Some stories told about celebrities end up as legends. They go down in history as fact even when the details are debated. One such story about Kris Kristofferson involves a military helicopter landing in another music legend’s yard.
Kris Kristofferson came from a military family
Kris Kristofferson is known now for his contribution to 20th-century music, but he also has quite the family background of military service, according to Aviation Geek Club. Military service in his family dates back to his grandfather’s service as an officer in the Royal Swedish Army.
Kristofferson’s father was a Major General in the USAF, and his brother became a Naval Aviator. Kristofferson also became a Rhodes Scholar and a Ranger in the United States Army. He also became an Army Aviator and flew helicopters in Germany.
Kristofferson would resign from the Army despite being offered a position at West Point as a Literature Instructor. Choosing to leave the military would estrange Kristofferson from his family, but he continued on the path to follow his dreams. He took his love of literature and used it to influence culture through music.
Kristofferson moved to Nashville to pursue music. He also kept a job with Petroleum Helicopters International in Louisiana as a helicopter pilot. He’d work around the oil rigs for a week and then return to Nashville to work on music.
Kristofferson landed a helicopter in Johnny Cash’s yard
Kris Kristofferson knew he needed to get his music in the hands of the right person if he were to have a chance at being successful. This was going to take a pretty creative plan, and Kristofferson was ready to deliver.
Details vary, but the general story remains the same overall.
Kristofferson once told a friend that he was fired from his job as an oil rig helicopter pilot. He returned to Nashville and got a job as a janitor at Columbia Records. He ran into Johnny Cash one day and handed him a tape to listen to. However, Cash threw the tape into the trash.
Kristofferson did not give up. He took a U.S. Army UH-1H Huey, flew it to Cash’s house, and landed in his front yard. Cash’s wife, June Carter, ran out and said, “Sweet Jesus, they come to us up the road and now they are coming to us out of the sky.”
Cash was quite upset by the event and ordered Kristofferson to leave his property. Kristofferson refused to leave until Cash listened to one song. Cash agreed and listened to “Sunday Morning Coming Down.” The recording impressed him enough that he wanted to record it. It later became ‘Song of the Year’ from the Country Music Association (CMA).
What was that helicopter that Kristofferson flew in Cash’s yard, again? It was the UH-1H Iroquois “Huey”. According to Vietnam Helicopters, it was the most common utility helicopter in Vietnam. It was primarily used for troop carrying instead of fighting. It performed countless missions of troop insertions and extractions, medical evacuations, and helicopter crew recoveries. The Huey drastically increased survival rates in the war thanks to decreasing the time from battle wounds to hospitalization to hours instead of days in previous wars.
Johnny Cash also had a connection to aviation
Like Kris Kristofferson, Johnny Cash also had a close connection to aviation. He served in the U.S. Air Force as an enlisted Signal Intelligence Specialist. He even has the distinction of being one of the first people in NATO to hear of the death of Joseph Stalin.
Cash’s nephew, Roy “Outlaw” Cash, was the first Radar Intercept Officer to transition to the front seat of an F-4 Phantom as a Naval Aviator. He also was responsible for the first East Coast MiG kill. He was flying a VF-33 at the time.
Additionally, Cash would become somewhat of a spiritual mentor to Randy “Duke” Cunningham. He was America’s first Vietnam War Naval Aviator Ace. He struggled to handle celebrity status after returning home, and Cash helped him through it all.