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CNN PEOPLE IN THE NEWS

Profiles of Gretchen Wilson, Lisa Marie Presley and Tim McGraw

Aired April 16, 2005 - 17:00   ET

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


(NEWS BREAK)
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR, PEOPLE IN THE NEWS: Hi, welcome to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS. I'm Paula Zahn. One of the biggest surprises in music last year wasn't a rapper or even a pop star, but a country singer. Gretchen Wilson is a sassy, self-described redneck, a Grammy winner and the best selling new artist of 2004. In more ways than one, Wilson's songs and her success came out of nowhere.

Just last year, Gretchen Wilson was a Nashville nobody. Now she's country music's hottest new artist. The 31-year-old journey from obscurity to a hit record and sold out concert is rooted in her honest lyrics and her powerhouse voice.

GRETCHEN WILSON: There's a lot of times in my life I feel like music took me to a better place. Music is so powerful and it can really change your life. It can change your mood. It can change your thought process.

ZAHN: Gretchen's record, "Here for the Party" was the number one seller any of new artist last year.

ROBERT K. OERMANN, COUNTRY MUSIC HISTORIAN: The moment I heard her sing, I was going, like she's got the stuff. Gretchen Wilson is a triple platinum act and a break-through like Gretchen's is just extraordinary. The number of people that get to do that is so tiny, I can't tell you.

PETER COOPER, MUSIC WRITER, THE TENNESSEAN: Gretchen's voice has a lot of traditional country in it, but it also has a whole lot of Janis Joplin. There's a lot of kind of soulful rock 'n' roll edge there. And there are some real country songs on her album that sounds like something that Loretta Lynn would be proud to cut.

ZAHN: Gretchen's songs, like many country stars, are stories straight out of her own life.

WILSON: Those stories are mine and they're observations from my life and they're things that I've witnessed or felt. And so it's easy I think to be emotional and to get wrapped up in a song when it comes from you, anyway.

OERMANN: There's a whole group of country songs that I dearly love that are kind of in the poor but proud category and it's like we don't need money and fancy cars. We have love and we have each other and we have music and I'm proud of who I am and that's what Gretchen is saying. That's who she is. She's saying, I'm a redneck and I'm not ashamed of that. I'm not ashamed I come from these roots. I honor them. I'm Pocahontas proud.

ZAHN: Gretchen was born when her mom was just 16. At age two, her father left home and her family struggled to get by, avoiding rent by moving from trailer park to trailer park in Pocahontas, Illinois.

WILSON: My mom being such a young mother, she made a lot of mistakes. There were times when we moved around so much from place to place and I just always thought my mom was crazy and just couldn't stay in one place very long, you know. But it became apparent to me later on, when I moved out.

ZAHN: Her mother's problems with alcohol and drugs forced Gretchen to drop out of school and move out on her own when she was just 15. To support herself, she tended bar and sang karaoke for tips at a tavern run by her friend, Mark Obermark.

MARK "BIG O" OBERMARK, BAR OWNER: Her voice was always good. It wasn't as defined as it is now and she had determination, you know. I'd go over to their house and she'd be practicing songs all the time. She was strong-willed. She knew what she wanted from early on.

ZAHN: At age 23, Gretchen moved to Nashville, after singing in cover bands in nearby St. Louis. She was determined to make it big as a country singer.

WILSON: You know, I was completely shocked when I first moved to Nashville. I guess I was so green, you know I thought that you just moved down here and, you know, knocked on the doors and sang for people and they'd give you a record deal if you were good. You know, I had no idea what it was going to be like.

ZAHN: Gretchen Wilson became one of the thousands of Nashville wannabes playing for tips in downtown bars. Record company after record company slammed the door in her face. So she went back behind the bar.

WILSON: I was running out of money. I didn't come down here with very much money.

COOPER: She had no idea when she came here what it would take to get noticed. She thought well I've got a good voice. I can sing really well and that will do it.

