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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Encore: Interview with Willie Nelson

Aired August 15, 2010 - 21:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIE NELSON, MUSICIAN: Hey, this is your ol'cotton pickin', snuff dippin', tobacco chewin', stump and jumpin', gravy soppin' coffeepot dodgin', dumplin'eatin', frog giggin' hillbilly from Hill Country! You're listening to LUCK, Texas. Wish me luck, all right?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Tonight, Willie Nelson. The outlaw is on the road again and makes a pit stop in our studio.

NELSON: You can arrest me.

KING: The legendary Willie Nelson and I team up for the hour, next on "Larry King Live."

What a treat we have in store for you tonight. We welcome back Willie Nelson to "Larry King Live." He's on the road again literally with the "On the Road Again Tour." And his newest album "Country Music" will be released next Tuesday from Rounder Records.

It's always good to see you. The last time you did the show, you were on the phone from your tour bus. What's - are you touring again now, right?

WILLIE NELSON: Sure -

KING: Tell me about it?

NELSON: We play Anaheim tomorrow night. We were just in Vegas for BMI convention down there and a broadcasters convention.

KING: How big is the tour?

NELSON: I don't know - you know, I'm just starting. I don't know - it's just one long tour, you know.

KING: They don't tell you beyond that next night?

NELSON: I don't want to know.

KING: Because we've shot some scenes in your bus, did your bus go everywhere? There's times you have to fly, right?

NELSON: Yes, but always hate it. I love it when I can just stay on the bus and - you know, I don't even use hotels. I stay on the bus all the time.

KING: Why?

NELSON: I have everything I need there. I got a shower. I got food and I got a couple of people in there that wait on me hand and foot so I get better service there than I get in the hotel so why go in there.

KING: Are there times though you have to fly?

NELSON: Yes, and you know, I don't like to fly. I don't like all the hassles. I never, you know, like the luggage and all that stuff.

KING: Are they hassling you?

NELSON: Well, no more than they hassle anybody else, you know, it's just the hassle to get up and go there by this time and get your luggage checked in by that time, and by the time you go through all the securities and everything, it's a hassle.

KING: You've been doing music for how many years? I mean, you're singing professionally.

NELSON: I got my first professional job I think when I was 12- years-old.

KING: And you're how old now?

NELSON: I'm 77, will be on April 30th.

KING: Twelve from 77, that's 65 years.

NELSON: Yes.

KING: Does it ever get trying?

NELSON: Well, sure the actual physical work gets tiring, but I don't ever get tired of playing the music and I don't get tired of the fans, you know, that's sort of the reason that I get out there I guess to see the fans.

KING: So - I mean Sinatra told me once, it's still a kick.

NELSON: Yes, still a kick.

KING: To go on that stage.

NELSON: Yes, I knew him. He was a good buddy.

KING: Good guy.

NELSON: He liked you.

KING: Your new CD is called "Country Music," which seems funny to me because who's more associated with country music than you. Do we have to put that title on? So give me your definition of "Country Music."

NELSON: Well, this album made up of fiddle, steels, guitars and songs like "House of Gold" and "Satisfied Mine," which to me are really country music standards. This is the stardust of country music, and these songs in their time were just as famous and just as good in soul like "Stardust" and "Moonlight" -

KING: So they're all famous to country fans who would all know Man with the Blue, Seaman's Blues, Got to Walk Alone, My Baby is Gone, Satisfied, Wind, Pistol Packin' Mama, we all know that.

NELSON: Yes.

KING: Lay your pistol down, Drinking Champagne and House of Gold, all favorite songs, and I am a pilgrim, an ocean of diamonds.

NELSON: Yes, well, I'm a pilgrim is an old Merle Travis song and Dark as a Dungeon is another Merle Travis song about the miners, which you know is very appropriate for these days. So there's a lot of great music in there.

KING: Now, you sing everything. You have great albums of pop songs. The other night, the other day, Hal David, the great song writer told me that you is the best singer living.

NELSON: Thank you, Hal

KING: You sing a song and when you hear Willie Nelson, you know, it's Willie Nelson.

NELSON: That's right.

