Remember When: Willie Nelson Smoked a “Fat Austin Torpedo” Joint With Jimmy Carter’s Son on the Roof of the White House

When Jimmy Carter became the 39th president of the United States in 1977, it was during the zenith of outlaw country and Southern rock. Though Carter was drawn more to early rock, folk, and jazz earlier on in his life, during the late-’70s, the former president started connecting with the late Lynyrd Skynyrd singer Ronnie Van Zant, Bob DylanThe Allman Brothers BandEmmylou Harris, Crosby, Stills & Nash, and Waylon Jennings, among many others.

The former commander-in-chief also became lifelong friends with Willie Nelson, who ended up smoking pot with Carter’s son James Earl “Chip” Carter on the White House roof during one visit.

“When Willie Nelson wrote his autobiography, he confessed that he smoked pot in the White House, one night when he was spending the night with me,” s revealed Carter in the 2020 documentary Jimmy Carter, A Rock and Roll President, directed by Mary Wharton. “He said that his companion that shared the pot with him, was one of the servants at the White House. That was not exactly true. It actually was one of my sons, which he didn’t want to categorize as a pot-smoker like him.”

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“Fat Austin Torpedo”

A steward of a cannabis-driven lifestyle, Nelson has told his share of stories centered on weed throughout the decades from his 1978 duet with Waylon Jennings, “I Can Get Off On You,” “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die” with his other Highwaymen bandmate Kris Kristofferson, Snoop Dogg, and Jamey Johnson in 2012, and “It’s All Going to Pot” with Merle Haggard in 2015.

[RELATED: 3 Songs Willie Nelson Wrote About Weed]

None of this deterred President Carter, who grew to love Southern and country rock and made some close musical friendships during his presidency.

While visiting the White House on September 13, 1980, Nelson had a break during his performance and Chip Carter suggested they go to the roof. “In the break, I said, ‘Let’s go upstairs,'” recalled Chip in 2020.

American country singer Willie Nelson takes a drag off a joint while relaxing at his home in Texas, in the 2000s. A large amount of marijuana is spread out on the table before him (Photo by Liaison/Getty Images)

“We just kept going up ’til we got to the roof, where we leaned against the flagpole at the top of the place and lit one up,'” added Chip. “If you know Washington, the White House is the hub of the spokes—the way it was designed. Most of the avenues run into the White House. You could sit up and could see all the traffic coming right at you. It’s a nice place up there.”

In his 1988 memoir, Willie: An Autobiography, Nelson revealed that they smoked a “fat Austin torpedo” on the roof. “Sitting on the roof of the White House in Washington, D.C., late at night with a beer in one hand and a fat Austin Torpedo in the other,” wrote Nelson, “I drifted into a reflective mood.”

Nelson was somewhat coy about the experience during his appearance on Late Night with Conan O’Brien in 2008. “I hope that happened,” joked Nelson grinning. “I really hope I did that. That short-term [memory] stuff… .”

(EXCLUSIVE, Premium Rates Apply) ATLANTA – JULY 27: Willie Nelson is joined on stage by Former President Jimmy Carter who plays harmonica on “Georgia on My Mind.” (Photo by Rick Diamond/WireImagee)

The Musicians’ President

Musicians were drawn to Carter’s “spirituality and authenticity,” according to Peter Conlon, a former Carter staffer, who went on to found Music Midtown Festival in Georgia. “He’s deeply soulful and open-minded. He doesn’t judge people. Wouldn’t that be nice, in the current political environment?” 

[RELATED:  3 Music Moments That Turned Jimmy Carter Into the “Rock and Roll President”]

At the time, Carter also faced criticism for his new “friends” visiting the White House. “There are some people that didn’t like my being deeply involved with Willie Nelson and Bob Dylan and disreputable rock and rollers, but I didn’t care about that because I was doing what I really believed,” said Carter. “And the response from the followers of those musicians was much more influential than a few people that thought being associated with rock and roll and radical people was inappropriate for a president.”

Long after the ’70s, Carter and Nelson remained friends, and the former president joined him on stage many times throughout the years. In 1985 Carter joined Nelson’s on stage during a concert in his hometown of Plains, Georgia. Carter also played harmonica for Nelson during the filming of the 2004 CMT Homecoming: Jimmy Carter in Plains, along with other appearances through 2016.

Photo: Rick Diamond/WireImage

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