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CNN Larry King Weekend

The Best Interviews With Country Music Legends

Aired May 20, 2001 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, a toe-tapping look back at our interviews with Country Music's best: Tammy Wynette, K.T. Oslin, Willy Nelson, the Judds, Shania Twain, Dolly Parton, and Johnny Cash. And their all next, on LARRY KING WEEKEND.

Last week, Country Music saluted its own at the annual Academy of Country Music Awards. Tonight we pay tribute to the best too, revisiting some of our interviews with Country Music's biggest stars. We begin with the late Tammy Wynette. The first lady of Country Music was married many times. The most publicized union was to her childhood idol, singer George Jones. Their rocky marriage ended in divorce in 1975. And I asked Tammy what the breakup meant to her career.


TAMMY WYNETTE, MUSICIAN: I didn't have an act, not until after George Jones and I divorced. I didn't even have a personality. I went on stage with George, we did our shows together ...

KING: He was the constructor of the act?

WYNETTE: Right, he said, you sing so and so, and I'll sing so and so; you sing this and I'll sing that. And we did, and after we divorced, three months later I did my first show alone. And I was petrified. I felt, I can't do it, I can't work by myself. I've never done this before except in the very beginning. And it was in Montgomery, Alabama, and I was a total wreck. But I finally realized that after that I finally got a personality. I learned to talk to the people, and to relate to the people, and get feedback from the people. And only then did I consider myself an act.

KING: Because an act isn't just standing up and singing 20 songs in a row.


KING: You've got to know what song goes where, too.

WYNETTE: You do. You've got to have the right pacing, the right slow song, fast song ...

KING: Do you view George Jones as both a plus and a minus? WYNETTE: Oh yes, definitely, yeah. We had a lot of good years, we had some bad years. It didn't work out for us. I think now, had I known more about drug addiction and alcohol addiction, since I had my drug problem, that maybe I could have understood his problem a little bit more. And, you know, with AA and all the support programs, maybe I could have helped him more. But I couldn't understand it. I had never known anybody that drank, and I used to laugh and say, he nooked and I nagged. And I'm sure I did so much of that because I just didn't understand it, and I didn't want to understand it.

KING: It is very hard to live with someone addicted to something, especially when the something is alcohol, right?


KING: Of course you have mood swings, you don't know what to expect when you open the door, right?

WYNETTE: Exactly right. He would leave, and I would never know what kind of mood he would be in when he'd come back. He might be happy, he might be totally upset about something I didn't even know had happened. So it was very strange.

KING: Your addiction was to prescription - you weren't addicted to heroin or cocaine, you were addicted to legal drugs.

WYNETTE: Legal drugs - it's a drug anyway you look at it. I'd had 17 major operations. I had a lot of stomach problems.

KING: Ulcers?

WYNETTE: No, adhesions, and I had four major operations in one year. And I would go back to work two weeks after. And that's just killing yourself, that's stupidity. But I didn't think of it as being that way at the time. I thought I have to back on the road, I have to go back to work. So I took a pain pill. And it got to the point to where, when I was hurting so bad I would take one and the pain would stop. And an hour later I'd think, gosh I don't have that pain now; if I take another pill it will go away it won't come back. So it just plays mind games with you. And then it got to where I would take one when I wasn't hurting. You just - it just gets to be a terrible, terrible cycle.

KING: OK, and what is the damage?

WYNETTE: Well, you don't perform like you should. I didn't perform like I should. Sometimes my speech would be slurred from the effects of the pain pills.

KING: You're talking about, you're talking about like, Tylenol with Codeine here?

WYNETTE: I'm talking about like, Demerol, or Percoset, Percodan.

KING: You mean major, major painkillers.

WYNETTE: Major, yes.

KING: Who was filling all these prescriptions?

WYNETTE: Well there were several different doctors that were filling them, and they weren't really overfilling the prescriptions, it was just that I was going to different doctors to get them. You know, you get to that point. You don't depend on one doctor, because one doctor won't do it...

KING: You can play doctors. That's right, you could do it. What are they going to do, they're going to turn you down?

WYNETTE: You know, it works one way or the other. When I've been sick, I've found that they'll either give me anything in the world that I want for pain; or they'll absolutely say no, no you get absolutely nothing.

KING: How did you know you were sick? How did you know you needed help?

WYNETTE: Well I think -- well I knew I did. But I didn't want to admit it. That's the denial part, you know, I did not want to talk about it. I didn't want it brought up. But my husband and my children set me down and, my husband said, I cannot live like this. This has got to change, this is not you. And my kids say, mama, we don't want you to die. You, know, we don't want this to happen to you, so for gosh sake get some help, so something. So I agreed to go to the Betty Ford Center. And I did, I went. But I only stayed over night at the Eisenhower Medical Center. And then the next day I said, no this is not for me, I'm going home. So my husband took me home, he didn't argue about it.

