Kris Kristofferson had nothing left to lose when he became an overnight success in the country music world with this collection of rebel realism and street poetry. He had moved around growing up, but managed to win a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University, where he took up boxing and songwriting: "I wanted to be a creative artist. It was a kind of a blessed existence, you know. I'd gotten to be in college and gotten to play football and box and do the things I loved to do. And I think what Oxford did was, you know, rather than a liberal arts education where you have to study a lot of different things, I got to get really involved in William Blake and Shakespeare."
After a stint in the army as a helicopter pilot, he moved to Nashville where he performed a number of odd jobs while continuing to write songs: "The times that I wrote the most was back when I was writing with Shel. When I was flying helicopters out on the oil rigs because there wasn’t a hell of a lot to do. It was a great time. I had all these songs bubbling out of me. I’ve never been a disciplined songwriter. I’ve known a lot of people that I respected who were, but I could never write that way."
His songs began to be recorded by other artists and after an appearance at the Newport Folk Festival, he was signed to Monument Records. His debut album 'Kristofferson' was produced by Fred Foster at Monument Recording Studio with engineers Todd Parker and Tommy Strong and assistant Steve Mazur. The sessions featured Kris Kristofferson on guitar and vocals and string arrangements by Bergen White.
Kristofferson looks back: "Freedom is just another word: It seems to get truer the older I get. It makes me think about the time when my apartment got robbed and everything was gone and I was disowned by my family. I owed money to a hospital and I owed my wife five hundred a month for child support and I thought, 'I'm losing my job.' I hadn't any money, I hadn't anything going for me, but it was liberating. I was in this Evangeline Motel, like something out of Psycho, a filthy place, just sitting there with this neon Jesus outside the door, in the swamps outside of Lafayette, Louisiana, and I thought, 'Fuck. I'm on the bottom, can't go any lower' -- and from then on, man, I drove my car to the airport, left it there, and never went back to get it. Went to Nashville and called this friend of mine, Mickey Newberry, and told him I'd just got fired, and he said, 'Great. Johnny Cash is shooting a new TV show. Come up, and we can pitch him some songs' The next moment, they cut three of my songs, and they were hits. I never had to go back to work again."
'Kristofferson' went to number forty-three on the US pop album chart and ten on the US country album chart. That same year two of the songs from the album won Song of the Year awards. ‘For the Good Times’ (recorded by Ray Price) won the award from Academy of Country Music, while ‘Sunday Morning Coming Down’ (recorded by Johnny Cash) won it from the Country Music Association. This is the only time that a songwriter has won Song of Year from both organizations in the same year for different songs.
"Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down"
"Ah yeah, that song opened a lot of doors for me, and I was so proud to perform it with him on his show. I’ll also never forget the first time I had a song that won…Sunday Morning Coming Down won song of the year, and it was up against Merle Haggard and Marty Robbins and a bunch of people that I really respected. I didn’t have any idea that I’d win. I was sitting behind Merle Haggard in the audience and when they said I won, I kind of straightened up my head and hit the back of the pew that was there, because the seats in the Grand Ole Opry were like church pews. Anyways, Merle was in front of me and he turned around and said, 'Well, get on up there!' (laughs) I was just blown away how Merle was just as happy for me as I was."
"Me and Bobby McGee" became a postumous number one smash for Janis Joplin, leading the record company to rerelease 'Kristofferson' as 'Me and Bobby McGee'.
"Help Me Make It Through the Night"
"To Beat the Devil"
"For the Good Times"
All songs by Kris Kristofferson except as noted.
"Blame It on the Stones" (Kristofferson, John Wilkin) – 2:46
"To Beat the Devil" – 4:43
"Me and Bobby McGee" (Kristofferson, Fred Foster) – 4:23
"Best of All Possible Worlds" – 3:01
"Help Me Make It Through the Night" – 2:24
"The Law Is for Protection of the People" – 2:40
"Casey's Last Ride" – 3:37
"Just the Other Side of Nowhere" – 3:39
"Darby's Castle" – 3:19
"For the Good Times" – 3:25
"Duvalier's Dream" – 2:58
"Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down" – 4:34
"The Junkie and the Juicehead, Minus Me" – 3:24
"Shadows of Her Mind" – 3:13
"The Lady's Not for Sale" (Kristofferson, Carol Pugh) – 3:27
"Come Sundown" – 2:36