MAGNET Exclusive: Premiere Of Kris Kristofferson’s “The Pilgrim” (Live At Gilley’s, 1981)

Kris Kristofferson was at a tipping point in September 1981. He was still feeling the effects of his divorce from Rita Coolidge in 1979, shaking off the 1980 cinematic disaster that was Heaven’s Gate and coming off a pair of albums (1979’s Shake Hands With The Devil and To The Bone, released in early 1981) that didn’t exactly set the world on fire. So you could say Kristofferson had something to prove when he took the stage on September 15 at Gilley’s, the large-than-life honky tonk immortalized in the 1980 film Urban Cowboy.

You feel that last-ditch energy on Live At Gilley’s—Pasadena, TX: September 15th, 1981 (New West), a recently unearthed 15-song document of the final date of Kristofferson’s 1981 tour, due out September 2. “Pilgrim” is among the classics given the rough-and-tumble treatment here by Kristofferson and his rock-solid backup band.

“Gilley’s could hold several thousand people, but the club was very intimate,” says the late Mickey Gilley in the liner notes, written three months before his death this past May. “You were right there on the stage with people all around you. We got some acts that made me think, ‘Are you kidding me?’ Kris Kristofferson was one of those artists that I didn’t think would want to play Gilley’s, because he was such a big name and a tremendous talent.” 

MAGNET is proud to premiere this live version of “Pilgrim.”