And then about two weeks later I was working Laughlin, Nevada. And I did my first show, and it went fine. Second show, I just fell apart. I was just...

KING: On stage?

WYNETTE: No, I did part of the show and I just couldn't finish it. I just left the stage, and I just couldn't do it. So I told them, I said, I will go. So the next day, he took me back. And I stayed then.

KING: We all give up things for what we get, right? Did you put career first?

WYNETTE: I did, I did for a long time. And I wrote a letter to my daughters years ago, called "Dear Daughters", telling them all the guilt trips that I had been on. All the things that I had missed, the mother-daughter dances, and pulling the first teeth and things like that. But I think for a while, I absolutely had to put it first. I took care of my children. I made sure that they were taken care of, and I took care of them. But in the first few years, I had to put career first, to let them know that I was really determined to do this. And that I would be an artist that would travel and all.

KING: Why are Country Music stars closer to their fans then any other segment of the industry?

WYNETTE: Well, I can only speak from my opinion, Larry. But I think, maybe, because we write -- the things that we write about -- are just down to earth things that happen in every day life. We don't try to sugarcoat anything. And we sing about those things, and those things really happen in life. You get divorced, you have problems, there's hurt and happiness. And we write and sing about them. We don't just sing, yeah, yeah, yeah, baby, baby, baby, you know; we do have a story.

KING: Also, the country artist can't be removed from his or her fans, right? You can't stay above it, you can't go off to some secluded mansion in Beverly Hills and never be seen again.

WYNETTE: No, you absolutely cannot, you have to stay with your fans, because they stay with you. They are the most loyal fans in the world. You cannot have a hit record for ten years and they are still there with you. They still come and see you at your concerts. They are wonderful.

KING: But you have to be responsive to them, right. You've got to sign the autograph.

WYNETTE: Yes you do, but I think I can relate to my audience. Especially, I sing a lot to women, and I don't direct it in that one direction, but it just basically comes out that way. But I've been a hairdresser, I've been a barmaid, I've been a waitress. I worked in a doctor's office. I've done so many things, that I can relate to that average woman. I don't feel any different from her, except I just have a different job.

KING: Really, you really feel like regular folk.

WYNETTE: Oh I definitely feel that way. I am, and it only takes one trip back to Alabama to get my feet back on the ground.

KING: Always great seeing you.

WYNETTE: Thank you, it's wonderful to be here.

KING: Continued success.


Tammy Wynette died at her home in Nashville in 1998. At first the cause of death was listed as a blood clot in her lung. A later autopsy showed she died from a heart problem.

When we come back, K.T. Oslin.



(MUSIC) KING: Welcome back. K.T. Oslin is known as the Diva of Country Music. She started her career later than most, but boy has it blossomed. I began our 1996 interview by asking, what does K.T. stand for?


K.T. OSLIN, MUSICIAN: Kay Toinette -- get in this house Kay Toinette.

KING: K-A-Y ...


KING: Toinette?

OSLIN: Yes, T-O-I-N-E-T-T-E.

KING: Why did they name you this?

OSLIN: That's what I asked them.

KING: What did they say?

OSLIN: My mother's name is Kathleen. My uncle's name is Leonard Tonnette, the male spelling. So they kind of combined the two, and named me after the two.

KING: And when did you decide to be K.T.?

OSLIN: After people never pronounced it correctly. K-what? I was Kay for a long time. Then I was K-A-Y, initial T, because of my mothers and my contact lens prescription. They kept giving me her prescription. And I said, no, I'm Kay T., and I kind of liked it. And then I shortened it to the initials, and that was the magic thing I think.

KING: Oh yeah, it works. Initials work, especially ...

OSLIN: They do, they're attention getting.

KING: K.T. also performed last night at our Cardiac Foundation function, and the briefing about that is, you and I are in the same club.

OSLIN: The zipper people.

KING: K.T. had bypass surgery. We often don't think of it with regards to women.

OSLIN: I know.

KING: You say bypass surgery, you think men.

OSLIN: I know.

KING: Do many women have it?

OSLIN: I think more and more women. There were only about three of us on the board when I was there.

KING: There were none, when I was there.

OSLIN: And the horrifying thing was that it was packed. It was filled. On Saturday, you'd think they were having a sale. You know, I mean, I said well look at all this. And there was one other woman and I. But she was quite a bit older.

KING: You had a quadruple, right?

OSLIN: I did.

KING: How did they pick it up, how did you find it? You didn't have a heart attack, did you?