KING: Is it as much fun to sing pop as country?

NELSON: Sure, it's more of a challenge to do those pop classics and standards because I grew up singing Your Cheating Heart and the Hank Williams songs is second nature to me, but to do "Stardust" and "Moonlight" and "Vermont" and songs like that, you really have to be on your game a little bit.

KING: But yes - you still give it that same - really no one sings it like Willie Nelson.

NELSON: It still sounds country.

KING: Because you are country. Where do you live if you live on a bus?

NELSON: Well, I live in the bus mostly, but I also have a home in Texas and have an apartment in LA and a home in Maui so I kind of got the best of all the worlds.

KING: Are you almost always working?

NELSON: Most of the time, which is OK.

KING: I'm talking about a Willie Nelson tour is redundant.

NELSON: Yes, I mean, if I'm through with this one, I'm going to start with another one. We're going to Europe in June and we'll be over there for the month going to England, Paris, all those great places.

KING: That's great. You'll be in Radio City. My wife is going to sing with you.

NELSON: That's great. I'm looking forward to that.

KING: Great song you did together. What do you think of the current state of country music?

NELSON: Well, personally I think it's good. I know my shows - I have a lot of people there who are great country music fans and I do Hank Williams and I do my stuff. So I don't really look at country music as the way it is today. I look at country music like the way it has always been.

KING: So country music doesn't have it's bebop or it's new comers or it's teen bop. It is country as country.

NELSON: That's right.

KING: And they were pure country singers, right?

NELSON: Absolutely, George Jones is a good example.

KING: He's a country singer.

NELSON: Great country singer.

KING: Vern Gosdin, do you ever know Vern Gosdin?

NELSON: I've heard of him. Great writer. He has passed now, but he was fantastic writer and singer, and some of those guys are just, you know, unbeatable.

KING: Willie Nelson, he's got something to say about Sarah Palin, the Tea Party Movement, and his offer to President Obama. All ahead, we're covering everything tonight. It's a night with Willie. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NELSON: (SINGING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We're back with the legendary Willie Nelson. His new album "Country Music" will be out everywhere on Tuesday and his latest tour started right now in Vegas. You will hear from Willie everywhere. Some, like we never hear you on country radio stations, have you been marginalized? A lot of times, we'll hear you on the pump stations, but country stations aren't playing you as much. If so, why?

NELSON: Well, honestly, I never have really received that much airplay on commercial AM/XM radio.

KING: Why?

NELSON: I never did really fit the format I don't take and whatever was popular today, that wouldn't want I was doing. I was into something else so it never really seemed to hurt my career any at all because if this station didn't play me, that one over there did. So I always had airplay, but not necessarily from the mainstream country music because that has changed so much that my music didn't really fit the format.

KING: Are you a singer who plays the guitar or a guitar player who sings?

NELSON: I'm a guitar player who writes songs and sings.

KING: So guitar is first.

NELSON: Guitar, yes.

KING: Is that what you did at 12? Where did you learn guitar?

NELSON: My grandmother was a music teacher and my grandfather taught me a few chords in the guitar before he died. I was just 6- years-old when he died, but then my grandmother taught my sister and I a lot about music. She learned to read and I'll sit on the piano while she was reading, I would sit there and play guitar and try to learn the chords. So I learned a lot from just listening to her.

KING: And when did you start to sing?

NELSON: I was singing along and writing poems. I was writing poems before I wrote melodies. Two of those poems and about things that I couldn't' have possibly known anything about love and no love, and at 5-years-old, what do you know about this stuff.

KING: Do your voice sound like that then like it sounds now? What did you sound like at 12? Did you have that --

NELSON: Well, I had a high voice and - then I went through the same problem that every guy goes through when his voice changes. I was playing clubs and my voice changed so - I went from a high singer to a low and then back and forth, and it would break for about two years.

KING: You've collaborated with many different audits. You tried your hand on a lot of musical genres. Does that put the country - did they get angry when you as the country establishment if there is such a thing, get angry when you perform with Wynton Marsalis and Julio Iglesias, Bob Dylan, Kurt Nielson from Norway, Snoop Dog, Sinead O'Conner, Mishka and so on. Is the country people say, is Willie leaving us?