ZAHN: But that wasn't enough. A little known country duo was about to turn things around. Big Kenny Alphin and John Rich, known as Big and Rich, were founders of a carnival-like musical support group in Nashville called the Muzik Mafia. Their weekly jam sessions bent the conventions of country music.

JOHN RICH, COUNTRY MUSIC ARTIST: It's an array of talent. It's everything from R&B to rap, to country to pop singers to dancers, to artists, to painters. It's everything.

ZAHN: Big and Rich discovered Gretchen when they saw her leave her bartending post to sing during last call.

RICH: It's like somebody had just sucked the oxygen out of the room. All you could look at was Gretchen Wilson, this bartender up there just killing the song. So she finishes that song and I follow her up the stairs to her little bar upstairs, and I said, "so, darling, when are you going to get yourself a record deal?"

WILSON: And I said, "why, are you going to give me one?"

RICH: For the next two months I called down there every day or every other day leaving messages for her to call me back.

WILSON: I just didn't return his calls because I thought he was just hitting on me.

RICH: Finally one of her friends who's a waitress down there says has a guy named John Rich been calling you? She goes...

WILSON: Yes, he's wearing me out. They're like you need to call him back because he's got some stuff going on.

RICH: She finally called me back and from that day we started writing with her and integrating her into our world.

ZAHN: When we return, Gretchen joins the Muzik Mafia, but nearly hangs it up when she doesn't fit the Nashville mold.

WILSON: It's heartbreaking to know that something like the way your hair is styled could lose you a record deal. It makes you feel a little bit smaller every time you walk out of that door. It makes you feel a little like your dream's slipping away from you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: After a rough childhood and years of bartending, Gretchen Wilson was in her late 20s, striving to make it as a country star in Nashville.

"BIG" KENNY ALPHIN, COUNTRY MUSIC ARTIST: When you're making bricks, you're stomping your bricks, you're down in the mud stomping your bricks, hoping that one day you're going to get to build a big house with them.

ZAHN: But the house Nashville built was full of singers with movie-star looks like Faith Hill, Shania Twain. Gretchen Wilson didn't that have high fashion carefully couffed appearance.

WILSON: You think, I can sing. You know, I don't look that bad.

OERMANN: She wasn't fashion-model looking, and you know, she was earthy, and working class and proud of it, and all of those things the male executives on music row, not understanding the audience, you know, reject.

WILSON: It's heartbreaking to know that something like the way your hair is styled could lose you a record deal. It does, it makes you feel a little bit smaller every time you walk out of that door, it makes you feel a little like you know, like your dream's slipping away from you little by little, and you know, I definitely felt that way.

ZAHN: Just when she felt like quitting, Muzik Mafia pal John Rich gave her some advice, just be yourself.

RICH: Because honestly, there's millions of people that have grown up like you and that are going to identify with what you're telling them and after all, Gretchen, it really is who you are.

WILSON: I grew up a redneck. I've always been a redneck and I've always been proud of being a redneck.

RICH: I remember having that conversation with her. She goes, all right, let's do it. That next morning we wrote "Redneck Woman." It says, I'm a redneck woman. I ain't no high class broad.

ZAHN: The song clicked with Sony records. After eight years of Nashville and over a dozen years of bartending, Gretchen Wilson finally had her record deal.

OERMANN: There's no question that there was a great deal of tongue in cheek and wit in "Redneck Woman." It's both sort of a little wink at the culture and a celebration of it. Keep my Christmas lights on all year long, it's like I know people like this.

ZAHN: "Redneck Woman" skyrocketed up the country charts and spent six weeks at number one, the longest stay of a debut of a country female artist since 1964. Gretchen's album, "Here for the Party" also topped the country charts, remaining at number one for nine consecutive weeks. The record went triple platinum, more than 3 million sold, the most of any debut artist in any musical genre last year. The night Gretchen landed her record deal, she and John Rich engineered a late night break-in into the Ryman Auditorium, the mother church of country music.

