Art&Seek presents This Week in Texas Music History. Every week, we’ll spotlight a different moment and the musician who made it. This week, Texas music scholar Gary Hartman honors a Texan who was a Rhodes scholar, a janitor and a helicopter pilot before becoming an award-winning songwriter and movie star.
You can also hear This Week in Texas Music History on Friday on KXT and Saturday on KERA radio. But subscribe to the podcast so you won’t miss an episode. And our thanks to KUT public radio in Austin for helping us bring this segment to you. And if you’re a music lover, be sure to check out Track by Track, the bi-weekly podcast from Paul Slavens, host of KERA radio’s 90.1 at Night.
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Kris Kristofferson was born in Brownsville, Texas, on June 22, 1936. In 1958, he won a Rhodes Scholarship to study at Oxford University in England. In 1965, he moved to Nashville to become a professional songwriter. As a janitor at Columbia Records, he managed to pitch his songs to other artists. He also spent time as a helicopter pilot in Louisiana, flying workers to and from oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. By the late 1960s, Roger Miller, Johnny Cash, Ray Price, Janis Joplin and others began scoring hits with such Kristofferson tunes as “Sunday Morning Coming Down,” “Help Me Make It Through the Night,” “For the Good Times” and “Me and Bobby McGee.” Kristofferson also is a successful actor, appearing in dozens of films with Bob Dylan, Barbara Streisand, Willie Nelson and others. In 1985, Kristofferson joined Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash to form the country super group, the Highwaymen.