NELSON: Well, I don't think any of them really get angry, may be, you know, the ones that get angry - that makes it all worthwhile, but I don't think there's any of them out there that really think that I don't know what I'm doing because -

KING: I think, yes, you're beyond that. Do you still play in Nashville?

NELSON: Sure, absolutely. I enjoy playing in Nashville and the band that we used on this new record, this were all Nashville pickers and we played in Nashville at the Ryman with all these songs and this band a few weeks ago.

KING: Are they the best - you always go with the Nashville sound.

NELSON: These are the cream of the crop. This is Ronnie Macroy (ph) and family was Delmor Croy (ph), great group, the Blue Grass Pickers and Chris Sharp and Dennis Kraus (ph), great up right bass player. I mean, these guys are the real pickers and it's always comfortable to be able to look at anybody in the room and nod at them and know they're going to take a great course.

KING: Kind of fun doing your single with great people.

NELSON: Absolutely.

KING: They make you better, right?

NELSON: They make me comfortable.

KING: Anybody you haven't worked with that you want work with?

NELSON: I sing one, plus you and I doing one.

KING: Want to do one.

NELSON: Yes.

KING: I do "Blue Skies."

NELSON: Yes, we can do "Blue Skies."

KING: OK, want me to start?

NELSON: Yes.

KING: Blue skies smiling at me, nothing but blue skies, do I see.

NELSON: Blue bird singing a song? Nothing but blue birds from now on.

KING: Never saw the sun shining so bright.

NELSON: Never saw things going so right.

KING: Working in the day, worry at night. When you're in love, my how it flies.

NELSON: Blue skies, blue days all of them gone, nothing but blue skies from now on.

KING: As we go to break, here's a look at Willie "On the Road Again" in concert.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NELSON: (SINGING)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've seen him several times, but I can't catch him alone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're going to get to see Willie.

UNIDENTIIFED MALE: He's continuously on tour from now through October of this year. I can't imagine that. It's just phenomenal. The guy's just great.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We thought it was especially fitting that it's April 15th, tax day, and we just thought that as we dropped our 1040s in the mail today, that we'd high-tail it over here. So here we are.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He does his music for his fans, for himself, and doesn't do it for what anybody else thinks.

NELSON: That's my son, Lucas. He's been out here working for you all earlier. (SINGING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MUSIC)

KING: Of all the Willie Nelson song, is "On the Road Again" the most famous?

NELSON: Maybe so, yes. Either "On the Road Again" or "Crazy" or "Night Life" funny how time slips away, but it's -

KING: Crazy in bed either - Ross Perot, was his theme song, was Ross Perot's theme.

NELSON: He danced.

KING: Oh, he loves that. He loves that song. But "On the Road Again," it's been in commercials and - did that come to you? What's the story of the writing of that song?

NELSON: I was on a plane with Sydney Pollack and Jerry Schatzberg and we were talking about doing the movie "Honeysuckle Rose" and we were talking a song and they said, "Can you come up with a song for the movie?" and I said, oh, you mean something about, you know, on the road again, on the road again, just can't wait to get on the road again. And they said, yes, but where's the melody. I said, well, I'll find one. So I went to the studio pretty much with just that in my mind and you know, it was an easy song to write.

KING: And once you hear it, it never gets out of your head, it's one of those songs. As president of Farm Aid, you wrote to Barack Obama offering to help in putting together a new U.S. farm and food policy. Any word back?

NELSON: Well, I did talk to the secretary of agriculture and I got some very encouraging reports from him and I'm looking forward to talking to him again and seeing what we can do help the farmers.

KING: What's your basic idea?

NELSON: Well to get the farmer more money for what he does, get the dairy farmers more money for what they do. They are in bad condition right now. They're not getting enough money and the dairy cows are not worth what they should be worth and this is really bad for them, not only the farmers, bad for Americans. It's bad for all of us.

KING: How did you get involved and interest in the farming thing?

