Most people know the lyrics that start “Busted flat in Baton Rouge” from Janis Joplin’s version of the song “Me and Bobby McGee,” released soon after her death, which topped the U.S. singles chart in 1971.
Less well-known is the story behind the song, written by Kris Kristofferson, including who the real “Bobby McGee” is.
A new report by the AP recounts much of the story, revealing that it was inspired by a woman named Barbara McKee, who was a 29-year-old secretary to legendary Nashville songwriter Boudleaux Bryant back in 1969. McKee, who went by the nickname Bobbie, now has the last name Eden. (No, she’s not THAT Barbara Eden.)
The song idea arose out of some teasing between Bryant and producer Fred Foster, who is set to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame on Sunday along with Charlie Daniels and Randy Travis. Apparently Foster was making frequent visits to Bryant’s office, where McKee just happened to be working.
Foster recalls: “So I ran down about the fourth or fifth time this particular day and Boudleaux says, ‘I don’t think you’re coming to see me at all. I think you’re coming to see Bobbie.'”
Eden added: “It seemed like he liked to tease me a little bit and one day he said, ‘I am going to write a song about me and Bobbie McKee.”
Foster had the title, but turned over the bulk of the writing to an aspiring songwriter, Kristofferson.
“In 1969, Foster called up Kristofferson with the song title idea with the hook that Bobby was a woman,” the AP reports. “Kristofferson apparently took his own liberties, changing McKee to McGee, and invented a road song story about a pair of travelers who drifted apart. In Joplin’s version, she switched the genders and made Bobby a man.”
There’s more to the story — we encourage readers to click on the link to the AP story near the top of this report.
Meanwhile, here’s a poignant rendition of the song by Kristofferson …