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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Larry's Country Music Spectacular!

Aired June 11, 2009 - 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, the hottest stars of country music are here. Martina McBride...

(MUSIC)

KING: Tanya Tucker, Gretchen Wilson.

(MUSIC)

Dierks Bentley, Julianne Hough, John Rich, Blake Shelton and more.

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KING: The CMA Festival in Nashville. See and hear the excitement firsthand and even a live performance or two.

(MUSIC)

KING: All next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Hey, I'm in Los Angeles, but the program is live from Nashville tonight. You're looking at LP Field, where the 2009 CMA Music Festival is underway.

We have a great lineup this evening. And with us are Gretchen Wilson, two time CMA Award winner. Her new single, "If I Could Do It All Again," was just released.

Martina McBride joins us, four time winner of the CMA's female vocalist of the year and also a spokesperson for the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

And Julianne Hough just won the Academy of Country Music's award for top new female vocalist and top new artist.

She's also a two time winner of ABC's "Dancing With The Stars."

Great to have you all with us.

Martina, get us up to date.

What is -- what is this musical festival all about?

MARTINA MCBRIDE, CMA AWARD WINNER: This musical festival is about the fans. It's -- it's just for the fans. I mean, fans come here from all over the world and they travel -- hey plan their vacations around it. They bring their kids. They bring everybody. And they plan for it all year. And it's really our chance -- our opportunity to give back to our fans.

KING: And, Gretchen, is that very important?

I mean most stars in most show business areas do their performances and go home.

Why this attachment, fan and star?

GRETCHEN WILSON, CMA AWARD WINNER: Well, I don't know. I think it has something to do with Nashville. I think, it's, you know, the home of country music. And I really just -- I think this is a place where they can all come together, you know, one time a year and really kind of celebrate country music together with us.

And, you know, most of us live right here and are really close to Nashville. And so it's really cool for us, too, to be able to perform with each other every year. We don't really always get the chance to see each other that often.

KING: Now, Julianne, you're the new girl in the bunch. You're the Country Music Awards top new female vocalist.

What's all this like for you?

JULIANNE HOUGH, CMA AWARD WINNER: It's unbelievable. I came here a couple of years ago as just a fan. And then, of course, to be here and I don't know, be next to these amazing women and, of course, everybody else performing tonight and the rest of this week. It's -- it's an amazing opportunity. And I feel so blessed to be a part of it.

It's it so fun, though. Like it really is about the fans. I was signing -- I'm sure a lot of people were, too, today. And I even have like Sharpie all up my arm because, I don't know, I'm not very good at that part, I guess.

KING: Martina, your debut album was 1992's "The Time Has Come."

How many of these festivals have you done and has it changed much over the years?

MCBRIDE: It has changed a lot. This is probably my, I don't know, 15th or 16th year. And it used to be at the fair grounds, the Tennessee state fair grounds. And it was very small, really and hot. It's still hot. But it was -- moving it to the stadium has changed things a lot.

KING: Gretchen and her fans were up early and making music this morning.

Take a look at her performance that woke everybody up in Nashville.

Watch. (MUSIC)

KING: Gretchen, the late great Frank Sinatra told me once that no matter how much you claim, how much -- how big he ever got -- there was always a little nervous tension before he went on stage.

Do you have that?

WILSON: Oh, I really, really do. I have it terribly. I get -- you know, sometimes you get so nervous you can't really even breathe. You start to yawn. And I get like that right before I go on stage. And people think I'm tired and bored. And I try to explain to them, I'm really just so nervous to go out there. And, you know, the fans, really, they've always made me feel really comfortable. And the nerves go away, you know, within about a song after I get on stage.

KING: Julianne, you had problems with strep throat earlier this month.

How are you now?

HOUGH: I'm sorry?

KING: You didn't hear me?

HOUGH: No.

KING: Can you hear me now?

HOUGH: I'm the first one, dang it.

KING: You had problems with strep throat.

How are you now?

HOUGH: Oh, I'm OK. Yes, I was very, very unfortunate. I came down with the strep. And then I had to cancel the George Strait tour -- not the tour, but just the show that we did at the Dallas Cowboys Stadium. And oh, I was killing me self. That was such an opportunity of a lifetime.

But luckily, I'm OK. I'm good. I'm performing here tonight at the CMA Festival. So that's all that matters.

