This time Kristofferson awarded Nelson with the first Kris Kristofferson Award, the Nashville Songwriters Association International’s new lifetime achievement award. Then the two played together Sunday night at The Bluebird Cafe.
“I really thought I was there giving you an award,” Nelson joked with Kristofferson afterward during an interview on Nelson’s bus. “I had a great speech. Next time.”
The pair teamed on hits like “Crazy” and “Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down” as Jamey Johnson looked on from a corner and producer Fred Foster watched from a stage-side table during an invitation-only gathering at the venue known as a songwriter’s showcase.
The 76-year-old Kristofferson joked he was embarrassed the NSAI named the award after him. He’s a founding member of the songwriter’s organization and like the 79-year-old Nelson a member of its hall of fame.
“If I had seen what’s happening right now before right now I would’ve thought I was dreaming because when I came to Nashville, Nashville was the most exciting place for a creative artist to be,” Kristofferson told the crowd. “And the people I hung around with were serious songwriters who were totally unselfish, and their hero and my hero was a guy that nobody else knew. It was Willie Nelson. He’s unlike anybody else.”