OSLIN: No, I was really close to it. I just started feeling terrible. I mean, when you hindsight and look back, you can see your steady decline of energy over a period of years. But last summer was the thing. I'd get out there and try to mow this little lawn that's about the size of this table. And I'd get about half way through it, and oh my chest would be hurting. And I'd go, girlfriend, you are just really out of shape. And it got worse, and worse. And finally the third time I mowed the lawn in the summer, I just got about two feet done, and I said that's it. There is something really wrong.

And I had the classic chest pain running down the arm. And I thought, oh, it's your heart, don't think about it. I just didn't want to think about that. And so we tested it, and yes I had sky-high blood pressure, sky-high cholesterol. I was just falling apart. And so, tested me, we did the angiogram. And they said, they got very quiet. Everybody was chatting, love your album, love your song, love everything. And then the pictures came up on the screen, and they all got quiet. And I thought, oh my God. They said, well we're going to do the operation. I said, when? They said, tomorrow. So, bam, you make out wills, you're crying, weeping.

KING: You're scared to death.

OSLIN: Scared to death ...

KING: Did you ask a lot of questions about it?

OSLIN: I didn't ask one question. I do not ask any questions until it's over. If I had asked questions, I would never have been there.

KING: Good by. Me too. But I asked questions ...

OSLIN: But they tackled me, and they still got you.

KING: They still got me. Well they drug you the night before.

OSLIN: They give you some good drugs. KING: I was saying, I'm going to leave in the morning, I'm not going to do this.

OSLIN: That's right.

KING: Did you recover quickly?

OSLIN: I did. I wanted out of there. I went home on the sixth day, the morning of the sixth day.

KING: Now why don't you -- being country, why don't you write a song about this? There's got to be a song about heart surgery ...

OSLIN: Maybe I will. It's a little too close for me right now ...

KING: I opened my heart for you baby.

OSLIN: I saw you ...

KING: Sawing away.

OSLIN: Then I felt a pain for you, and now my heart is open to you. And I'm a-healing. It will be a song one day. I'll also write a song about menopause too. Here's a snappy little ditty about menopause. Well I'm flashing really bad, and I feel really weird. And don't you ask you nothing, cause I don't want to talk to you.

KING: Are you going through that, K.T.?

OSLIN: Yes. Honey, everything hit me at once. People ask me where I went for five years, I said, I fell apart.


KING: Well, some how she's managed to put it back together. She's releasing a new album in June, her first original album since 1990. When we come back, the kind of Country Music, Willy Nelson.




KING: Willy Nelson is one of Country Music's most recognizable stars. He's also anything but regal. I asked him about his casual style.


KING: Did you one day just say, I'm just going to just let this all hang out?

WILLY NELSON, MUSICIAN: Well, I started out in Abbott, Texas wearing tennis shoes, blue jeans and wearing a bandana around my head. I wasn't old enough to grow a beard, and earrings were a little out of the question. But other than that, I'm not doing that much different than I was then. At some point, I noticed that casual wear on the stage was not only acceptable, it was sort of expected with the young people. At that time, it wasn't necessary to out-dress them on the stage.

KING: Which is, in a sense, kind of a break, isn't it? You never have to worry about what clothes you're going to wear.


KING: Unlike the nightclub performer with the tuxedo and -- you don't think about that at all, do you? put on what you feel like putting on that particular night, right.


KING: There's no costumes to buy.

NELSON: And everybody in the band does the same thing.

KING: It is a very frank and open book. You discuss, for example, smoking Marijuana at the White House. You were a good friend of the Carters. What were the circumstances?

NELSON: Well, that's one of the main points in the book that I didn't like, and I didn't want it to be in there. Not that it didn't happen. It wasn't considered by me to be a big deal, but I know it is considered that way by some people. And I wouldn't want to do anything to embarrass the Carters. They are great friends of mine. So I was real upset that made the book. It was one of those hundreds of things ...

KING: You could have thrown it out, though.

NELSON: Well, I missed -- I didn't see it in the edit.

KING: That can happen by the way. Having read (UNINTELLIGIBLE), you can miss it.

NELSON: I missed it, and it slipped through.

KING: Alright, you don't have to talk about it, but let's talk about your own problem. You had a drug and alcohol problem.


KING: I guess the layman always has to say this. Why would someone who has everything -- apparently, everything as we perceive everything -- need an extra kick. Someone who hears crowds cheering, needs something beyond that.

NELSON: Of course all this started back before the crowds.

KING: OK, why wouldn't it stop when the crowds come? NELSON: Well, it's like when sick people take drugs. If you keep taking drugs past the point where you're not sick anymore, then you're an addict. That happens. You don't know when to quit taking the medicine. You don't know when to quit drinking, just because you're not having any problems any more. If you start drinking when you have the problems, just because the problems, or the financial problems or whatever they are -- because they stop -- doesn't mean you're ready to stop drinking. You've gotten to like the medicine too much.

