Actually I don’t want to…

cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo shared by Martin_Heigan

I enjoy sitting back and seeing how one small comment, remark, phrase sends by down a google lined wormhole of information (or pseudo-information). It’s not even from one link to another, it branches so much I cannot even try to diagram it.

Yesterday morning I was reading through my borrowed copy of Bob Dylan in America (I promise Charles, you will get it back. Sorry about the food smudges and coffee spills) (just kidding).

I was on the section describing the mad recording sessions for Blonde on Blonde

Crazy what happens when you search for images

Something clicked on the curiosity light when I read

What aloofness there was seems to come mainly from Dylan’s end. Kris Kristofferson, the an aspiring songwriter working as a janitor at the studio, recalls that police had been stationed outside the building to keep out unwanted intruders. Asked if he got to meet the star, he told an interviewer, emphatically, he did not: “I wouldn’t have dared talk to him. I’d have been fired.”

Wait a minute. I’d known Kristofferson mainly from seeing him in movies, but knew back of my mind he was a music writer in his own right, hung out with Johnny Cash and all– but he was pushing a broom, cleaning toilets, and emptying ash trays while this album was going down. How crazy is that?

This is something that fels worth tweeting as it seems to beg a response. So I did. And I got one:

@bonstewart‘s reply is perfect as a wormhole launch as it leads in two directions. Life and Times of Guy Terrifico looks like a movie worth tracking down, but I wanted to learn more about this reference to helicopters and Johnny Cash.

First stop the ‘pedia of everything, and under Music I see first confirmation (or is it just echo-ation) of the janitor story.

And then the line:

In a remarkable incident, Kristofferson grabbed Cash’s attention when he unexpectedly landed his helicopter in Cash’s yard and gave him some tapes

One sentence for what must be a full blown story. Well there is a footnote that points to a 2009 Rolling Stone news item– “Hawke, Ethan (2009-04-16). “The Last Outlaw Poet”. Rolling Stone (1076): 57. Retrieved 2009-05-23.” But sadly, the link is 404

Heeding the advice, I searched and came up dry though the results do bring up articles about Kris Kristofferson, like this one in which both articles hyperlinked are also 404ed.

Before we go further down the hole, let me ponder the mysteries why sites that had previous published web content, that bore inbound links, would dismantle the content? Removing content and breaking links tears at the fabric of the internet.

Ah, but there is always a resort, the Internet Archive Wayback Machine, which yields the news item that Rolling Stone has ripped off the walls:

Ethan Hawke’s opening story of back stage antics at Willie Nelson’s 70th birthday concert is an eyeful into the character of Kristofferson and not very flattering to one younger country star who made a poorly chosen passing remark to KK.

It is bad-ass.

“Don’t turn your back to me, boy,” Kristofferson shouted, not giving a shit that basically the entire music industry seemed to be flanking him.

The Star turned around: “I don’t want any problems, Kris “” I just want you to tone it down.”

“You ever worn your country’s uniform?” Kris asked rhetorically.


“Don’t ‘What?’ me, boy! You heard the question. You just don’t like the answer.” He paused just long enough to get a full chest of air. “I asked, ‘Have you ever served your country?’ The answer is, no, you have not. Have you ever killed another man? Huh? Have you ever taken another man’s life and then cashed the check your country gave you for doing it? No, you have not. So shut the fuck up!” I could feel his body pulsing with anger next to me. “You don’t know what the hell you are talking about!”

“Whatever,” the young Star muttered.

Ray Charles stood motionless. Willie Nelson looked at me and shrugged mischievously like a kid in the back of the classroom.

And it goes even further.

I begin to wonder– was Rolling Stone pressured to take this down? That is rather pointless as you can find numerous repostings elsewhere.

Rolling Stone does have an archive of its news items, you can even scroll it back to 1969 — man the Stone was early on the web!

The missing article was published April 7, 2009, at 1:30PM but there seems to be a Watergate-like missing gap on the archive

Missing story in Rolling Stone news items?

Then again, looking at the Wayback Machine’s listing of news stories of April 9, 2009, there were a lot more news stories on the original site that are in their archive, it looks like they saved the top 7 from this date (comparing to current archive).

Well, my ideas of a Rolling Stone censoring conspiracy is thin, what about the story?

Back to googling for Kris Kristofferson, Johnny Cash, and a helicopter.

An article in the Guardian just mentions the incident. A site called Contact Music tells the story (no mention of source of material), adding a quote, “I was lucky he didn’t shoot me out of the sky.”

Other sites refer to the story, citing it as part of the April 2009 Rolling Stone article, but it must have been in the print version, and the web version has less content than print (sigh). You find alleged stories that Kristofferson landed the helicopter with a beer in a hand, but his own interview discounts those stories- this interview form UNCUT magazine seems most informative of the ones I scanned:

Didn’t you gate-crash Cash’s house in a helicopter, demos in hand, in the late “˜60s?

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! But he was very encouraging to me. I know he carried the lyrics to “The Golden Idol” around in his wallet. He never recorded that one, though. For me, it was enough to feel like I was makin’ it.

I still think I was lucky he didn’t shoot me that day! I’d briefly joined the National Guard, just trying to make some extra money. So I had a helicopter I was able to fly at the weekend. 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.

And climbing out of the wormhole, I cannot explain why I went this far to chase down some star story. One thing is that getting to the “truth” is a lot of work, and like a Calculus limit, you may approach it and never touch the axis. That’s okay, but at the same time, you see a lot of scattered points on the graph.

I come away with some new respect for Kristofferson, who maybe I had characterized as the bearded movie star who wrote a few hit songs in the 1960s- back again to the missing Rolling Stone story:

Kris Kristofferson is cut from a thicker, more intricate cloth than most celebrities today: Imagine if Brad Pitt had also written a Number One single for someone like Amy Winehouse, was considered among the finest songwriters of his generation, had been a Rhodes scholar, a U.S. Army Airborne Ranger, a boxer, a professional helicopter pilot “” and was as politically outspoken as Sean Penn. That’s what a motherfuckin’ badass Kris Kristofferson was in 1979. And now if you go online and watch the video for his 2006 song “In the News,” it’s obvious he is still very much that man.

The son of an Air Force general, Kris walked to grade school barefoot in Brownsville, Texas. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Pomona College, studied William Blake and Shakespeare at Oxford, became a U.S. Army captain, was assigned to teach literature at West Point and then abruptly dropped out of the Army to become a songwriter.

I like that kind of dude.

Now maybe its time to go down that other wormhole….

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Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. This sort of stuff happens to me every day on the interwebz. Thank you for explaining how such a wormhole might work.

    And…I have always loved Kris Kristofferson (WAY more than Dylan). Now I have much better understanding of why! (…’cause I fell in wormhole of my own after reading this). ;-)

  2. “He’s a pilgrim and a preacher, and a problem when he’s stoned”

    One of my favorite lines showing the dichotomy of it all. The web can be tangled and and manic with lots of beauty and lots of problems.

    The Shel connection (tying into another favorite of mine, Dr. Hook) and just the great lyrics make his story pretty interesting. A good worm hole to fall into.

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