"For a three hour session, you should get three songs."
Dylan, crouched over a piano and wearing sunglasses, wrote songs all night long while the studio musicians waited around, shooting pool and playing ping pong.
Kristofferson said. "Then about seven o'clock in the morning, he'd get them all in there and cut a masterpiece."
He was always impressed with Dylan, but it still must have made strange for him to go from emptying Dylan's wastepaper baskets to, a few years later, being asked to help him get a job.
Kristofferson was signed on to star in director Sam Peckinpah's "Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid." Dylan wanted to know if there was a part in there for him.
Kristofferson thought there was, but Peckinpah didn't really want him.
"Why don't we get Roger Miller?" Peckinpah told Krisofferson, before eventually agreeing to give Dylan a very small role in the film.
Dylan would also write songs for the film, but his relationship with Peckinpah got off to a rocky start.
Every day, at the end of filming, Peckinpah would review what had been shot. Sometimes members of the crew and cast would watch him. Kristofferson remembered Dylan's first day on the set and the review that followed.
"Sam was a little drunk, and one of the scenes was out of focus." Kristofferson laughed. "He got up on a chair and pissed on the screen -- on Bob's first take."
Then he looked back at Kristofferson as if to say, "What have you gotten me into?"
The movie worked out, more or less, and the music, Kristofferson said, was remarkable. Among the songs, Dylan wrote for the film was the classic "Knocking on Heaven's Door," recorded with musicians who Kristofferson said were members of his own band at the time.
He'd come a pretty far piece from being the guy who changed the paper towels.
Of course, even though he said he loved being a janitor at Columbia Studios, Kristofferson wasn't a janitor for very long. He signed a publishing deal and wrote songs in between flying helicopters (just like he'd done when he was stationed in Germany). He continued to fly even as his songs were getting picked up and recorded by artists like Roger Miller, Ray Stevens and Johnny Cash.
"My last paid job as a pilot, I think, was in 1969," he said. "I flew some band by helicopter. I don't even remember who they are anymore."
And just once, he took a helicopter out and flew to Johnny Cash's house.
"I almost landed on his roof," Kristofferson said. "Back in those days, his lawn came out over his roof. His house was on a cliff overlooking a lake."
But Cash wasn't home.
Instead, he gave a tape with his song to Cash's groundskeeper.
"John never even recorded it," Kristofferson laughed.
Reach Bill Lynch at ly...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.