KING: Do you know why you started -- or is that impossible?

NELSON: Oh it's not an unusual thing around where I come from. People drank a lot. My dad drank a lot, it was in my family. My mother drank, it wasn't -- however I was raised...

KING: Do you know why you started -- or is that impossible?

NELSON: Oh it's not an unusual thing around where I come from. People drank a lot. My dad drank a lot, it was in my family. My mother drank, it wasn't -- however I was raised by my grandmother from the time I was six-years old. And I had been taught that anyone who drank a beer was going to hell. So, it was sort of like, I'd already blown it.

KING: How did you quit?

NELSON: Well I wasn't having a big time anymore. I wasn't liking myself, and my self-esteem was very low. I wasn't doing my best on stage. My band wasn't doing their best. They had similar problems, some of them.

KING: You mean, you had a sense of this?

NELSON: Yeah, well you can tell when the music is not right. Some guy is speeding and another guy is dragging. I mean, it's got to come out in the music. And since this is what I do and this is what I feel like I'm here to do is play music, then I should play it the best way I know how.

KING: OK, but having an intellectual sense of that and then an emotional sense of stopping are not necessarily one in the same feat.

NELSON: You know, I'm a runner now. And I believe in oxygen. I believe in getting the heartbeat, and taking in a lot of oxygen. And it takes me back to a kid when my grandmother was teaching me voice lessons. And she would give me deep breathing lessons. And I would get so high back then, taking those deep-breathing lessons. It even got to the point where we kids, you know, would take ten deep breaths, and stand up and hold our nose and pass out. So I really remembered a lot of those things that I used to do to really have fun, when I was a kid. And one of them was breathing. I started back breathing air again.

KING: And just that concept that helped?

NELSON: That helped a great deal.

KING: Did you go to any center?

NELSON: I spent a few days in one. And I didn't stay very long. One of the main reasons was because there was people there with a cigarette hanging out of their mouth telling me how bad pot was. And I said, wait a minute. We know cigarettes will kill you. We're still trying to figure out what pot does. I think they should take some time and examine it. I think it is helpful in a lot of ways. I think it has a value as far as curing nervous -- or relieving a nervous condition.

KING: It used to be legal.

NELSON: It used to be legal, and then it got thrown in with Heroin and cocaine, and that's a bad rap. I think it's a soft drug as they say, and shouldn't carry those heavy penalties.

KING: Is running a natural high for you?

NELSON: Yes it is.

KING: Does it produce that?

NELSON: Yes it does, every time I do it. I did it today in New York City, I had a wonderful run.

KING: An exhilaration isn't it -- I walk, it's just something about. Never thought it would.

NELSON: The body heroin comes down. I read that in George Shehan's (ph) running book. It's what he calls it when you are out running, and you have all these pains and you think you're not going to make it. And all of a sudden, you have this euphoria coming over you, and he called it the "body heroin".

KING: That's a great line.





KING: The Judds are one of the most successful country duos in history. On stage they've delighted millions. Off stage, they enjoyed a unique mother-daughter relationship. They are close, but not always cordial.


KING: What, when the Judds started, what was the first hit?

WYNONA JUDD, SINGER: "Mamma He's Crazy". KING: OK, was that -- how old were you, then?

W. JUDD: 18.

KING: Was that a big hit?

W. JUDD: No. 1.

KING: I mean, did the Judds get real known right away? Wasn't there anything bad in that?

NAOMI JUDD: No, see I was 37, so I had already...

KING: Anything bad for her in that -- too much, too soon?

W. JUDD: A little bit. It was like trying to take a drink out of a firehose, for me.

KING: Wow, suddenly you were famous, right?

W. JUDD: It was wild. It was staying in Caesars Palace in Las Vegas ordering room service at midnight, thinking I was on the path of Elvis. You know, rich and famous -- stuff happening everywhere around me -- trying to live up to the expectations of a parent.

N. JUDD: What bothered me, because what matters more to me, is the personals. You know, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Ashley on the phone this morning, it is so much more important to me that you know how to act in real life as opposed to the big screen.

W. JUDD: That's hard to do that when you are in a goldfish bowl.

KING: Yes but she's 19 years old.

N. JUDD: Well no, that's what I'm saying. See she never had to balance a checkbook. She didn't have to go pick up her dry cleaning before five, because they would close ...

W. JUDD: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) had a corporation with about 50 employees that I had to take care of. And I don't have time to do that, mom. You do that.

KING: How did you get a recording contract so quick.

N. JUDD: We walked into -- I used to go down on my day off on music row in Nashville, Tennessee, my one-day off from the hospital. And spray on a lot of Jungle Gardenia cologne, and put a fresh flower in my hair, and my little $10 swap meet dress, and say, "Hi you all, you want to hear our record?"