RICH: One of these days I'm going to hit it. You know that you're really on to something when things that you do would normally be a felony conviction turned into a hit song.

ZAHN: In a music video for her album, Gretchen recreated the scene on the Ryman stage with her own song.

WILSON: The song itself, when I think about cheating, it sounds so old to me. It sounds like a really classic traditional country song. I just thought that the Ryman it's the kind of place that you would hear a song like that.

OERMANN: She sings the fire out of it, as if to say, "I am country music" and that song says it loud and clear.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was maybe one of the biggest moments in her life.

ZAHN: Until the Grammy awards this year, when Gretchen won best female country vocal performance for "Redneck Woman." With awards under her belt and a second album in the works, Gretchen Wilson is hitting her rhythm.

ALPHIN: I think her talents will progress as more and more walls fall down for her. I think musically, she's one to be able to expand even more. She just has one of those voices that allows her to do anything she wants to.

ZAHN: Folks back in Pocahontas, Illinois, haven't forgotten Gretchen. They're selling t-shirts and plan to award her with the keys to the city and Gretchen hasn't forgotten Pocahontas.

MAYOR DICK CLARK, POCAHONTAS, ILLINOIS: When I heard the song "Pocahontas Proud," it made me kind of teary eyed I guess and actually I got goose bumps to be honest with you.

ZAHN: Gretchen Wilson is not only making Pocahontas proud, she's taking pride in her own roots, her own life and the joy of singing her own songs.

WILSON: I'll tell you what I've learned a lot from doing these concerts and being on stage in front of so many people, more people than I've ever been in front of. I have learned that music moves you. That's what it's supposed to do. Music is supposed to make you feel better. You might listen to a happy song or you might listen to a really dark song that makes you think that your life isn't so bad, but whatever the case, music does work magic.

Fans of music come to these shows to be moved. And I think we're doing that and that's the greatest part of being an artist is looking out into the audience and feeling that they feel it.

ZAHN: And this year is shaping up to be another big one for Gretchen Wilson. She's putting the finishing touches on her second album, due out this fall, and she's currently out on tour with fellow country star Kenny Chesney (ph).

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Lisa Marie Presley has certainly had her share of soap opera moments, her high profile but short lived marriages to Michael Jackson and Nicolas Cage, but Presley has a life beyond the tabloids, even beyond the enormous legacy of her father, the king. Indeed, Elvis's little girl is now a woman, who is making music all her own.

ELVIS PRESLEY: Rock 'n' roll music, if you like it, and if you feel it, you can't help but move to it. That's what happens to me. I can't help it.

ZAHN: With a curl of the lip and a twitch of the hip, Lisa Marie Presley finally entered the building.

ANDREW SLATER, PRESIDENT CAPITAL RECORDS: DNA rules apply and it's undeniable when you look at her perform or listen to her sing.

ZAHN: It's Elvis' face on that body. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Her eyes and her mouth are him.

PETER CASTRO, ASST MANAGING EDITOR, PEOPLE MAGAZINE: It's the oddest thing.

ZAHN: Famous since the moment she was born, for 35 years, we watched. We read. We thought we knew everything there was to know about Elvis Presley's only child. But beyond the tabloids, it's the artist and musician who has finally arrived and this month, the raven- haired rocker returns, looking even more like her daddy and airing even more dirty laundry. The debut single a classic remake. The new album, raw, honest, no holds barred Lisa Marie Presley.

LISA MARIE PRESLEY: I knew that it was real and I knew that I was a real music lover and I knew that I know music. What I was surprised at was them thinking it was going to be some bubble gum sellout crap, and that's kind of what have they were set up for so I was like, well, none of you have any idea who I am.

ZAHN: To know who she is, we open in Las Vegas. The date, May 1st, 1967, the state of the world abuzz.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Elvis Presley weds Priscilla Ann Beaulieu and one of America's richest teenage singing idols promises to love, honor and obey. Why did the Pelvis desert bachelorhood? He said it's about time.