I'm back and ready to go so.

KING: Now, this one is for all of you. We'll start with Martina and anyone can chime in.

What makes country music special?

What makes it different?

All songs kind of tell a story.

What's with country music, Martina? MCBRIDE: Well, you know, for me, it just feels like home. I mean it's the music I grew up listening to. It's the music I love with all my heart. And it's -- there's something really special about it. It's just real. You know, it's honest.

(CROSSTALK)

MCBRIDE: It's honest. It's about the truth. It's about real life. It's about everyday struggles and triumphs and hope and inspiration. And it's just amazing. And I also think that the relationship we have with our fans -- talking about seeing the musical festival and all the fans, it makes it really special, too, because there's a real give and take and a real loyalty and a love -- a really lovely relationship with our fans.

WILSON: Yes.

HOUGH: Absolutely.

WILSON: I always thought that...

KING: Gretchen, what does it mean to you?

WILSON: Well, I always kind of compared -- and, you know, call my crazy, but I've always compared country music a little bit to really old blues music in the purity of it and the -- just the honesty and the simple songs that -- that we provide to people that do speak to them. It doesn't -- I think it doesn't seem like somebody else's life when a person sits in their car and they listen to Martina singing a song to them because, you know, it's -- she sings songs about their life, things that they can relate to.

I feel like maybe another genre of music, the songs and songwriting get so far away from real life for people that it just becomes that artist and that celebrity kind of lifestyle. And it's not really close to them, like it is with country music.

KING: Julianne, you're a really good singer. You can sing any kind of music.

Why did you choose country?

HOUGH: Well, basically, for the pure fact of what they just said. It's -- it's so real. I grew up listening to music and country music was always what I was drawn to. And, you know, it's like I could have done pop, whatever, because of the dancing and everything. But I wanted to do something that was true to who I was. And that's always been where my heart is.

And, you know, you don't have to keep changing who you are. And I think with being yourself, I think you're going to stay around a lot longer anyway.

KING: By the way, Gretchen Wilson has...

HOUGH: So I -- I love that part. KING: Gretchen Wilson has written an exclusive commentary on our blog.

Go to cnn.com/larryking to read it -- a very personal account of her experience adult education.

More with the women of country.

As we go to break, here are Brooks & Dunn performing live right now in Nashville.

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(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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KING: We're back on LARRY KING LIVE.

In performance right now, by the way, are Brooks & Dunn. And there, of course, are Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn. They first teamed up 19 years ago. They're the highest selling duo in the history of country music, number one on the singles charts more than 20 times and named the Country Music Association's vocal duo of the year multiple times.

We're watching them now.

Martina, what makes them different?

MCBRIDE: They're just, well, different. I mean they're amazingly talented, obviously, and have been around for ever and ever. And just consistent. You know, you always feel -- and I think we feel like we know them, which is great.

KING: Are country -- Gretchen, are country music artists very competitive or not?

WILSON: You know, I don't think -- I mean, I think we're all competitive, obviously. But I don't think that we are as much as in other genres. I feel very comfortable sitting next to Martina. I have from the very beginning. And I -- I feel like that everybody in the country music world really -- really, you know, they welcome me with open arms. And I'm sure it felt the same way for -- for you.

But it's just -- it's a huge family. And I feel like we all really are rooting for each other rather than -- than, you know, worried about beating each other.

KING: Why, Gretchen, is that unique to country?

WILSON: You know, I'm not sure, because I don't really -- I don't go anywhere else that much outside of country. But it's just the feeling that I get when I've been at other -- you know, around other artists in other genres of music. I don't necessarily get the same kind of vibe when I'm at those other awards shows, when it's not just all country music. You know, it's just -- it's a whole different feeling. I mean you don't -- you don't feel like you're in a homey environment like you were talking about before.

I just -- I feel like we're just all -- and maybe it's because we're smaller. And maybe it's because we're just, you know, our roots are -- are different, you know. And I really don't know. But it's -- we're definitely more for each other.

KING: All right, Julianne, until recently you were a fan. Two years ago, you attended this get-together as a fan and now you're a star.

Do you think fans expect more of country music artists?

HOUGH: Oh, I'm a huge fan. I mean just coming here tonight, I'm so excited to just go and watch all the other artists and learn from them. I've been so, so fortunate to just -- I've had an amazing year. And so many people have welcomed me with just open arms. And it couldn't be a better feeling.