KING: Were you a showbusiness mom?

N. JUDD: No.

W. JUDD: Yes.

N. JUDD: Wait a minute. I wouldn't let you play in a band or do anything until you graduated.

W. JUDD: Well it depends, see ...

KING: But she plugged the both of you, right?

N. JUDD: She was a showbusiness mother, of course. She was raising two very high-spirited, creative women, you know, so. I mean, when you say showbusiness mother, she wasn't a stage mother, pushing us on stage.

N. JUDD: Yes, big difference.

KING: No, I -- she wouldn't say go to work (UNINTELLIGIBLE). But she was there, right?

W. JUDD: Oh she was ...

KING: you worked for that recording contract.

N. JUDD: For her. I felt like she really needed it, because she (UNINTELLIGIBLE) different from the other kids.

W. JUDD: And she was also wanting it badly too. That was something that we discovered on the mountaintop in Kentucky. We had stars in our eyes. I mean, I saw you, and you would wear those little dresses. You were working it, baby.






KING: What caused problems between the two of you, Wynona? I mean, that was well reported, that the two of you were not always ...

W. JUDD: Wow, that's a great question. How do I answer that in ...

KING: You don't have to answer it -- I mean, you don't have to -- but what caused it?

W. JUDD: I think, at 18, when you are supposed to be getting your own apartment and making all your mistakes away from home, I'm on a bus -- think about it, folks. You know, on a bus with mom, trying to live up to all the expectations. Wanting to be myself, wanting to be with her, wanting to honor her. You know, the Bible says, "Honor thy mother and thy father". It never says anything about being on bus.

KING: Were you always religious?

W. JUDD: I've always been spiritual. I've always run from religion. I've always kind of run from God.

KING: Organized religion.

W. JUDD: But God has constantly saved me. So, I think that's what saved our relationship, because quite frankly, we're like tying two cats tales together, and throwing us over a clothesline -- when we first started out. Now we get along so well it's kind of scary.

KING: Naomi, did you make some mistakes?

N. JUDD: Oh, yes.

KING: What was the biggest?

N. JUDD: Nobody's ever asked me that? Well you're the Titan of Talk, I should ...

KING: The Titan of Talk, by the way are we picking the Titans Sunday? You don't care, do you?

W. JUDD: The tight ends, you mean?

KING: The Titans is your team.

N. JUDD: Oh, the Titans, yes. Yes I am.

KING: I'm picking them, OK, just so everybody has a Superbowl pick. I'm picking Nashville. I love St. Louis Rams. I've just got a feeling about the Titans.

N. JUDD: I want everybody to win, but unfortunately you've got to pick one. And we're from Nashville, so there.

KING: OK, the Titan of Talk goes back to his question.

N. JUDD: I think the greatest mistake I made was probably in the ways I communicated. I was a screamer and a yeller. And people ask me all the time ...

KING: To both kids?

N. JUDD: Yes, much more for Wy, because she was much more problematic. You know, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Well Pete(ph) -- show (UNINTELLIGIBLE) your book by the way, someday, called, "My Story".

KING: She was tougher.

W. JUDD: I was very emotional. Ashley was inward, I was outward. OK, I'm a singer.

KING: Were there periods of time where you didn't talk to each other?

W. JUDD: Yes.

KING: And still sang together?

N. JUDD: Yes.

KING: What's that like? In other words, two people not getting along, go on the stage together. Smile, look at each other, play that (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

N. JUDD: If you think about the fact that people who stutter, can sing. People who have accents and all that, there is something ...

KING: You're acting then.

N. JUDD: There is something magical, because music is a language all of its own.

KING: But you didn't fake it, then?

N. JUDD: It was my therapy. I could -- I have to admit it was grace, grace and mercy.

KING: So the two of you could not talk to each other all day, not talk to each other backstage. Ladies and Gentlemen, The Judds -- How you doing?

W. JUDD: I was extremely honest about our relationship in the interviews. It got me in trouble, because I was always appearing to be the, sort of, rebellious ...

KING: Bad one.

W. JUDD: Yeah, and I kind of resented that, because I was living my life in front of everybody. But musically, we always could communicate.

KING: Did her illness get you closer?

W. JUDD: Yes. I've held her in my arms and watched her be vulnerable, and like...

KING: You thought you were going to lose her?

W. JUDD: Yes.

N. JUDD: She would literally crawl into bed with me at night. She'd get her pajamas on and just crawl in bed with me and hold me. Because I would be in such pain, and be aching so terribly, you know, and would have the headache-from-hell that would go on for months and months.

KING: And you have a lot of faith, right?

N. JUDD: Uh-hmm.

KING: Did you ever doubt your faith during this period?