ZAHN: And exactly nine months to the day, on February 1st, 1968, at the Baptist Hospital in Memphis, the king's daughter was born.

MICHELLE HOVEY, AUNT: She was the first grandchild and of course, Elvis was the typical father, you know, just doting and excited and showing her off.

ZAHN: With iconic parents she began her life behind the famed walls of Graceland. The Presley's lifestyle was extravagant and Elvis spared no expense on his little heiress.

CASTRO: Elvis adored Lisa Marie and lived for her. I mean, he would do such sweet things.

CYNTHIA SANZ, SENIOR EDITOR, PEOPLE MAGAZINE: She would show up in diamonds and mink coats. Her father flew her to Idaho once so she could see snow.

HOVEY: Going to Vegas, you know, having that little slot machine in the hotel room and even room service. Staying in a hotel and having room service could be a lot of fun when you were with Elvis Presley.

ZAHN: But by 1972, endless tours and his rock 'n' roll lifestyle had gotten in the way of marriage. Following a year-long separation and a torrent of media speculation, Priscilla filed for divorce. In the coming years, a nomadic Lisa Marie would split her time between Beverly Hills and her father's beloved Memphis. PRESLEY: Mostly it was breaks. It was very inconsistent. Sometimes a car would show up to pick me up at school and I wasn't ready for it because he just sent for me.

ZAHN: As time went by, returning to California became increasingly difficult.

CASTRO: Well, Elvis and Priscilla were two very different types of parents. Elvis was laissez-faire, hey, baby, go have a good time, and Priscilla was really like the commandant.

HOVEY: Unfortunately, Priscilla had to be the bad guy for quite a few years but somebody had to be. It surely wasn't going to be Elvis.

ZAHN: And it certainly wasn't going to be Elvis's new girlfriend, Linda Thompson. Befriending the youngster, their friendship would span some 30 years.

LINDA THOMPSON, ELVIS' FORMER GIRLFRIEND: I met Lisa when she was 4 1/2. I never had a problem with Lisa, never like, you're not my mom. I don't have to do what you say. You know, I kind of played along with her, because I was kind of a kid, too.

ZAHN: Sleep all day, party all night. By 1976, those were the rules of Graceland. As tabloids followed his every move and paparazzi sprung from every corner, the eight-year-old watched quietly as her father's health declined.

Coming up, lights out. A grim discovery on August 16th, 1977.

THOMPSON: This little 9-year-old girl called me long distance and in a breathless tone, told me she had just found out that her father had died.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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(NEWS BREAK)

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR, PEOPLE IN THE NEWS: By 1977, nine-year- old Lisa Marie Presley was living two lives, one of discipline in her mother's California, one of indulgence in her father's Tennessee. Increasingly, however, she was noticing a change in Elvis and the Memphis fortress he had created. Elvis's decline had been marked with ballooning weight and an addiction to prescription medication, but no one was prepared for what happened next. The date was August 16th, 1977.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good evening. Elvis Presley died today. He was 42. Apparently it was a heart attack. He was found at his home in Memphis, not breathing.

LINDA THOMPSON, ELVIS FORMER GIRLFRIEND: This little nine-year- old girl called me long distance. I was in Los Angeles and, you know, in a breathless tone, told me that she had just found out that her father died.

MICHELLE HOVEY, AUNT: Lisa was there and saw all the commotion and she pretty much got glimpses of her father, you know, being taken out of the house in the ambulance.

ZAHN: By the thousands, fans flocked to Graceland. And within 24 hours, the white mansion was open to the public as the king of rock 'n' roll's body lay in state.

PRESLEY: There were so masses of people mourning. I remember watching, you know, as the casket was there. They were coming through and there was a line, and I just remember sitting on the stairwell not knowing what to do with that.

ZAHN: The following day, on August 18th, 1977, with media coverage by land and air, Elvis Aaron Presley was laid to rest.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's the hearse with the body of Elvis Presley which was such a powerhouse of movement on the stage. And now, stilled by death, leaves Graceland mansion for the last time.