And especially to know that I'm fans of theirs. And I look up to them. And I have looked up to them. And just to know that I can, you know, be on the same stage and not feel -- you know, I don't know, just to feel not as good. I don't know. It's just a really great feeling, just because they're so welcoming and I don't know, I'm still just as big as a fan of them as I always have so.

KING: You deserve it. You're a terrific talent.

Back in minute.

One reminder, I'm going to be on stage myself, the night of Friday night, June 19th, at the Steve Wynn Encore Hotel in Las Vegas in the Danny Gans Room. I'm going to be doing an hour of comedy. It's a Larry King you may not have seen.

And my wife Shawn will be opening for me. She's great singer. It's a wonderful evening planned. Hope you can make it if you're in Las Vegas coming by. Just go on the Web site, just EncoreLasVegas.com. We hope to you see you there, Friday night, June 19th.

I think you'll be surprised.

What's your favorite type of music?

That tonight's quick vote. Answer it now at CNN.com/larryking.

Back with the women of country in 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MUSIC) KING: Nothing -- including rain -- keeps tens of thousands of fans from getting autographs and access to their favorite country stars.

Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're here for the party.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Probably Gretchen. (INAUDIBLE) Brad Paisley.

(VIDEO)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is fun.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's like you're alive in a music world.

(MUSIC)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We're back.

Brooks & Dunn still tearing it up at the big country music get- together in, where else -- Nashville.

One quick thing, Martina.

Carry Underwood became a star in country music right out of "American Idol."

What do you make of that program and its impact in the music business?

MCBRIDE: Well, you know, we all, I think, came up through the ranks doing talent contests and different things like that and just taking every opportunity that you can take to have somebody hear you and discover you. And so that's certainly a big one. And it's given us some great stars.

KING: Gretchen's fourth album, "I Got Your Country Music," right here, due out this summer. We're looking forward to hearing that. The new single, "If I Could Do It All Again," was just released -- a guaranteed hit.

And, Julianne, you're scheduled to perform in a few minutes.

What are you going to sing?

HOUGH: I'm going to be singing a couple of songs. I've got, of course, that song in my head, my hallelujah song. And I'm actually going to do an Eagles cover tune called "Heartache Tonight." So I think everybody's heard that song before.

But I'm excited. I'm getting ready for my new record. So, hopefully, you know, I'll be writing for that and getting ready for that. So maybe next year I'll be singing some new songs.

KING: And by the way, Martina and Julianne, you two are on the cover of this month's "Shape" magazine with LeAnn Rimes in bikinis.

Do you like that, Martina?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There you go.

MCBRIDE: It's turned out very well, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Martina's hot.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) with those...

KING: Martina rocks, you're not kidding.

MCBRIDE: Oh, thank you. Thank you. It was fun.

KING: Wow! And you're all beautiful and you're all very talented.

We thank you for being with us.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.

KING: Martina McBride, Gretchen Wilson, Julianne Hough. Terrific talents. Great gals.

John Rich, Dierks Bentley and Blake Shelton are here next.

Stick around for more of our country music special.

Don't go away.

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KING: We're back on this special country night in Nashville.

Brooks & Dunn still performing. They're at the top of their game.

Three others at the top of their game join us now. The men of country are here.

John Rich is one half of the chart busting duo "Big and Rich." His most recent solo album is "Son of A Preacher Man."

Dierks Bentley is the 2005 winner of the Country Music Association's Horizon Award.

And Blake Shelton is currently on tour with George Strait and our previous guest, Julianne Hough.

John Rich, you've been around a while. You're one of the great talents in the business.

What's the big deal of this festival?

JOHN RICH, HALF OF "BIG & RICH": Well, this festival basically is what sets country music apart, I think, from every other kind of music in the country. This is where all the fans get to come and hang out around their favorite stars. And they get to see concert after concert. All the artists that play here play for free.

We come here, Dierks and Blake and myself and all the rest of us come here because we love our fans. And they love us back.

KING: Has it changed, Dierks?

Has it changed much over the years?

DIERKS BENTLEY, CMA AWARD WINNER: Yes, it has changed a lot. You know, John and I moved here about the same time. Back in 1994 was when I got here. And it used to be down at this old fair grounds outside. And it was you know, a little bit different environment.

