Kris Kristofferson actor, singer/songwriter, Rhodes Scholar and former helicopter pilot will perform at Mile One tonight
Before making it big as a singer/songwriter, Kris Kristofferson did whatever he needed to do to make ends meet.
He once worked as a commercial helicopter pilot, flying workers to and from oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico.
"I went to work for Petroleum Helicopters for almost two years," Kristofferson said during a recent telephone interview from his home in California.
"I flew to the offshore oil rigs a week at a time, and then I'd have a week off to go Nashville."
During his service with the U.S. Army, Capt. Kristofferson spent three years flying planes in Germany.
He left the military in 1965 intent on pursuing music and songwriting.
It was during his time flying offshore that he wrote such hits as "Help Me Make it Through the Night" and "Me and Bobby McGee."
"I did a lot of writing at that time. There was nothing else to do out there," he said.
A songwriter first, a singer second, the Rhodes Scholar from Brownsville, Texas, moved to Nashville after leaving the army and took a job as a janitor at Columbia Studios.
"I had a wife and daughter by that time and I wanted to do something which would at least have me in touch with the music business. It was a great learning experience for me to see all these different artists that used to come through there."
One of those artists was Johnny Cash.
"His new television show was just starting, and Mickey Newbury, a fellow songwriter and I, hung out at a hotel where they were all staying. We met all the stars that were coming in for the shows and we pitched each other's songs so we didn't have to be blowing our own horn."
Kristofferson's persistence paid off.
"Three people cut songs of mine: Roger Miller did 'Bobby McGee,' Sammi Smith did 'Help Me Make it Through the Night,' and Ray Price did 'For the Good Times.'
Cash also recorded "Sunday Morning Coming Down" and performed it on his television show, Kristofferson says.
"I never had to work for a living after that."
Now, three months shy of his 73rd birthday, Kristofferson answers interview questions in a relaxed, seductive voice.
He laughs when asked if he really did land a helicopter on Johnny Cash's lawn in order to get him a copy of "Sunday Morning Coming Down."
"I was already a friend of Johnny's by that time. He recorded in the same studio where I was cleaning up. But I did land there. I probably wanted to make an impression on him. ... He was my hero and inspiration," Kristofferson said.
Kristofferson began singing his own songs almost four decades ago.
"From the time I started performing in June of 1970, I was on the road all the time. I'm surprised I wasn't more daunted than I was, because I had no experience at all," he recalls.
"I was sort of learning on the job. And I don't think I've really quit working since then. But I don't think it's work when it's something you love."
By the mid-1980s, Kristofferson was performing around the world with Cash and other country music legends, like Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings.
The foursome called themselves the Highwaymen.
"If I had known when I went to Nashville that they would have been my friends and peers, I would have been pretty amazed," he said.
In addition to his status as a Country Music Hall of Famer, Kristofferson enjoyed a career in the movies, clinching lead roles in such classics as "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore" with Ellen Burstyn and "A Star is Born" with Barbara Streisand.
Kristofferson and his wife, Lisa Meyers, have been married for more than 25 years and they have five children. He has three other children from two previous marriages.
Kristofferson says that during his concert at Mile One Centre tonight, he'll perform some of his greatest hits and some of his more recent songs.
His latest album, "This Old Road," expresses his feelings about ideas such as love, war and gratitude.
"I didn't even know that was going to be an album," he said. "I was recording with (producer) Don Was. He was trying a new kind of recording with microphones all around you. I did songs that he suggested and in about an hour and a half we had the whole album done."
The song "Holy Creation" was inspired by his family, he said.
"The older I get, the more I appreciate how well my family get along. I've got eight kids and seven grandkids, and more grandkids every time I turn around. That's really a good part of my life and I feel lucky in that regard."
Kristofferson says he's looking forward to having Unicorn Promotions founder Leo Puddester in the audience tonight.
"The last time I was there, (two years ago), Leo was in hospital and I visited him there," he said.
"Hopefully, he'll be (at the show) this time."
Puddester was delighted when Kristofferson agreed to return to Newfoundland. While he's been bringing in Irish performers here for over a decade, Puddester's musical tastes aren't limited to any one genre.
"I grew up in the late 1960s and early 1970s to Kris Kristofferson's songs like 'The Silver Tongued Devil and I,'" Puddester says. "I was lucky to get him here. And he must have liked the way he was treated or he wouldn't be coming back."