NELSON: I was doing some shows in the Illinois State Fair and was on the bus talking to Big Jim Thompson, the governor of Illinois. And he and I were sitting there and it was kind of like an annual ritual. I come in and do the fair and he'd come on the bus and we'd have a bowl of chili and drink a beer and talk about things. And this particular year, we started talking about the farmers. I heard from my friends in Texas about how the farmers aren't doing that good. And I grew up on a farm and I knew that it didn't ever do really great, but I'd heard that it was worse than usual, that they weren't getting any money and they were going out of business at an alarming rate. I started checking out and sure enough, we at one time had over eight million small family farmers. Now we're down to less than two million. And that's not right.

KING: It's the big companies.

NELSON: The farmers are taking over and that's not good for the food. It's not good for the land. It's not good for you and me.

KING: How do you react, how do you -- what do you think about Obama?

NELSON: I think he's as good man. I like him. I know his intentions are good and he probably felt he was going to be able to do a lot more once he got in there than he's been able to do. But I think most of us realize that he was going to have some (INAUDIBLE) sure I do yeah.

KING: You do any concerts for him?

NELSON: No.

KING: But you lent your name to him.

NELSON: Yes.

KING: What do you make of the Tea Party movement?

NELSON: Oh, I don't know.

KING: Go ahead Willie, what do you think?

NELSON: I don't know. I'm not sure what they're for or what they're against.

KING: Maybe we can nail it down. They don't like big government. They don't like taxes I guess.

NELSON: So far that's pretty good.

KING: What do you think about Sarah Palin?

NELSON: Oh I think she's a likeable person, personally I like her a lot.

KING: Politically you're not in tune?

NELSON: Politically I don't know. I just don't know.

KING: Did you ever play Alaska?

NELSON: Yes I have.

KING: Did you ever play when she was governor?

NELSON: I don't know that I did. We played Fairbanks and Ketchikan. I went up there in 60 -- I know she wasn't governor then. I went up there in '61, me and Ray Price and played Ketchikan, Alaska.

KING: Is there any state you haven't played?

NELSON: No.

KING: All 50.

NELSON: Yeah.

KING: You tour Europe?

NELSON: Yep.

KING: Asia?

NELSON: Asia, going to -- me and Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson and Waylon Jennings and I went and all toured Asia, went to Singapore.

KING: How did that come about, the Highwaymen?

NELSON: We had done a Christmas show in Switzerland with John and June and we were having a photograph session with all of us there and we were talking about going to Switzerland and the photographer happened to ask Waylon, said what are you all going to Switzerland for to do a Christmas show? Well Waylon says because that's where Jesus was born and the guy said, oh, OK.

KING: That's how the Highwaymen were born. Jesus was born in Switzerland. OK, lots of you are asking about Willie's use of pot, which he's always owned up to. We'll ask about that and other things next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MUSIC)

KING: We're back with the great Willie Nelson. Don't forget the "Country Music" CD is now available as of this Tuesday, a terrific major country songs, 15 of them recorded by the master himself Willie Nelson and the "On the Road Again" tour is in progress. Look for it definitely. He'll be at a city near you.

Singer/songwriter John Mellencamp has worked with you on Farm Aid. What do you make of the effort to get him to run for the U.S. Senate? They're trying that up in Indiana.

NELSON: He's a great American and I know he probably will do a great job.

KING: Do you think he's got a shot?

NELSON: Yes, I think so. He's well liked, well known.

KING: How good a singer is he?

NELSON: I like his singing. He's rock and roll all the way and I like that.

KING: You mentioned Johnny Cash, who appeared in that seat quite a few times. Where do you rank him? Did you see the movie?

NELSON: Yes I did, fantastic.

KING: That guy was unbelievable.

NELSON: Yes he did a great job, yes. John and I were brothers. He used to call me a lot whenever -- because I'm always telling him dirty jokes. So whenever he needed a laugh or a pumping up or something, he always called me to get a new joke.

KING: What was he like to sing with, because if there ever were two distinct voices in American popular music, country or otherwise, it would be yours and Johnny Cash. You could not have either one of you and say who is that? What was it like to sing with him?