But now they've moved it to the -- this coliseum and tried to tidy it up a little bit. It's still hot and sweaty and down and real. And, you know, the fans are -- you know, we hang out with them all day long and sign autographs. And it's really what John was saying -- there's just no walls between the artists and the fans.

So it's gotten -- it's stepped up a little bit. It's a little bit more -- you know, big city. But it still has that down home vibe of just keeping the fans really close to the singers and the song writers.

KING: Dierk's most recent album, by the way, is "Feel That Fire."

And Blake Shelton, his current album is "Starting Fires." That's, I imagine, just a coincidence.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: What are...

(LAUGHTER)

KING: Unless we have a fire duel.

SHELTON: Any time I can ride your coattails.

BENTLEY: Yes, right.

KING: What do you make of this relationship between you and fans?

SHELTON: I mean, it's -- it's definitely unique to country music. I mean I come here every year knowing good and well that one of them is going to give me the flu. And still yet... (LAUGHTER)

SHELTON: Still yet, I come down here willing to hug and to kiss all the -- all the sicknesses going around.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you got swine?

SHELTON: But that's OK. We hug and the swine flu. I was -- I was ready for the swine flu this year, man. Good to see you.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's nothing more country than the swine flu.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: OK. Are you saying, Blake, that you're doing this because you have to do it and you don't really -- you're not that crazy about it?

Admit it.

SHELTON: What?

(LAUGHTER)

SHELTON: Wow! They said this was going to be easy.

(LAUGHTER)

SHELTON: No, you know what?

Man, you're -- you're born into this. I mean this is a -- this is as big of a tradition in country music as the Grand Ole Opry is. And I was one of these fans. I mean I stood in line in 1994 for an hour to meet Deborah Allen. I mean so I -- you know, this is -- this is what I dreamed of one day, was being able to be an artist and have people wait in line to meet me at the CMA fest, you know?

So it's -- this is part of it.

KING: All right. John -- well answered.

Now, John, when people get that close, involved as that much in touch with their stars, do they expect a lot?

Do they have the right to your personal life?

RICH: I feel, you know, anybody, especially in this economy, who is going to go and spend $10 or $15 on a C.D. Or on a ticket to your show or a t-shirt or whatever, if they love your music that much, the least we can do, like Blake and Dierks were saying, is give them everything we've got. The only reason we get to do this for a living is because we live in a great, free country and we've got fans that no matter what hardships they're going through, they still buy our tickets and still buy our records.

And I think that's one major difference between country artists and some other artists. We're not inaccessible. We're the opposite of that, man. We'll come right into bars, sit down and have a beer with you, get up on stage and sing a song. We're as normal as they come. We are country fans and we're making music for country fans. I think that's why it's different.

BLITZER: John, how did you get that reputation as a bad boy, because you seem like a really nice guy?

(LAUGHTER)

RICH: Do I?

(LAUGHTER)

RICH: I could ask you the same thing, Larry.

(LAUGHTER)

RICH: I don't know.

KING: Well, I wrote all about it.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Hey. Get my new book, "My Remarkable Journey." You'll read about how bad I was.

But, no, why, how did...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where's your book?

KING: I got that in.

How did you get...

RICH: Well, you know, Larry...

KING: How did you get the bad boy thing?

RICH: Well, I don't know. You know, I guess I'm a big fan of the outlaws in country music. I know we all are -- Johnny Cash and Waylon and Willy and Haggard and all those guys. You know, Haggard was in San Quentin for two years and it didn't seem to hurt him, not that I intend on going to prison.

(LAUGHTER)

RICH: But I have a good time, man.

I'm not one of the guys that lives in a cave and never comes out of the house. I go right out in the middle of the public and have some fun.

And I'm thinking about running for governor of Tennessee in 2010 right now, so, you know, be watching.

KING: Yes. You were a big supporter of John McCain, did you not?

(LAUGHTER)

RICH: I did support John McCain. He's a big country music fan. And was all over the country with him. He loves Merle Haggard and some of those outlaws, too. You know, he was a maverick. So he and I -- he and I got along on a lot of levels, as well.

KING: Dierks, what about you?

Are you -- are you controversial or are you sort of like just hanging around doing music?

