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- Posted on Mar 21st 2011 5:15PM by James Sullivan
Rick Diamond, WireImage
It had been 30 years since the first White House sleepover for the man who wrote 'Crazy,' 'Night Life,' 'Hello Walls' and many more of country music's most enduring hits. In 1980, in the waning days of Jimmy Carter's administration, the former peanut farmer from Georgia invited his old buddy to perform and stay at the White House. Nelson and Carter had grown friendly during the president's 1976 election campaign, when the Texas native sang 'Georgia on My Mind' at several rallies for the candidate.
To relieve the stress of being the leader of the free world, Carter, an avid fly fisherman, sometimes retired to the presidential study to tie flies while listening to Willie on "the hi-fi," as the former president recalled when the two appeared together on a CMT special in 2004.
In one of Willie Nelson's books, he freely admits stealing away to the roof of the White House, where he lit up "a big fat Austin torpedo" while members of the Secret Service looked on. Apparently, it wasn't the first time that particular law was broken at the White House: In 1977 -- also on Carter's watch -- David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash are said to have burned a fatty of their own when they were left alone in the Oval Office.
Nelson, who co-founded Farm Aid and is a bio-diesel entrepreneur, has supported other politicians over the years. In 2004, he wrote a song for presidential hopeful Dennis Kucinich called 'Whatever Happened to Peace on Earth?' But Carter remains the outlaw's favorite president to date, says the braided, bandanna-clad singer.
Though he claimed to know nothing about Nelson's midnight ramble at the White House when they were on the set of the CMT special, Carter happily credited his friend's music. "All the good things I did, or, of course, all the mistakes I've made, you could kind of blame half that on Willie," he said. When Nelson joked that he couldn't recall much about his White House stay, the ex-president laughed.
"Yeah, my memory's kind of short on that subject, too," he said.
Doubtful, though, that they could forget the duet that Rosalynn Carter, the former First Lady, reportedly performed with Nelson that night: a cover of Ray Wylie Hubbard's 'Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mother.'