NELSON: It was great. Every night -- in fact him and Waylon and Chris -- I was their biggest fans and I'd just stand there every night and watch three of my heroes sing and we'd stand over on the other side of the stage and joined in every now and then. But no, I love John's singing and Waylon and Chris.

KING: When the Highwaymen worked, how did you choose how many minutes each guy would do and what percentage did you sing altogether?

NELSON: Chris was here and John was here, Waylon was here and I was here and we had our songs that we had chosen to do and that we recorded and Chris would do one and John would do one, maybe we'd do one together. Then Waylon would do one and I'd do one. We'd do another one together.

KING: Did you do all four singing together?

NELSON: Oh yeah.

KING: Did you have a big backup group?

NELSON: We did. We had one of the best bands out of Nashville, Reggie Young and all his guys.

KING: You've never been a fan of government right? You're a skeptic.

NELSON: Yes. Very skeptical.

KING: You don't trust. But you seem like such -- like a regular guy. But most people look at Willie Nelson say skeptical? But you are of government, aren't you?

NELSON: Well, yes. I think whenever you turn over your money and your life to somebody, you should know a lot about them.

KING: Yes, and you turned over a lot of money. Didn't you once protest taxes?

NELSON: Not really, no. I was always glad to pay taxes. I always said that hey, let me make the money, I'll be glad to pay the taxes.

KING: To me, if you complain about paying a big tax bill, that's a great thing. You're doing well.

NELSON: It's a nice problem to have.

KING: One of our kingsthings followers. We have a twitter, you twitter?

NELSON: No.

KING: You don't twitter?

NELSON: No, Conway twitter?

KING: Conway twitter! About the same thing. Anyway, one of our kingsthings followers wants to know -- this may seem funny, but I'll ask it. Is Willie a conservative?

NELSON: Well, I don't know. I might be in some areas.

KING: Really? Because I would always think of you as a liberal.

NELSON: I would like to consider myself a liberal, but I probably certain areas where I'm pretty conservative.

KING: Financial end?

NELSON: Financially I have no knowledge.

KING: No? But you want us to do more for farmers.

(CROSSTALK)

NELSON: I believe in, you know, if you make it, throw it away.

KING: You don't care about keeping it?

NELSON: No.

KING: Willie Nelson. By the way, you still in the outlaw, is being an outlaw and now different from being an outlaw back in the days with Waylon Jennings and the guys?

NELSON: It is still fun.

KING: You were outlaws in the Senate, right? You were renegade.

NELSON: We were determined to play our music mainly the way we wanted to play our music. And that's really where the term outlaw I think came into it. There were certain people that didn't really want Waylon to take his band into the studio because they had, you know -- you go in there with a small budget, nobody gets to cut up a lot of money. If you go in with a million dollar budget, then everybody makes a little, but the music may not be that great.

KING: Money was never your driving force, though, right?

NELSON: No.

KING: As you were never motivated -- money came along with it.

NELSON: Yes, I always felt like the money would be there, and, you know, it always has been.

KING: Willie is famous for telling jokes. We'll see if he's got one for us that he can tell on a family network. Stick around.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: I guess the great Willie Nelson. Don't forget that terrific album will be out Tuesday, and he is on tour right now. He is a long-time advocate of legalizing marijuana. There are a lot of people in that ballpark now. The late William F. Buckley was one of the leaders of that movement. California and other states are talking about legalizing it so they can tax it. You ever think it's going to happen?

NELSON: Sure. It's just a matter of time and a matter of the economy. And I think the way the economy is now, it's helping to come along, because if you do tax it and regulate it, there is a lot of money there that can be used for whatever we need it for, for education, for different things.

KING: The late Lenny Bruce said once, "Marijuana will be legal some day because every law student I know smokes it." Do you think it will be legal?

NELSON: I think so. And, you know, California votes on it in November. And there is the old saying as California goes, so goes the nation, so...

KING: To me, it was Maine.

NELSON: OK. Let's change to it California.

KING: OK. Another twitter question. Lots of them by the way tweeting. We mention you, the tweets came in. Asking about pot smoking. Basically, how much and how often?