BENTLEY: You know, both sides. You know, you'll find me hanging out with John sometimes downtown, riding around in his old '68 Cadillac Autile (ph), cruising Lower Broadway. You know, he and I both -- and Blake, too, I'm sure for a lot -- played a lot of bars across the street, down over there for tips and whatnot. And I still like to get down there and -- and rough it up a little bit, maybe not as much as -- as John, from time to time. But I do like to get out there and have some fun.

But as far as politics go, you know, we -- I was, you know, heavily involved was, you know, thawing (ph) the process this year. And I -- you know, I care about our fans. And I know there are some hard times going on out there. So I was definitely interested in the process. I wasn't as vocal about John on some things, but everyone has their own -- has their own deal.

KING: Well...

BENTLEY: But I leave those kinds of controversy to the stage, I guess...

KING: You also...

BENTLEY: ...whenever I'm hanging out with this guy.

KING: Frankly, you're also three great talents.

By the way, who's your favorite country artist?

It's our question of the day on our blog. Go to our blog at CNN.com/larryking and let us know.

More with the guys, right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MUSIC)

KING: Blake Shelton, were you a fan of country music as a kid? SHELTON: God no. Yes, of course I was, Larry. I mean that's -- I'm from Oklahoma. Earl Thomas Connolly was my all time hero. I mean, he is great singer and he's one of the reasons I wanted to do this. I didn't really listen to anything other than country for the first half of my life, you know?

KING: What about you, John?

RICH: Well, I grew up in a trailer park in Amarillo, Texas. We had a little radio station, KMML, a little FM station. I got to tell you, hearing those great songs come through, even when I was five, six, seven years old, was really some of the brightest points of my day, living back then, and living hard and tough and lean.

I remember hearing George Strait for the first time sing "Amarillo By Morning." And me being from Amarillo, that was a life changing event for a guy like me.

KING: And Dierks, what about you?

BENTLEY: Same for me, George Strait. My dad was a huge country music fan. We used to drive in the car and listen to country music. That's how I got turned on to country. George Strait was kind of the king. Still is. And him and Randy Travis and all that -- I got older and started kind of getting into the guys like Hank Junior and Keith Wittley (ph) and Haggard, and all the guys you can list off the top your head.

But, yes, really, my dad influenced me to George Strait.

RICH: I heard Larry King has a great country voice. Everybody in Nashville is talking about you, Larry. We've all been wondering, when you are going to come to Nashville and cut a hit country single.

KING: I was born on a country road many years ago. (INAUDIBLE) -- went out on my own. I did my best to make it, but I failed along the way. So I turned to radio and TV. Look at me today. How's that?

(CROSS TALK)

KING: All right. It's come to this. OK. This question, guys, was Tweeted to KingsThings. "If Hank Williams Sr. was around now, would he be accepted by the country music industry?" Want to handle that first, John?

RICH: Well, he wasn't accepted by the industry when he was current. I can't imagine being accepted now. You asked me about being a trouble maker a little earlier. Hank Williams Sr. was the biggest trouble maker that ever walked into this town. So, you know, I think it's OK to make a little trouble. Country music wasn't built on "The Brady Bunch." You know what I mean?

KING: But how good a talent was he?

RICH: Well, he's arguably the greatest country songwriter of all time. I mean Merle Haggard, who is considered possibly the greatest songwriter, considers Hank Sr. to be his mentor of the song writers. I would say, as a songwriter, nobody ever paralleled Hank Sr.

BENTLEY: As a singer too, you know, George Jones is arguably -- everyone thinks he's the greatest country singer of all times. George Jones will tell you that his favorite singer is Hank Sr. So.

KING: If someone never heard -- Blake, if someone never heard country music, came from Mars or something, how you would explain it? Why is country music different?

SHELTON: It's -- first thing I would say is it's something can you relate to. It's going to be music about your life, about your every day life, things that you go through throughout the work week, and -- but more importantly, things that you go through on the weekend.

I mean that's -- that's what we are. We're the guys that, you know, sing about real life. I mean it's just like, you know, John sitting down and wrote a song about some issues going on in the United States right now. And he put it out right now. And people were able to relate to it. And they found something in that song they could relate to right now.

There's no other genre that does something like that. And it's awesome.

KING: So there is always a story?