N. JUDD: Never.

KING: No, you're lying in bed, you think you're dying, and you don't question God?

N. JUDD: I can honestly tell you that the one thing I never questioned was the fact that there is divine order, that there is a Supreme Being behind the universe. I've always known that. It's as if it is in my DNA.

W. JUDD: Now we questioned why. I'll tell you that right now, I had questioned why a thousand times. But I've never questioned who, and that's the only thing that's gotten me where I am today.






KING: Welcome back. She's one of Country Music's hottest stars, the glamorous Shania Twain. We last talked with her in 1996, and I asked what's with the name Shaniya?

SHANIA TWAIN, SINGER: I picked it up along the way. It's not my real name.

KING: Oh, you invented it.

TWAIN: Well, I say I picked it up, because I knew somebody with the name, a wardrobe mistress in one of the shows that I was doing. Her name was Shania, and she had a similar background. One of her parents was Ojibwe (ph) Indian. One of my parents was Ojibwe Indian, and I loved the name. And it went well with Twain, so...

KING: What name did they give you?

TWAIN: Eileen is my birth name.

KING: Eileen don't work.

TWAIN: Well, you know, everybody mispronounces Eileen. They always say Elaine, Irene...

KING: Aileen.

TWAIN: Right, everything, Irene. So, I figured, if I'm going to have a name that people mispronounce, then I want it to be the one of my choice, and something a little more ...

KING: You were born in where?

TWAIN: Timmons (ph), Ontario in Canada. So, I was born in Canada.

KING: Grew up there?

TWAIN: Grew up in Canada, I only moved to the US, really, maybe five or six years ago.

KING: Shania by the way was in town where she performed last night at our Cardiac Foundation. I thank you very much for doing that.

TWAIN: You're very welcome.

KING: How did it all start for you? Were you a singer in school?

TWAIN: Yeah, well I was -- actually my first choir, I was six- years old when I joined the school choir. I was the youngest choir member. I don't think you were allowed to join until your were in grade two. But they let me join early. And I've been singing forever. I started singing in clubs on weekends and late nights and stuff at the age of eight-years old, started writing my own music when I was ten. And I've just been singing clubs and on the road my whole life.

KING: Why country?

TWAIN: It's -- I think that for most kids. I mean, when you start that young, you're six, seven, eight-years old, it's whatever your parents are listening to is what you are most influenced by. And my parents were big country music fans.

KING: Is country music big in Canada.

TWAIN: I guess it is all relative. Is it big in Canada...

KING: Because it is enormous in the states.

TWAIN: Yeah, I think it is big in Canada in certain parts, as it is in the US in certain parts. I think areas, the West and Mid-West and stuff.

KING: So you grew up listening to the country stars.

TWAIN: Well, I was influenced by many different styles of music. I mean, the main influence was country, because my parents were big country music fans. If I had the radio on and I was listening to Motown, or something, they would usually change it, or put on a Dolly Parton eight-track tape, or Wayland Jennings (ph) or something like that.

KING: Tell me about "God Bless the Child".

TWAIN: "God Bless the Child", well it is a song now. But it started off as a lullaby. It was something that basically symbolized what I was going through at the time. My parents had died in a car accident that year, that was in '87.


TWAIN: And it was a very difficult time for me, so I...

KING: You lost them both?

TWAIN: I lost them both, yes in the car accident. And I almost lost my brother too. We almost lost our brother, but he survived. And it was a very, very difficult time ...

KING: You were 21?

TWAIN: I was 21, and I'd always expressed myself through my music, my emotions, my thoughts. I never really kept a diary. My diary was always my writing book. And I would a lot of times translate my emotions, and you wouldn't be able to literally read them out as my own experiences. But this is one of the ones that you can. And in a certain sort of way, I was feeling like the child that was left behind, and just lost. I was feeling like -- you know when you are a kid in a grocery story and you get lost and you can't find your mother. I mean, it's a terrible feeling. That's how I felt at the time. And so the child suffering in that lullaby was myself at the time.

KING: You didn't write it then, though, did you, or did you?

TWAIN: I wrote it the year my parents died.

KING: So what took ten years?

TWAIN: Well, it was so personal to me, that I really did feel like someone was -- when (UNINTELLIGIBLE) heard me singing it around the house. He said, what is that, that's so beautiful? And I said, you know, it's just something. And never anything I would have considered making commercial, or a song. I never even considered it a song. It was just an expression of mine. And he said, well I really want to hear that. And when he heard it he said, you know I really think this should be on the album. This is so much of you, it really should go on there.

I never even considered it a song. It was just an expression of mine. And he said, well I really want to hear that. And when he heard it he said, you know I really think this should be on the album. This is so much of you, it really should go on there.