NELSON: Well, you know, I have changed my habits a little bit. My lungs -- and I smoked so much, you know, and I'd roll and smoke and roll and smoke. But I did get congestion from it. And I was wheezing, in the night and coughing. So, I switched over to a vaporizer, which you don't get any smoke and you don't get any heat. And for a singer, someone's lungs, it's much, much healthier.

KING: It's not pot, right?

NELSON: Oh, yes. It's pot in a vaporizer. But you -- when you, you know, when you pot it in, you're getting vapors, but not heat and not smoke.

KING: Does it have the same effect?

NELSON: Yes, it's even stronger, I think.

KING: Did you ever fear that it might be harming you?

NELSON: Well, I kind of questioned myself all the time. And I was kind of like my own canary in the mine. And I was watching because I smoked cigarettes one after the other from the time I was this big.

KING: Still smoke?

NELSON: No. I threw those away. I rolled up 20 joints and put it in my chesterfield pack and started changing my habits.

KING: Could you smoke like a few joints and go on stage and sing?

NELSON: Oh, sure, sure. But I have a huge tolerance for it that maybe everyone doesn't have. But yes, it doesn't really.

KING: Did you ever go with stronger stuff?

NELSON: No. No.

KING: So, you would recommend it. It wouldn't harm you, it wouldn't bother you if people you knew smoked it?

NELSON: You can overdo it. You can hurt your lungs by putting anything into your lungs that has heat and smoke in it. Yes, you can overdo it. But as far as being as dangerous as cigarette smoke, no.

KING: Did you smoke today?

NELSON: Do I smoke cigarettes?

KING: Did you smoke pot today, today, this day?

NELSON: Yes, sure.

KING: You do? Before you came here?

NELSON: Yes.

KING: So, you have pot in you right now.

NELSON: Yes. You could arrest me.

KING: This state?

NELSON: Give me an enema test.

KING: As we go to break, Willie's got quite a tour bus. He parked it right outside our studio and gave us a look inside. You can see how he travels and why he loves its style. Watch.

NELSON: Hey, this is Willie. I'm on the road again, and we're stopping in to see old Larry.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NELSON: Hey, Larry, come on! Let me show you the bus. This is where I live most of the time. And this is our old kitchen area, a little coffee whenever you want it. A few bunks back here. And I live in the back. Not a big deal, but it's pretty nice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back with the great Willie Nelson. The album country music will be out this Tuesday. We're having a great time tonight with one of the truly great American artists, who is an avid golfer. Can you smoke pot and golf? NELSON: Sure, yes.

KING: OK.

NELSON: I can't play any worse than I normally do anyway.

KING: Are you a good player?

NELSON: No.

KING: Why do you like golf so much?

NELSON: Oh, I don't know. It's just a place to get out and walk around outside. That's originally the reason I started doing it. I moved down to lost valley in Bandera, and they had a golf course there. It was just me and my band. My house had burned, so we moved down there and rented five houses on the golf course. So, it was just the thing to do every day. We would go play golf.

KING: Know a great definition of golf? A great walk spoiled.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: What do you make about the Tiger Woods story?

NELSON: Oh, you know, I'm not the guy to comment on any other person's marital problems because I've had enough of my own, and I know that it's real personal. And I wish him well.

KING: What did you make of the fuss made over it, though?

NELSON: I thought it was ridiculous, to put that much time following a guy around and see who he slept with the last few years, because it's really no one's business.

KING: You think the only business was his wife's?

NELSON: Him and his wife.

KING: What are your feelings, Willie, about the IRS these days? I know you had a problem back in 1990. The government sued. The final bill $16 million. They seized some of your property. You released a mail order album titled "Who'll Buy my Memories," the IRS tapes. Don't forget that. How do you stand now?

NELSON: Oh, I'm fine. Yes, I think I'm pretty well paid up.

KING: Was that tough going, though? How did you come to owe that much?

NELSON: Well, I had invested in some tax shelters for many, many years ago, you know, the cattle feeding things, and all those different things that at some point the IRS disallowed. And so, after advising me, my financial advisers told me to go into all this, and then the IRS disallowed it. So, I was deferring taxes every year and putting them into the feeding cattle feeding deal, and when they disallowed it that meant all those years went by that I hadn't paid taxes. It started out I only owed $2 million. If I paid them that, I would have never had a problem.