BENTLEY: All starts with a song and it all starts with a story, yes. The one thing about country music is that in three minutes you can -- a song can either lift you back up off your feet or it can help you get through a hard time. And there is no other genre that really concentrates that much on the song, the story telling part of the song.

KING: We're with John Rich -- go ahead.

RICH: One more thing that, without a doubt, separates country music, Larry, is we get to sing about our military as well. We get to sing about our troops, about our fighting men and women. I don't think you'll turn on another radio station other than a country station that does that either. We support them with our music and with our concerts overseas.

KING: Absolutely true. Three great guests. They'll be right back. Martina McBride will be performing soon. If she does while we're still on, we'll show it to you live. Right now, Reba McEntire is up there with Brooks & Dunn. We'll be right back.

(SINGING)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back. It's time for our remarkable questions. Dave from Orlando wants to know, what genre books do you read most and what authors? I go the whole route, biographies, fiction. I just -- I love it all. Michael Connolly, new book "The Scarecrow," wipe you off your feet.

Here's the next one, Susan from Park Ridge, Illinois asks, taking into consideration all your travel destinations, what had the greatest, most meaningful impact on your life?

I'd have to say Jerusalem. It was incredible to me as a young Jewish boy. Growing up, my mother used to save a little money in cups to create a state of Israel, and then to finally be there. What can you say?

If you've got a question for me, ask it at CNN.com/LarryKing. If I read it on the air, you get an autographed copy of "My Remarkable Journey," and you'll have a chance to win a trip to Los Angeles, see the show live.

Back with John Rich, Dierks Bentley, Blake Shelton. Guys, Chuck Whicks (ph) had Billy Ray Cyrus -- Billy Ray is going to be on the show tomorrow night. They competed on "Dancing With the Stars." Would any of you do that? We'll start with you, Dierks. Would you go on "Dancing With the Stars?"

BENTLEY: You know, I got asked the first season to be part of "Dancing With the Stars." I had to turn it down for -- for one, you know, I'm a country singer. I just concentrate on that. But also, I'm a terrible dancer.

As a kid growing up, you have three ways to meet girls. You can either be a smooth talker, a good dancer or you can pick up a guitar. And I'm terrible at the first two. So I didn't want to repeat that on live TV, national TV. No, I probably would shy away.

KING: Blake, would you do it?

SHELTON: I would rather be homeless.

BENTLEY: How do you really feel about it?

KING: Why, Blake?

SHELTON: "Dancing With the Stars?" Oh, what do you mean why?

RICH: My biggest problem with it --

KING: It will widen your career.

RICH: They don't have the two step, man! There's no two step competition. Where I come from, if you don't two step, you ain't dancing, my friend.

Step it up, "Dancing With the Stars." Get a grip!

KING: Hey Blake, people recently asked Reba McEntire who she thought was the hottest country guy and she named you. By the way, is your girlfriend Miranda Lambert jealous over that?

SHELTON: Yes, sir. Yes.

KING: Yes?

SHELTON: To the first answer, why do you act so shocked that she picked me, Larry?

KING: I'm not shocked.

(CROSS TALK)

SHELTON: No. You think I'm ugly. Say it. No, I -- Miranda probably is -- she is probably jealous that I'm talking you to right now, Larry.

KING: It's that bad, I see. OK, what's -- how long -- John, how long are you going to keep entertaining? Are you going to go into your late 70s and still be singing country?

RICH: Well, I probably will. The question is if anybody is listening at that point might be a different story. But country music has given me every great thing I ever had in my life, Larry. I grew up in a pretty lean, mean neighborhood. I practiced my guitar, never went to college. Just went on the road right out of high school. And practiced writing and singing and trying to be a part of Nashville, Tennessee, the greatest music city in the world.

Being here at CMA-fest, just like Blake was talking about -- I remember when I was 13, 14 years old standing in line to see the Judds, all the way in the back. So to be here is a dream come true. And as long as the fans are buying my music, man, I'll be glad to keep making records.

KING: Dierks? Are you going to keep on keeping on?

BENTLEY: Yes. I can't imagine doing anything else. I'm the same way. I remember being 17 years old at the very top of an arena with my brother, and I could actually touch the roof of the arena. We had the worst seats in the building, watching Garth Brooks play. And just that's all I -- you know, just one of the many things on the way that makes you want to do this for a living. And I can't imagine doing anything else.

