AUSTIN, Texas – Country music legend Willie Nelson helped unveil a statue honoring him in downtown Austin by singing his new song “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die” on Friday, a date long reserved to celebrate marijuana use.

The faint smell of marijuana smoke wafted through a crowd of about 2,000 people as Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell accepted the privately funded statue as a gift from a private arts group.

Organizers said they didn’t intentionally choose April 20 for the event, but once they found out, they scheduled the unveiling at 4:20 p.m. as a tongue-in-cheek reference to Nelson’s openness about his marijuana use and advocacy for its legalization.

The statue stands in front of the Moody Theater, where the Austin City Limits Studio is now located. Nelson, a 10-time Grammy Award winner who has sold more than 40 million copies of his 150 albums, appeared on the first episode of the public television show in 1974.

“He is the man who more than any other made Austin the live music capital of the world,” Leffingwell said.

Nelson was born in Abbott, a tiny town about 120 miles north of Austin, but he has lived in Texas’ capital city since 1971.

Longtime friend and fellow singer-songwriter Kris Kristofferson congratulated Nelson, saying he couldn’t have imagined the city honoring Nelson during the early days of what became known as the Cosmic Cowboy movement in music.

Nelson’s career was built on not conforming to country music norms. He fused country music with jazz and rock in the early 1970s to create the “outlaw country” movement and helped give Austin a reputation as a music city. His first major hit came when Patsy Cline recorded his song “Crazy” in 1961.

The monument shows Nelson in a relaxed, standing pose and holding his guitar to the side as if in conversation. Philadelphia sculptor Clete Shields said the leaning pose and heroic scale are intended to show Nelson’s openness and whimsical side while honoring his tremendous influence on music and the city.

“We wanted to get a timeless Willie, an ageless Willie,” Shields said.

‘American Idol’ winner gets Las Vegas show

LAS VEGAS – “American Idol” Season 5 winner Taylor Hicks is getting his own short-term show in Las Vegas.

Casino officials announced the Alabama native will headline an eight-week show at Bally’s Las Vegas beginning June 26.

The singer’s show in Las Vegas is a return to where his winning run began in 2005. Hicks had been in New Orleans the night before Hurricane Katrina struck and was given a free airplane voucher when his flight was canceled.

He used the voucher to fly to Las Vegas, where he auditioned for “American Idol” and ultimately won over viewers with his renditions of southern soul, R&B, country and blues songs.

Nugent signs plea deal in bear killing

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Rocker Ted Nugent has pleaded guilty to transporting a black bear he illegally killed in southeast Alaska.

Nugent made the admission in signing a plea agreement with federal prosecutors that was filed Friday in U.S. District Court.

Calls seeking comment from Nugent, his Anchorage attorney, , Wayne Anthony Ross, and assistant U.S. Attorney Jack Schmidt were not immediately returned.

The plea agreement says Nugent illegally shot and killed the bear in May 2009 on Sukkwan Island, days after wounding a bear in a bow hunt, which counted toward a state seasonal limit of one bear.

According to the agreement, the hunt was filmed for his Outdoor Channel television show “Spirit of the Wild.” The document says Nugent knowingly possessed and transported the bear in misdemeanor violation of the Lacey Act.

Nugent also made headlines earlier this week when he met with the Secret Service to explain that he was just speaking figuratively when he made what some perceived to be threats against President Obama.

At a National Rifle Association meeting in St. Louis last weekend, He said he would be “dead or in jail by this time next year” if Obama is re-elected. That got the attention of the Secret Service.