Home > In the Spotlight > That’s One Way to Get Noticed: a Young Kristofferson Lands a Helicopter on Johnny Cash’s Lawn

That’s One Way to Get Noticed: a Young Kristofferson Lands a Helicopter on Johnny Cash’s Lawn

October 13, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

by Cat Johnson

Yesterday in the store we were watching a DVD of the Johnny Cash Show, a variety show that ran from 1969-1971 and was taped at the Ryman Theatre in Nashville. During one of the segments, Cash was introducing Kris Kristofferson and said something to the effect of, “He landed a helicopter in my yard and said, ‘Now will you listen to my songs?'”

The story cracked me up and I wanted to find out more, so I did. And in case you’d like to know too, this is how it went down.

Kristofferson’s dad was an Air Force general who pushed his son, a Rhodes scholar, into the military. Kris, who grew up listening to Hank Williams and Johnny Cash, joined the Army and became a captain and helicopter pilot. His decision to leave the Army and pursue a career as a songwriter caused his family to disown him.

He took a job sweeping music studio floors in Nashville, where he met Cash. Cash took demos of a few of Kristofferson’s songs but never listened to them. But Kristofferson, who was set on becoming a professional musician, was not so easily dismissed. Borrowing a helicopter that he used for his work with the National Guard, he took it to Cash’s house, landed in the yard, and did indeed say, “Now will you listen to my songs?”

In an interview with Uncut, Kristofferson expanded on the story.

“I suppose the helicopter thing was a little desperate, but you have to realise that I’d known John for a while anyway. I was his janitor at Columbia Records for nearly two years, where I’d try and pass him every song I ever wrote. I used to give [Cash guitarist] Luther Perkins or June Carter my tapes, so I wouldn’t get fired. He never cut any of ‘em, though. In fact, he told me later that he threw them in the lake!…I still think I was lucky he didn’t shoot me that day!…The story about me getting off the helicopter with a tape in one hand and a beer in the other isn’t true. Y’know, John had a very creative imagination. I’ve never flown with a beer in my life. Believe me, you need two hands to fly those things.”

Now we know. And by the way, the Johnny Cash Show DVDs are amazing. Check them out if you get a chance.

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