KING: How do they tell you, you owe $16 million? Do you get a call? Do you get a letter? Well, how did they do that?

NELSON: Well, you know, I knew that it was accruing rapidly over the years, you know...

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Interest.

NELSON: Yes. Penalties and interest everyday went up like five or $10,000. So, it really got up to $32 million, and then they chopped it down in half, and then we negotiated on that. My base player, somebody asking me if he thought I was in trouble. And he said, well, you know, they let a guitar player get into them that far. If he owed them $100,000, then he would probably in trouble. But $32 million, they're in trouble.

KING: That's true. In fact, who's got to worry? They do. Willie generated a lot of controversy with some comments about 9/11. Next.

ANDERSON COOPER, "Anderson Cooper 360": Tonight on "360," in about 15 minutes, keep in mind as Goldman Sachs, the untouchable legendary investment bank, smartest guys in the room, all that stuff. Well, today they were accused of fraud, accused essentially of pushing products they knew would go bust, and when they went bust, we all paid. And the economy unraveled.

Plus, the National Day of Prayer. Is it really unconstitutional? A federal judge has said it is. So, this year's might be the last. The judge's ruling has set off a firestorm, as you might imagine. Tonight Christopher Hudgens and Anthony Perkins square off.

And the man known as Dr. Death, Dr. Jack Kevorkian out of prison talking to me in the big "360" interview, part two of the interview tonight. All that parts are Gary Tuchman is live in Iceland at the site of the volcano that is wreaking havoc on air travel around the world. Those stories a lot more. "360" in 14 minutes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Willie took part in a great benefit for 9/11 victims and their families. He sang "America the Beautiful." I don't think anyone ever sang it better. But he has questioned the official story. What prompt you'd to look into this from another angle?

NELSON: Well, just logic. You know, I've seen buildings implode before. I just saw the Texas stadium implode just a couple of days ago. And these two buildings imploded. And the one next to it, nothing hit it. No plane hit the one next to it. It just decided to fall on its own. So, naturally I have questions about how...

(CROSSTALK)

KING: You think something was done inside?

NELSON: Yes.

KING: All right. But I'm told that the reason it imploded was so much heat from above and so much fuel on the jets that that caused it to go down rather than go over.

NELSON: Never before has a building collapsed because it was hit by an airplane, a steel building. Never before.

KING: Has anybody building been hit by a 747, though?

NELSON: I'm sure they have.

KING: So, you think there was something going on inside the building?

NELSON: Well, I just question the whole thing. I question the story. I question the implosions. It just looks too simple, you know.

KING: Well, others have questioned it, too, although there was an investigation.

NELSON: There was an investigation, and I think there should be more.

KING: Willie Nelson. Another tweet to kingsthings. How many guitars do you own?

NELSON: Oh, I've got probably 12 to 15 around the house there in Austin. I really play one, and that's the old martin trigger and I play...

KING: Why do you call it trigger?

NELSON: I don't know. It's just my pet name for, like, Roy Rogers' horse was trigger, so I decided to name my guitar.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: How many songs? I guess you don't even know. Have you written?

NELSON: I don't know, 2,000 or 3,000, maybe more.

KING: How many CDs have you cut?

NELSON: I don't know either because there's been a lot of calculations and a lot of bootlegs, a lot of differences. I don't know, hundreds.

KING: All right. Which of your songs -- this may be hard to, with all of them -- are you proudest of? NELSON: Well, the ones that "Crazy," "Funny how Times Slips Away," "Night Life," "On the Road Again," "Angel Flying too Close to the Ground."

KING: How did you come up with "Crazy"? And a great song, a great tune.

NELSON: I don't really know where the word came from. And it was a melody that it was there, and the word "Crazy" was there. I think I ripped off Floyd Tillman a little bit somewhere along the way.

KING: Do you hear music in your head?

NELSON: Sure. Yes. I hear melodies.

KING: So, you're writing all the time?