If I wasn't playing here, I'd be playing at some little bar across the river for tips or free beer.

KING: And Blake?

SHELTON: This is what I am. I don't know what else I -- I would rather be homeless. I'd rather be homeless.

KING: Hold it. Blake, we only have 30 seconds. That could be a song.

SHELTON: What? KING: I'd rather be homeless.

SHELTON: You're right. I'd rather be homeless.

KING: -- and be with you --

(SINGING)

SHELTON: I'd rather be homeless than be at home with you.

KING: I'd rather be homeless than be home with you. OK, guys, thanks. This never went the way I expected. Wynona Judd tomorrow night. Tanya Tucker is coming up. Back in 60 seconds with our country music spectacular.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Our hero of the week is in Washington tonight. She is actually our heroine of the week. The very lovely Lidiea Schaefer is here. She's a manager, but a lot more than that. She built a school system for her home village in Ethiopia. It is called the Lidiea Secondary School.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We teach children.

LIDIEA SCHAEFER, ESTABLISHED SCHOOL IN ETHIOPIA: We didn't have education very much. So I was really happy to open the school.

KING: And how did do you that? Did you raise funds? How did you acquire the money to do that?

SCHAEFER: First, I started with my money. I worked six days. And I put 92 hours a month to the school.

KING: I understand you sacrificed your home, your car, everything in order to create this school. And you came up with 258,000 dollars. Did you also raise contributions from other people?

SCHAEFER: Yes, sir. I raised 58,000 dollars. I raised. And then the 200,000, I sold my house and gave up my car.

KING: You have done a tremendous job. We salute you, Lidiea. Congratulations.

SCHAEFER: Thank you very much.

KING: Lidiea Schaeffer, who built the Lidiea Secondary School in her home country of Ethiopia, raising most of the money herself, selling some of her own worldly goods. She's our hero, heroine of the week.

Congratulations again.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (NEWS BREAK)

KING: A salute to country music tonight, and what better way to end it all than with the brilliant Tanya Tucker. She had her first country music hit "Delta's Dawn," which I have sang every day of my life back in 1972, when she was 13. She has earned CMA awards as female vocalist of the year and for album of the year. And her new album "I Hold It In My Hot Little Hands," is my turn. It will be out at the end of the month.

Now you're doing a country classic show tonight at the Grand 'Ol Opry. Are you the classic or are the songs the classic? Who's the classic? You or the song?

TANYA TUCKER, COUNTRY MUSIC SINGER: Well, I definitely would think the songs are. I mean I'm just a muskum (ph) down here, because any time you're at the Grand 'Ol Opry, I feel like I'm among my heroes, you know? So they're really the classics. I'll be doing classic songs, for sure.

KING: How many times you have performed there?

TUCKER: Oh, my goodness. The first time I performed I was about 14. And that was at the old Reimon (ph), which we did a show last night with Marty Stewart, Marty Party, for Music Cares. And we got to perform on the Reimon Stage. I love doing that. It's so much history behind that beautiful old church. A lot of great music in those walls.

KING: I watched my wife perform at the Grand 'Ol Opry. It's a great thrill just to be in the theater, and I don't sing country, but just to be there.

TUCKER: Absolutely. You know, my dad took me there when I was nine years old, first time we came to Nashville. He drove me all the way from Wilcox, Arizona to try to get me a start here in Nashville. We were starting out there. At that time, the Reimon didn't have air conditioning. We had the fans going and waited out in the hot sun. I finally got in there, and my dad looked at me and said, wouldn't you rather be up there doing it, as opposed to sitting down here watching it? I said, yes, sir. So I felt that memory last night when I hit the stage.

KING: Is it, frankly, with all you -- with all your experience and all that you've gained, is it still a thrill to walk on that stage?

TUCKER: Absolutely. You know, what makes that such a treat is the fans. That's what this festival is all about. It started out in '72 as being a way for the artists to say thanks to all the fans for all they do throughout the year. Of course, it's a great time to visit with radio stations from all over the country. And without them, you know, you wouldn't get to the fans.

It's so it's kind of two wonderful birds with a little stone. We get to say thanks to radio and also to all of our fans that have been so good to us.

KING: No one's been closer to fans than country stars. I broadcast my national radio show from that festival quite some years ago. I've never seen anything like it. You meet all the stars up close, get to touch them and watch them perform as well.

