes, tomorrow, night, I'm going to be enjoying the CNN awards. I certainly appreciate so much Larry King. You know you're the top. You're the top of the heap my man. Thank you for talking about the Grand Ole Opry.

KING: I loved it and one other thing. Quickly. How important are videos?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think they're just another marketing tool, another way to get your song out there. Very important.

KING: Trisha Yearwood, Martina McBride, Barbara Mandrell, Carrie Underwood and Jo Dee Messina and the Grand Ole Opry is 80s years old. Celebrating at Carnegie Hall tonight. Tomorrow night, the Country Music Awards, tomorrow night Nicole Richie is the guest on LARRY KING LIVE. Wednesday night, Dominick Dunne.

Thank you all very much for joining me. My tongue got caught in my teeth. I could not see what I was saying.

Anderson Coop -- Anderson -- good -- go.

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