Story Behind the Song: Kris Kristofferson, ‘Me and Bobby McGee’
Fred Foster has spent his entire life in the music industry. Since starting out working for Mercury Records and ABC-Paramount Records, Foster has worn many hats; he formed his own record label, Monument Records, and produced some of the biggest acts in country music, including Ray Stevens, Larry Gatlin, Roy Orbison, Billy Joe Shaver and Kris Kristofferson.
Foster also became a hit songwriter, joining Kristofferson in penning one of the biggest hits of Kristofferson's career, "Me and Bobby McGee." The song, which also became a Top 15 hit for Roger Miller and a No. 1 hit for Janis Joplin, has been recorded by more than two dozen artists, including Olivia Newton-John, Kenny Rogers, Waylon Jennings, Loretta Lynn, Johnny Cash and Chet Atkins, among others.
Recently, the Country Music Hall of Fame member took time to recount the day that he was inspired to write the hit single.
Boudleaux Bryant, the great writer, had built a building out in Hendersonville, [Tenn.], and I worked in a little office that was way too small. So he built this three-story building, and we were starting to get bigger and have more employees, and he said, "Why don't you rent some of my building?" I said, "Okay."
He changed secretaries; he hired a new secretary. He introduced me to her -- Barbara something ... His office was right under mine. I didn't call him on the phone, I just trotted down the steps.
One day, I went down about the fourth or fifth time. He said, "I don't think you're coming to see me. I think you're coming to see Bobby." I said, "What are you talking about? Who's Bobby?" He said, "You know, Barbara. Bobby. Bobby McKee." I said, "Oh, yeah, have you heard about me and Bobby McKee?" And it just flashed. I said, "I'll see you later," and I ran back up the steps.
Kris said he was having trouble writing anything; he was afraid his well was going dry. I said, "Don't be ridiculous." ... I told him the title and the idea, and he said, "Well, let's see what I can do." And he went down in the Gulf, doing the last job he had with the oil company, where he flew the workers to the offshore rig and helicoptered them out. He headed back, and he got to Baton Rouge, [La.], and hit a terrible storm, and I guess the windshield wipers [were] slapping time.
He brought it back, and I played it for Bobby, and she couldn't believe it.