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"I didn't think songwriting was something worthy of devoting your life to until I went to Nashville after I'd been in the army," he says.
He contemplates writing a novel, but is also caught up in the excitement of rock'n'roll's arrival in Britain, which prompts him to write songs and fashion himself as a performer.An overachiever, he excels at both English and sports.In 1954 he attends Pomona College, a prestigious California liberal arts institution, where word of his athletic prowess reaches the pages of Sports Illustrated.Although the single flops, Kristofferson remains undeterred."I think I would have probably drunk myself to death if I hadn't got into something creative," he says. It seemed at the time to my parents and my peers that I'd lost my mind. But it was so exciting to me even though it was hard on my family." Kristofferson's songs start catching on in 1968 after Roy Drusky has a Top 30 hit with "Jody and the Kid." Over the next year, many others including Jerry Lee Lewis, Faron Young, and Roger Miller reach the country charts with Kristofferson compositions.He encounters impresario Larry Parnes, manager of first-wave British rockers Marty Wilde and Billy Fury, who immediately sees the potential in exploiting Kristofferson's background.
Parnes signs him to Top Rank Records and persuades him to record under the name Kris Carson.
He composes his first ditty at age 11, although it won't be heard until over 60 years later as a hidden track on Closer To The Bone.
"I was still living down in Brownsville," he says today. It was just an attempt to write the opposite of a love song." The family settles in San Mateo, California by the time Kris enters high school.
His desire to become a songwriter is sufficiently stoked by the time of his honourable discharge in 1965 that Kristofferson turns down a teaching position at West Point in favour of testing his abilities in Nashville.
His connection is friend John Buck Wilkin's relative, Marijohn Wilkin, best known for co-writing "Long Black Veil," originally a hit for Lefty Frizzell.
But he's never abandoned music, the only avenue that has allowed him the freedom to express the full range of emotions he feels for a country and culture he loves dearly, but often openly challenges.