"One of the best parts of my life has been the guys who are my real heroes are my closest friends," Kris Kristofferson told the AP before the Grammys. Kristofferson joined his buddies Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard and young(er) chart-topper Blake Shelton onstage for a medley including "Highwayman," the signature song from the Highwaymen (the supergroup featuring Nelson, Kristofferson, the late Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash), Nelson's "Mammas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys" and Haggard's 1969 hit "Okie from Muskogee."
"Willie is the closest friend I have," said Kristofferson, who also received a Grammy lifetime achievement award in a ceremony alongside the Beatles yesterday. "And Merle, the first time I met him in Nashville, people told me to stay away from him because I had a beard and the hair. I was supposed to be one of them long-haired hippies, and we were friends from the moment we met."
And while Shelton may have seemed like a bit of a wildcard in the mix with the aforementioned country legends, Haggard was happy to have him: "He's the big dog right now," he said.
Kristofferson, Haggard and Nelson have all been close since meeting in Nashville in the Sixties before all hitting major stardom. Nelson and Haggard have collaborated on hits including 1983's "Pancho & Lefty" and traveled the world with Last of the Breed tour in 2007; Kristofferson and Haggard have played shows in recent years.