KING: Dolly Parton is one of country music's most versatile stars, movies, television shows, amusement parks, and the occasional serenade.

Akron, Ohio, as we go to calls for Dolly Parton. Hello.

CALLER: Oh thank you so much. Dolly, I don't think there is anyone who doesn't love you, including me.

DOLLY PARTON, SINGER: Well I'm sure there are people out there who don't, but I'm glad you do, thank you.

CALLER: I think everyone loves you, I really do. But I have to tell you my all time favorite song is your version of "I Will Always Love You" and I really mean that. I was wondering if you would please sing a few lines from that song. It would make my day if you would do that. Which lines would you like to hear, the I will always love you ones?

"And I will always love you, I will always love you" -- and that's why you love me because I'll make a total fool of myself for you.

KING: We go to Shreveport, LA, with Dolly Parton. Hello.

CALLER: Hi there Dolly. Hi Larry.



CALLER: I would like to ask you, being this super mega-star that you are, why do you feel the need to still take all your music on the road?

PARTON: Well I love the music. And I love to perform live. I love the people, I love to see their reaction. When I started singing on radio and television when I was ten years old, I got addicted to it, when I first sang in front of an audience. And I guess all my life I've needed a lot of love and attention, and my music was the way I guess I thought I was going to get it. And when I first got an encore and people brought me back, I thought oh they love me. And I love them, so I just love that feeling. And I just love to work.

I love to perform, and I love traveling on the bus. People are always saying, you mean to tell me you are still traveling on the bus? I say, well I can't explain it, but it keeps me feeling like I'm still new in the business. It keeps me hungry, and it makes me want to write. And I write a lot of songs. And getting out with the real people, I see their real problems. I see their real faces. I see in their eyes what their needs are and what their wants are, and how they respond to songs that I sing. And so it gives me a good reading on what I should be writing for the public as well as what I want to express myself.

KING: We talked with Dolly again in October of '94. She joined us from the set of her then upcoming sitcom "Heavens to Betsy". She also just released her autobiography.

What led you to write an autobiography, Dolly?

PARTON: Well, I've lived a long time. I've been in this business a long time. And I've been offered numerous times by different publishers a lot of money to do it. And I just wasn't ready to write it. And so the money got better, and I was getting older, and decided I wanted to write it while I was still in sane mind. And my memory is serving me well. So I decided that it was time to do it.

KING: You deal openly with rumors about affairs and the like. Was that difficult to write?

PARTON: Well the book was difficult to write. It really took a lot out of me. I love to write, and have been writing all my life. But when you start to write about those very personal things in your life, it does get very touchy. But I tried to be as honest as I could possibly be, without hanging myself or somebody else. And I think I handled it very well. I prayed for guidance, and I really wanted to be fair to myself and everybody else, and still make it entertaining and still manage to keep some mystery about myself.

KING: Have there been some missteps along the way?

PARTON: Oh, I've had lots of missteps. I've fallen down many times, but I think all of us do. And I think the more we except the fact that we just are who we are, you know, there's forgiveness out there. There's also lots of good times to be had if people can just enjoy themselves and not punish themselves unjustly for being who they are.

KING: Has there been a lot of difficulty -- may be this is hard to do with -- looking the way you look. I mean, the way you are built, and how pretty you are and the hair and everything. I mean, obviously you are an attention-getter. And you would be an attention getter if you weren't Dolly Parton (ph). If you walked out of an elevator right now into a hotel lobby, everyone in the lobby would look. Is there a difficulty in that?

PARTON: No, I plan that, I like that. I like the attention. If I got out of an elevator and didn't get some attention, I'd go right back to my room and make the hair bigger, put on more makeup and make the dress lower.

KING: You like it.

PARTON: Well actually I do like it. It's always been fun for me. I'm kind of like a kid playing in paints and crayons. I love all of this gaud. I love the paint, the makeup. In fact I have my own line of makeup now, born just because I love it. Love to play in it, and the hair has always been great -- I mean, great to play in. It's not great to look at now.

KING: The smell of the grease paint, and the roar of the crowd. Cahoga (ph) Falls, Ohio, hello.

CALLER: Hello, Dolly, thank you for being such a great entertainer. PARTON: Well thank you for the complement. I really appreciate it. I just wanted to know, is there anyone that you have never sung with that you would love to sing with? And could you sing a line from "Here You Come Again"? I love that song.

PARTON: Well maybe you'd be the one I'd like to sing with. I wish you could help me now, because you got me on the hot seat.

"Hear you come again ...

KING: Is there anyone you'd ...

PARTON: Hey Larry, shut up, I'm singing.

"Here you come again lookin better than a body has a right to" -- of course I'm singing to Larry now.





KING: Welcome back. Few music stars of any genre have lasted as long as the legendary Johnny Cash. We talked with him in 1996, and I was curious about his humble beginnings.