ZAHN: In the coming years, the king's death would only deepen the mystery surrounding his only child. Drugs, demons, rebellious teenage years followed and on October 3rd, 1988, the media circled once again. The king's only child had wed in a small service at the Los Angeles Scientology center. Eight months later Daniel Riley Keogh (ph) was born. With wild days behind her, Lisa Marie Presley, wife and now mother, began to think about her future. With the help of Keogh, she took a deep breath, turned to music and recorded a demo.

GARY HOVEY, UNCLE: She went to meet with record people, with a manager, and the deal was just about set. She didn't do the deal because she became pregnant with Ben, her second child, so it all got put on hold a year or two later, whenever she became interested in singing again, which happened to coincide with the time she met with Michael.

ZAHN: Five years into Lisa's marriage to Danny Keogh, the relationship was buckling. It was during this time that a fledgling friendship with Michael Jackson began to evolve. What came next shocked the world.

Crowds swarmed, headlines screamed. Michael and Lisa Marie had secretly wed. Graceland meets Neverland, and everyone was scratching their heads.

GARY HOVEY: She said she loved the guy and I said that's fine, as long as you're happy and safe, is the only thing I really care about.

ZAHN: One jaw-dropping music video later, an announcement that took no one by surprise.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was the marriage destined for divorce from the very start?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What may be the real reason Lisa Marie Presley is divorcing Michael Jackson.

ZAHN: After 20 months of marriage, Elvis Presley's only child had filed for divorce.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's used to everything his way. She never really had to answer to too many people, and I don't think she was going to succumb to his whims.

ZAHN: And in the year 2000, there was yet another high profile relationship, this time with actor Nicolas Cage.

CASTRO: When things were good, they were really good as she said and when they were bad, they were really, really bad.

ZAHN: There's was a tumultuous pairing from the get go, dating on an off for two years, they married on August 10th, 2002. Just three months later, Cage filed for divorce.

GARY HOVEY: I think they should have dated but you know, who am I? I'm just, you know, an uncle. It was a wonderful wedding, though.

ZAHN: And in April, 2003, with three husbands and 35 years behind her, Lisa Marie Presley finally faced her legacy. Long awaited, highly anticipated aptly called "To Whom It May Concern." One gold record and two years later, Elvis's one and only returns with her latest, "Now What?" and although the dreaded personal questions persist --

PRESLEY: Every time I wear a ring on my left finger, I'm engaged.

ZAHN: No one can deny after years of living in the shadow of her famous father, the king of rock and roll's daughter has finally come into her own.

PRESLEY: I want to affect people as I've been affected through music. I just want my own fingerprint.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Welcome back to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS. Tim McGraw is country's leading man. With a string of platinum albums, Grammys and budding movie career, the down home hunk has shot to superstardom, oh and then there's his marriage to fellow country sensation, Faith Hill. For McGraw it's all a million miles from the back roads of Louisiana, from a childhood of poverty and family secrets.

REBA MCINTYRE: He looks so confident on stage. You're like, was that choreographed or is he just that damned good? He's just that good! I'm just lucky, you know, lucky. What else could I want?

TIM MCGRAW: I'm just lucky, just lucky (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

ZAHN: What else could country great Tim McGraw need? He sold 30 million albums, taken home countless music awards and earned a reputation for going where most country artists dare not. When he teamed up with rap star Nelly in the new hit ballad "Over and Over," McGraw proved he could cross over into the pop world without alienating his country fans.

MCGRAW: I believe that's my job is as a story teller. That's what I do. If I can find a great story to tell, I'm going to tell it.

ZAHN: It could be McGraw's own story, a love story with country's other hottest star that has reinforced his popularity.

FAITH HILL: This is my husband, Tim McGraw.

