Kris Kristofferson & Willie Nelson perform at Bluebird Cafe, share NSAI honors

 —  January 27, 2013 — 12 Comments

In one respect, Sunday’s early show at the Bluebird Cafe was par for the course. A pair of country singers, songwriters and friends picked up guitars and shared the tiny stage to trade off on tunes they had written.

There was one huge difference, of course: Those songs included “Crazy,” “Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down” and “Funny How Time Slips Away,” because the performers were Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson.

The country legends made a rare appearance at the Nashville songwriters’ haven as each received a brand-new honor from the Nashville Songwriters Association International: Kristofferson is the namesake of the association’s new lifetime achievement award, and selected Nelson to be its inaugural recipient.

As the pair took the stage, Kristofferson said Nelson had been his and the “serious songwriters’” hero since he first came to Nashville in 1960s.

“He’s unlike anybody else, because he is one of the best songwriters who ever wrote in any language. He’s absolutely a unique singer who doesn’t sound like anybody else ever…He’s probably the funniest human being I’ve ever known. Sometimes, I try to envision who God might be, and he always comes out looking like Willie.”

“I’m really proud to be giving you this,” he told Nelson. “I’m embarrassed that my face and my name is on it.”

“We can take that right off,” Nelson replied dryly, as the packed house of friends and admirers laughed. “I thought I was coming here tonight to give you an award, so I had a great speech all lined up. It couldn’t match what you just said.”

Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson talk on Nelson's tour bus (photo: Dipti Vaidya/The Tennessean)

Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson talk on Nelson’s tour bus (photo: Dipti Vaidya/The Tennessean)

After their performance, the pair went from swapping songs to cracking each other up with stories on Nelson’s tour bus — parked next to Kristofferson’s behind the Bluebird. Kristofferson remembered Nelson visiting him in Mexico on the set of the 1973 film “Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid,” where Nelson picked up a guitar and made a powerful impression on one of Kristofferson’s co-stars.

Bob Dylan was so knocked out that he made him keep playing,” Kristofferson said. “I think you played all day there by yourself (laughs), just sitting there on (director) Sam Peckinpah’s floor. Dylan was just amazed. It made me respect Dylan, too. But he’s always been a songwriter’s hero.”

Nelson remembered when Kristofferson first came on the scene in Nashville, as “a shock to a lot of people in the so-called hardcore country tradition.”

“First of all, you got popular in the coffee shops with all the young hippies back in those days, and that was hard to digest in a lot of parts of the country. But as they learned more and more about him, they realized that he’s writing songs about us, ‘Help Me Make It Through The Night.’ It didn’t take them long to realize that this guy was the real deal.”

“I rip him off every chance I get,” Nelson joked. “If he comes up with a good melody, or a good line, look for mine (in) the next song.”

Asked if the pair were able to perform together often enough, Nelson replied. “It’s kind of rare, unfortunately, because we enjoy doing it.”

“I never see anybody else…” added Kristofferson. “But every time we get together, it’s amazing.”

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12 responses to Kris Kristofferson & Willie Nelson perform at Bluebird Cafe, share NSAI honors

  1. Thank you both for all the years of wonderful music, I unfortunately have never gotten to see the 2 of you together. I grew up around the honky tonks, beaches and back allys where your music was played and i always sang along, again thank you for doing what you do.
    Mark D. and Vicky R Taylor

  2. Christine Gibson January 29, 2013 at 3:21 AM

    Congrats on your Kristofferson Lifetime Achievement Award. Very well deserved. Love you both!

  3. Did willie ever write songs with Oliver Fontaine

  4. I hope you return to Arlington Music Hall in Arlington Tx. I was out of town when you played there 11-29-12. Would love to see you & Kris K at that venue. Hope you come back!

  5. Finally achieved #2 on my bucket list at your GeorgiaTheatre concert in Athens,Ga. I was in the 2 nd row of a standup crowd and really appreciated Willie’s musical genius. Being able to see Willie & his son, Lucas play together was an unexpected treat.
    Wishing you many years of good health.

  6. Love you both. I am scheduled to see Willie in Jacksonville in two days! Yeah! Then going to see Mary Poppins with Kris in it in March. Now that ought to be different but I am getting desperate to see Kris. Can’t wait!

  7. I just want to Thank You both for the songs , the music , and for staying true to your who you are !!! Keep on doing what God wants you to !!!

  8. There are no 2 greater people on earth that Kris and Willie… love them both so much.

  9. There are no 2 greater people on earth that Kris and Willie… love them both so much. xoxxox

  10. Two of my very favorites, together have I died and gone to heaven. I can’t get enough of your music. Real country is hard to find these days. The American Art that is surely fading away. Thank you for your years of entertainment and influence in country music. PS Saw Willie in Tallahassee on my birthday ,Luke sounds a lot like you.

  11. Happy 4th 5th etc etc etc….due to a heart attack i missed a wish on my bucket list you were 4&5 on people i would love to meet.I`ve got to say age looks great on yall and great writers.If yall ever make it to New Orleans shoot me out an e`mail.Thank you both for keeping me feeling alive…peace to you &your families.

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