TUCKER: Well, you know, I still get excited to this day. I was over at the convention center earlier, and walking by, and my assistant, Jodi, had never been. It was her first time to ever go to the autograph signing. I said, this is an amazing thing. You'll never see anything like this ever again.

You know, it's a way for country artists to get closer to their fans. That's what we're all about, you know.

KING: Tanya, in your new album "My Turn,: you cover classics -- and it's all classics -- from legendary male artists, songs made famous by Merle Haggard and George Jones and Hank Williams. Why songs made popular by men?

TUCKER: Well, I made a whole career of doing that. I really have. Most of the songs I've sung, you don't hear the demos -- most of the demos I listened to were really men songs. I didn't sing many women songs coming up, even before I got started. I did do a few of them Loretta Lynn, fighting, drinking, cheating songs, which suits me pretty well anyway.

I like men songs. I think I'm pretty known for singing songs that are pretty strong, about a woman that has a strong sense of who she is. And I think that that's not only for the men, but for the women as well. There's some tough girls out there, especially the single mothers raising their kids on their own. There's a lot of us out here.

KING: You're wonderful dad, Bo Tucker, he died three years ago. Is this album a tribute to him?

TUCKER: Absolutely, because he introduced me to country music. I kind of wanted to call this album "Songs My Dad Wanted to Hear Me Sing." So there are some of the songs on there that were really his favorites. So I dedicated this album to him and his memory. I can only hope he'd be proud of it.

KING: There's no one better in the business than Tanya Tucker. The album is "My Turn." Back with more moments with Tanya right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(SINGING)

KING: We're back with Tanya Tucker. You did a TLC reality show, "Tuckerville," a while back. Now there's word you might be reviving it. True?

TUCKER: Yes, it's true. We decided we could do it on our own. That way, we would be able to work when we wanted to. In Hollywood, they don't want to wait. They want to kind of make things happen. We didn't really like that much. So we've got about six shows almost in the can. We've got a little finishing up to do. But it's going to be called "Tucker Time." We're excited about it. It's about my selling my ranch, Tuckerville, and our process of moving out of our 30,000 square foot house, and our caravan all the way to California, Malibu, which we have a home there now. And all of our activities on the way.

It's pretty exciting. So I hope we'll that out in the coming months. It's very exciting for me. But mostly, the music is what it's all about right now for me. Being involved with this turn out and with Time Life, they've done the best -- the best ever for me, than any other record label ever has. I'm so proud to be with them on this record.

KING: You broke in at 13. Is this still an easy aspect of the music business that people can easily get into?

TUCKER: Well, it's not an easy business to break into. And it's not so easy staying. It's like the old story about being on top not as hard as staying on top. That's the real problem.

There's a lot of great talent out there. Unfortunately, there's been a breakdown between me leaving the studio and handing something over that I really worked hard on, this piece of music, to trust them to put it out there where people can buy it. That's always been a missing link for me.

So now, with Time Life, that's not going to be a problem anymore. So I just hope people enjoy this record. There will be new music soon.

KING: The whole record business has changed, hasn't it?

TUCKER: Yes, I think it's -- I don't know, it may become obsolete. I think it's a great thing. Record labels are very good for newcomers, people that are just starting out in this business. For us artists that have been around for a while, you know, all you need is a good telephone and a good secretary, someone to answer your phone, and do all your mail and help you make the right decision.

KING: Do you enjoy writing songs as much as singing them?

TUCKER: I enjoy writing songs, but it's not -- I think Harlin Harrett (ph) told me a long time ago, I was a writer trying to get out of a singer's body. I think my friends that are songwriters give me too much credit for that. I think the good lord put me here to sing. I appreciate them having so much faith in me. Every now and then, I'll write a good one.

I plan to write some more. No, there's nothing as much -- nothing -- nothing as satisfying to me as performing on stage, and also creating new music in the studio. It's just great. There also is something wonderful about singing old songs, too. You know?

KING: You are a delight. The new album is "My Turn." Thanks so much, dear. Go get them, baby.

TUCKER: Thank you. You're a big part of my success. Thank you.

KING: Thank you. Billy Ray Cyrus will be here tomorrow night. Time now for Anderson Cooper and "AC 360."