Kris Kristofferson is a country music hero, penning some of the genre’s most memorable songs including “Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down” and “Me and Bobby McGee.” But long before he was on the path to stardom and writing hits with Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings, he had very humble beginnings: Working as a janitor.
Following his graduation as a Rhodes Scholar with a degree in English literature, Kristofferson joined the U.S. Army as a captain in the 1960s. At the conclusion of his tour of duty, Kristofferson was expected to return to West Point to teach English, but with dreams of stardom running through his head, the outlaw hung up his uniform and chased his dream all the way down to Nashville.
Like many country stars, fame and fortune didn’t come quick for Kristofferson. So he had to take a job as a janitor at Columbia Recording Studios, a frequent stop for June Carter and Cash.
Kristofferson tried to slip his demos to Cash but ultimately they ended up in a pile never to be heard. In an attempt to force him to listen, Kristofferson tapped into his army skills and landed a helicopter in Cash’s front yard to personally deliver his music, which Cash proceeded to listen to and eventually record. Legend has it that Kristofferson stepped out of the helicopter with the recordings in one hand and a beer in the other, a story that Kristofferson continues to deny.
That moment went on to launch Kristofferson’s career as both a performer and a songwriter earning him a whole slew of No. 1 singles in both departments. His musical journey lead him to being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame, winning quite a few ACM and CMA Awards and joining country super-group The Highwaymen with Cash, Nelson and Jennings. And in his spare time he decided to tap into acting where he won a Golden Globe for best male actor in A Star is Born.
Today we celebrate the country music legend on his 81st birthday and hope for another 81 years from the outlaw.