ZAHN: Tim McGraw and Faith Hill have become one of country's most celebrated couples. When the rugged cowboy and glamorous cover girl performed together and then married in '96, both of their careers soared. And there's another story about Tim McGraw that's put him in the spotlight, a personal story involving a famous name that stirs up memories of childhood pain and confusion.

Tim McGraw grew up in rural northeast Louisiana in the swampy town of Start, a cotton farming community about 200 miles from Baton Rouge.

SANDY HOWARD, SISTER: A little country store and the gin and a caution light is all that's there. There's no red light or anything.

When he was, gosh, I think he was about a month old there.

ZAHN: Samuel Timothy Smith, nicknamed Timmy, was born May 1st, 1967. He lived in Start for most of his childhood with younger sisters Tracy and Sandy. Early on, money and jobs were scarce for his mom, Betty, a waitress, and dad Boris, a part-time trucker. The poverty-stricken family moved 13 times when Tim was a kid.

BETTY TRIMBLE, MOTHER: Some of these places we lived I'd fix them up and make them home but you could even see the dirt on the ground through the floors.

HOWARD: I'd answer the phone and there's this bill collector on the other line and mom's going, "I'm not here." At times I knew that it was hard for her.

ZAHN: At an early age, Tim excelled in music and sports. He dreamed of one day becoming a ball player. One of the players he idolized pitching great Tug McGraw.

MCGRAW: I had a baseball card of him with like three other guys on my wall.

ZAHN: Eleven-year-old Tim was at the home when he got the shock of a lifetime.

MCGRAW: And found this box and I opened it up and sure enough, there was a birth certificate that McGraw under my last name. It was like a joke. You just didn't register.

TRIMBLE: He's sitting on the bed and he's as white as the sheet. I said Tim, are you all right? He said I need to ask you something. And I said what? He said is Horace Smith my daddy. And I just teared up just like I just did.

ZAHN: Tim's mom revealed that in 1966 she had a summer romance with the baseball pitching great. At the time he played in the minors for the Jacksonville Suns. The relationship didn't last but she was pregnant. She contacted McGraw but never asked for child support.

TRIMBLE: He was a famous baseball player, and it come out and hurt his career in any way, I didn't want to do that.

ZAHN: Tug McGraw went on to play for the Mets and the Phillies. He became the highest paid relief pitcher in professional baseball.

TRIMBLE: He said, you think I ever get to meet him? And I said, son, I don't know. You know, he knows about you. He knows where I'm at. But so far he's chose not to have anything to do with you.

ZAHN: Tim did meet McGraw briefly when he was 11 but the two did not become close.

MCGRAW: I mean he had a life. You know, he had his kids, who were young and you know, I'm sure it was tough on him to try to figure out what am I going to do here? I mean, you know, not that, not to diminish the responsibility at all.

ZAHN: But he did ask his dad to pay for his college education and McGraw eventually agreed. Tim began using his real last name and spending more time with the dad he hardly knew.

MCGRAW: You know, we've become more, almost like an older/younger brother, me being the older brother and he being the younger brother really, is what it's come down to.

ZAHN: When we return, the country duet that sent sparks flying, hearts breaking and tongues wagging.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: In 1985, Tim went on to attend Northeast Louisiana University in Monroe, 15 miles from home. He thought about studying law, but school soon took second fiddle to music.

MCGRAW: In college one summer I went and got a guitar from a pawn shop, like 20 bucks. And I watched CMT, believe it or not and "Hee- Haw" and see where their fingers were on the chords or the songs and play the guitar and then listening to the radio. By the end of the summer, I had like a 50-song repertoire. ZAHN: In 1989, he dropped out of college and took a chance in music city. He hit Nashville's local club circuit, found a backup band calls the Dance Hall Doctors. In 1992 his cool style and his famous last name got him a meeting at a record company. Within a year, McGraw landed a record contract, but his self-titled debut album sank into oblivion. Luckily he got another shot.

The ballad "Don't Take the Girl," from his second album, put McGraw on the country map. But it was another single, the politically incorrect Indian outlaw that set McGraw into the big leagues. McGraw received heavy criticism from some who found the song offensive to Native Americans.