NELSON: It's -- I could if I wanted to. I could, you know, sit down and write something right now. Who knows if it would be any good or not, but it would be something that I think any songwriter, if you're a pro, you should be able to write on the spot.

KING: You often perform with your youngest sons. Are they on this tour with you?

NELSON: They're going to be. They're starting out with me. Lucas is playing and opening for me on this next tour that I started.

KING: You must be very proud of that.

NELSON: That's exciting, yes.

KING: Willie's pretty much done whatever he wanted, however he wanted it done. Does he have any regrets? Our last moments, final moments with the great Willie Nelson, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Back with our remaining moments with Willie Nelson. Tell me about bio Willie. What is that?

NELSON: Bio Willie is the name of a product, bio diesel that was developed that is made out of vegetable oil from restaurants. And we use it to fuel the trucks, diesel engines.

KING: Carl Russell who wrote my book with me, he has a Mercedes that runs on that. He gets it from restaurants.

NELSON: Yes. Absolutely. It's the new thing.

KING: You're riding on a grease?

NELSON: Vegetable oil, yes.

KING: Do you have it on the bus?

NELSON: I have it on the bus also.

KING: You seem to have lived pretty much by your own rules. Do you have any major regret? As Sinatra would say, regrets, I've had a few, but then again, too few to mention.

NELSON: Well, probably that's more the truth. But I really wouldn't want to say well, I regret this or I regret that because I really like the way things are now, and I think if I were to say, well, I wish that was different, then it might change in some way the way things are now.

KING: Any song ever offered to you, you turned down, you later regretted?

NELSON: No. I was talking the other day about the song "Gambler" that Kenny Rogers did.

KING: That was offered to you?

NELSON: Yes. I had a chance to do that.

KING: Why didn't you do that?

NELSON: Honestly, because I knew it was a hit, and it was so long and had so many verses that I'd have to do it every night.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Know when to fold them.

NELSON: Yes.

KING: God worth. You turned that down?

NELSON: Yes.

KING: You had a lot of...

NELSON: I had just done "The Redheaded Stranger" and it had a bunch of verses and I just can't do another long.

KING: Your good friend Kris Kristofferson had said, anybody who doesn't like Willie Nelson is dead or may as well be dead. Why do you think everybody likes you so much? And everybody does. There's nobody that doesn't like Willie Nelson. You turn 77 April 30th.

NELSON: Well, I like everybody, too, you know.

KING: You like people.

NELSON: Yes.

KING: What about the plans for the July 4th backwoods summer picnic this year?

NELSON: We're having it. Leon Russell, way Ray Wylie Hubbard, David Allen Coe, Billie Joe Shaver, I tell everybody, you got to have three names to get on there.

KING: It's in Austin, right?

NELSON: It's in Austin, yes.

KING: And you will be touring all summer?

NELSON: We will be touring all summer and we'll go to Europe and we'll come back just in time to do picnic.

KING: Got a joke?

NELSON: I've got some but I'm not sure, they're, you know.

KING: Anyone say, you could change the world?

NELSON: How about a golfing joke.

KING: A golfing joke.

NELSON: Yes. A golfing joke. This lady went to the pro shop and told the pro, a bee had stung her. Do you have anything for a bee sting in and he said, well, where did it sting you? She said, between the first and second hole. He said, well, first of all, your stance is too wide.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: Funny. All right. Let's close with a song, you and I.

NELSON: Let's do.

KING: You want to start us?

NELSON: Start it off.

(SINGING)

Sometimes I wonder why I spend the lonely nights dreaming of a song and the melody halts my reverie and I am once again with you when our love was new and each kiss an inspiration

KING: It's the nightingale comes in.

But that was long ago and now my constellation is in the stardust a song and -- the stars are bright and you are in my arms and the nightingale tells us a fairy tale of paradise where roses grew though I dream in vain in my heart you will remain my stardust melody, a memory of love's refrain

KING: I love you, Willie.

NELSON: I love you, too.

KING: Willie Nelson. American Idol's Ryan Seacrest, Randy Jackson and Kara Dioguardi are here Monday to talk about "Idol Gives Back." Sarah Silverman's here, too. Right now, it's AC 360.