JOHNNY CASH, MUSICIAN: You know, we in country music, every once in a while, we'll get together and talk about -- try to out-poor each other. Like who is the poorest?

KING: Yeah, in Brooklyn too.

CASH: Well, I didn't have any clothes until I was six years old. And when I was six, my dad bought me a cap so I could look out the window.

KING: You were real poor, right?

CASH: Oh, I was raised in -- I was born in a pine shack on the edge of the woods, four miles from Kingsland, Arkansas. And I grew up in northeast Arkansas on a cotton farm, and from the time I was six carrying the water to the other field workers, I was in the field, through spring, summer and fall. From the picking, the chopping, the plowing, and the picking and the whole thing.

KING: As you emerged say into young adulthood, did you have that deep voice? Did people say to you, hey John, you've got a good voice?

CASH: This is a true story. I was a tenor until I was seventeen years old. You heard the bluegrass singer, Bill Monroe?

KING: Sure.

CASH: I sing his songs really well, just like him. And one day my father and I were cutting wood, swinging a crosscut saw in the woods for ten hours. And I came in the back door. I said, "Every body gonna have religion in glory, ever -- I sang a Sister Rosa (UNINTELLIGIBLE) song. And my mother said, who's that? I said, that's me. And then I kept on. And my voice had dropped without me knowing it that very day from that hard work, I guess.

KING: When did Johnny Cash want to be a singer?

CASH: From the time I heard my first song on the radio.

KING: When you were a tenor you wanted to be a singer?

CASH: Yes.

KING: You just always wanted to sing.

CASH: I never, never thought of anything else.

KING: The down time in your life, you mentioned Betty Ford. What happened, how did that happen? The easiest way is to do it in your own words.

CASH: Well the first time I remember, the prescription medication really became, started taking control of me -- excuse me -- was after I had a knee injury. And I started taking painkillers. And I knew that I would get addicted to any mood-altering drug I took.

KING: That's the biggest addiction in America, pain killers.

CASH: Well it brought me down, and the Perkadan (ph) is part aspirin -- of course you don't feel it if you burn a hole in your stomach -- you know and have bleeding ulcers. And I was taking so many that it got really bad like that.

So I found I wound up in the hospital, and it was a major devastating operation that I had. And I stayed in the hospital for a long time, because they thought they were going to lose me a couple of times. But when I got out, my wife, my mother, my daughter Roseanne, the preacher, a lot of people gathered in a room at the hospital just before I got out. And I went down there, they had a surprise for me. Also with them was a friend of Gene Autrey's (ph) who had come back to Nashville to look at a ball player, Dr. Cruise (ph).

And he said, well you have to know that this is an intervention. We want to talk to you about getting some help. And of course I was still on the morphine there, then. But I was coming off of it, and I knew where I was. And I knew when I was going to get out now.

Well they told me, one at a time -- even my son -- they told me one at a time what they had seen me do, how I had hurt them, how they saw me hurt myself. All the terrible things you don't need naming. I mean, there was a big list, everybody had a big list written down in their hand. And so at the end of the thing, Dr. Cruise (ph) said -- they were all crying -- he said, your family really loves you and they don't want you to die. And I want to take you to Betty Ford.

KING: After the pain goes away -- when the thing is cured, why do you keep taking them, since you are not in pain any more?

CASH: I'm in pain. I'm in severe chronic pain.

KING: So you are always in pain.

CASH: Always. You've got to find the strength within yourself, because I found that it was there, you know. I knew it was there, if I would just try to tap into it. And I say that's God, and my faith. That He gives me dominion over that pain. I have not, I refuse to let it allow me to miss a concert, just because I'm hurting too much.

Or I'll not say, go say hello to a friend, because it hurts me to talk. And we tried everything in the last six years, seven years since the operation, to find the painkilling medication that is not mood-altering. I've tried everything, including acupuncture and faithhealing. And faithhealing helped me to tap that is of God, to rise within it.

KING: You in pain now?

CASH: Yeah.

KING: You hurt now?

CASH: Yeah.

KING: You know there is a pill over there that could probably stop the pain. What would it do to you, that pill, that makes taking it not worth it.

CASH: Is there only one?

KING: How does the pain effect singing?

CASH: I don't have any pain when I go on stage. It goes away.

KING: It goes away.

CASH: I have a little trick I do. When I start on stage, I push that finger and my thumb together, and I say, "power, power, power". And when I go on stage and start a song, there is no pain there.



KING: Sadly, a neurological disorder has prevented Cash from performing the last few years. He's been missed. We wish him well, and hope he is back on stage soon. That's it for this edition of ;ARRY KING WEEKEND. Hope you enjoyed, we did. Thanks for watching. Good night.