60s

Kris Kristofferson 1960s

Kris had shown a flair for writing fiction stories when he was still a scholar. The 60s would see him build on, and develop this early flair. 

Kris returned home for a study break from Oxford. Instead of returning to continue studying in the UK as planned, he married Fran Beir and joined the army. He became a pilot like his father and learned to fly helicopters.

Kris, Fran and their daughter moved to West Germany after Kris was assigned there. During his rise through the ranks to Captain, he spent his free time writing songs and playing music at service clubs. A friend of his suggested sending his songs to a relative he had in the music publishing scene, and Kris did just that. Marijohn Wilken, the music publisher, had founded Bighorn Music and liked what she heard. On being reassigned to West Point, Kris took some leave and met with Marijohn in Nashville.

He never did take up his position as an instructor at West Point. He moved his family to Nashville instead to see if he could make a living from his passion – Songwriting. Times were tough, and he supplemented his income with piece jobs within the music business and flying helicopters to and fro from the oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. The lifestyle took a toll on his marriage and the couple divorced after the birth of their son.

Dave Dudley recorded Vietnam Blues. It made the country Top Twenty in April ’66.

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Kris Kristofferson Vietnam Blues

I haven’t found this track on any cd, and I have read reports that say Kris has separated himself from this song. Things must always be considered in the frame of the times. Kris talks about his own feelings about the song here – He also performs it.

Kris Kristofferson – Speaking Freely. Vietnam Blues is about 7 mins in..

Kris signed with Epic as a recording artist but failed to chart with Golden Idol/Killing Time in ’67. Roy Drusky’s version of Jody and the Kid made the country top 40 in ’68 and Billy Walker and the Tennessee Walkers took From the Bottle to the Bottom onto the Country Top Twenty in ’69.

Kris moved to Columbine Music and collaborated with Fred Foster, but there were no breakthroughs until Roger Miller recorded Me and Bobby McGee. This attracted attention partly because of Miller’s previous hit with King of the Road, and Miller went on to record 2 more of Kris’ songs. Best of All Possible Worlds and Darby’s Castle both appear on Miller’s ’69 album release titled Roger Miller. McGee was released as a single in advance of the album and charted.  Kris was earning respect as a songwriter.

Alongside this, Johnny Cash was helping Kris to find his feet as a performer in his own right. Appearances on the Johnny Cash Show and at Newport provided the exposure he needed to showcase his talent. The ’60s ended with Ray Stevens taking Sunday Mornin’ Coming Down onto the pop and country charts, and Kris co-writing some songs with Silverstein. Faron Young took one of these songs to the Top 5, and Jerry Lee Lewis just missed the Top 20 with Once More with Feeling –  another Kristofferson/Silverstein song.

A delightful personal account of a meeting that Andrew Joyce had with Kris and John in 1968 can be found here. 

The stage was set for the ’70s. Fred Foster had established his indie label, Monument and Kris had built up a great catalogue of songs that he had written himself and with others. His day was about to dawn.

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