But the controversy only boosted McGraw's popularity. The song became his first number one hit and the album, country's biggest seller of 1994. McGraw progressed from a struggling club act to a headliner almost overnight and the hits kept coming.

The country anthem "I Like It, I Love It" flew to the top of the charts. But soon Tim's love life would sizzle more than his music. After the release of his popular third album, McGraw went on tour, opening up for him, rising country star Faith Hill.

Hill had some hits like "Piece of My Heart" but was barely known in the pop world.

MCGRAW: I knew the first Time I spent five minutes with her that I was done for. I also knew that she was way out of my league, too, so I had a big ladder to climb there.

ZAHN: But that wasn't his only challenge. Faith was already taken. At the time, Hill was engaged to a successful Nashville record producer and she'd been married once before, but the spontaneous combustion tour would live up to its name. The sparks between Tim and Faith flew.

MCGRAW: I tried to just keep my head turned and just stay away. I remember my road manager, I told him "I need to see Faith for a minute." And she came in and I just grabbed her and kissed her.

ZAHN: A relationship developed. By the end of their tour, Hill had broken off her engagement. McGraw popped the question back stage.

HILL: I got so angry at him, what, you're asking me? I just came off the stage. This is crazy in a trailer. I realized that he was serious, so my response, I wrote my answer on his dressing mirror in a Sharpy and said yes, I will marry you.

ZAHN: The couple married in the end of '96. Since then their careers have exploded. McGraw became country's male artist of the year with songs like "It's Your Love" and Hill's popularity grows with hits like "This Kiss." And when they sang together hits like "Let's Make Love," their popularity soared.

In 1997, country's favorite duo started a family. They had daughter Gracie. Little Maggie followed in '98 and fourth years later another baby girl, Audrey. McGraw had become known as a doting dad.

TRIMBLE: When Gracie was born, it was like, as soon as she'd whimper, he'd run and get her. He'd change her diaper and Faith be fixing a bottle and he'd say, now, put it on your arm. Test it.

HOWARD: He'll play dress up. He'll play tea party with them if they want him to.

ZAHN: But McGraw's idyllic family life was tested. In 2003, his fame's dad, Ted McGraw was diagnosed with brain cancer.

MCGRAW: I flew down the next morning and initially when I met with the doctor, they'd said if nothing changed he'd probably have about three weeks left to live.

ZAHN: But Tim pursued other medical opinions and helped his father get better treatment. Tug had surgery and pulled through for eight months. But last year, the 59-year-old lost his battle with cancer. McGraw remained strong throughout the entire ordeal.

MCGRAW: You lay down it's over. No, you could but I don't think I have that in me. It's just I got a lot of spark from my mom's side and a lot of attitude from my dad's. I try to combine both of them.

ZAHN: Tim and Faith have made it clear that family comes before fame, even vowing not to be apart for more than three days at a time. McGraw says it's Hill's efficiency that makes touring a breeze.

MCGRAW: The toys, I mean, the baby food, she's got these plastic bins that are all labeled and stacked and neatly stacked with blankets in between them to make sure nothing breaks and I'm sitting there, throwing my stuff in the suitcase and trying to sit on it and shut it.

ZAHN: Hill's organization means a little down time on the road. McGraw usually works in a game of basketball before his shows but his more impressive moves have been off the court.

ZAHN: In 2005 he took home two Grammys for "Live Like You Were Dying," a tribute to his father. But for one of country's greatest success stories, it's not the music that makes the fairytale ending.

MCGRAW: I've got three princesses at home and my wife, four girls, beautiful girls that just adore me, so I got it made. I can't imagine having it any better way.

ZAHN: This year, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, country's favorite couple, will celebrate their ninth wedding anniversary. That's it for this edition of PEOPLE IN THE NEWS. Please be sure to join us every weeknight at 8:00 p.m. Eastern for more people profiles. Hope to see you then.

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