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Goodbye, George?

Strait's "The Cowboy Rides Away" tour closes out this year's rodeo.

Mostly, Haggard, who will turn 76 on April 6, says he and Nelson will "try to hit each other with a good joke."

Nelson sure hit him with a good one for their "Pancho" duet. As he recalls, Haggard had been staying on Nelson's property outside Austin, working on an entire album with the Red Headed Stranger. He had not slept much in about five days, but finally drifted off on his tour bus somewhere around 4 a.m.

"I had been asleep about ten minutes, and he knocked on my bus," Haggard says. "I got up — anybody else but him and I wouldn't have even opened the door. But I opened the door and said, 'What's going on, Will?'

George Strait set a new Reliant Stadium attendance record...
Photos by Daniel Kramer
George Strait set a new Reliant Stadium attendance record...
...with a crowd of more than 80,000 on St. Patrick's Day.
Photos by Daniel Kramer
...with a crowd of more than 80,000 on St. Patrick's Day.

"I found us a song," came the response.

Even though they had already cut ten or 12 songs, Nelson was sure this was the song for the album.

"I said, 'Boy, that's a great title,'" Haggard says.

He recalls Nelson as having "Pancho" all ready to go but wanting his partner to come into the studio and cut the song live. Nelson had written Van Zandt's lyrics on a paper sack, and unfolded it in front of Haggard.

Haggard remembers resisting at first.

"I said, 'Man, I've been up for five days; I'll do mine in the morning,'" he says. "You go ahead and put the track down — do yours and leave mine open for the morning. I sing a lot better in the morning."

But Nelson pushed right back.

"He said, 'No, I want you to come in here and sing this motherfucker,'" Haggard says. "I said, 'Okay, goddammit, I will.'

"I got up," Hag continues. "I just barely remember going in there. I was about half-awake. I went in there and I cut it with the full intention that I would do it over in the morning."

Except that's not quite what happened.

"I got up in the morning and I said, 'Where's that record at?'" Haggard says. "They said, 'Hell, it's on the way to New York. That son of a bitch is a smash.'"

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