Apparently, Kinky Friedman has too much time on his hands.
Whether he is penning a new book, performing satirical country music or running for the governorship of Texas, Kinky Friedman seems to have plenty to do to keep himself busy. But, as if that were not enough, this holiday season he is adding a two week tour to his personal "To-Do" list.
Tonight in Fort Worth, Texas, the legendary Kinky Friedman will embark on a journey that will take him through 14 cities in 15 days. It's his Hanukkah Tour, which he has dubbed The Jewish Troubadour Strikes Again.. On Tuesday, December 6th, the tour will make a stop in Des Moines, Iowa.
If you are not familiar with Kinky Friedman, then perhaps you have been living under a rock. One doesn't have to go to far to see his presence in America's society, whether he is offering guest commentary on the Ed Shultz show on CNBC, or talking about the problems with the two party system with Neil Cavuto show on Fox News. His poignant unabashed opinions make for great TV, and he is one of the few personalities that can find himself welcome on any news station, despite it's political allegiance.
If the evening news or politics are not your thing, then perhaps you have seen his books on the library shelf (he has authored over 25 titles and is working on more) or seen his albums in your father's record collection. He has released over a dozen recordings during his career, including his latest, Live From Austin Texas, which is an audio recording of the infamous 1976 Austin City Limits concert - a show that, until now had never been released. This performance is the only one in the rich history of the concert series that was recorded but never aired on television. It sat in the archives until 2007 when it was released by New West Records. It seems to be the end of the line, as far as new albums by Kinky Friedman go. He says that he hasn't written a new song in 25 years.
He has written books though... Several of them. While most have been fictitious detective novels depicting a fictionalized version of himself, he has also written a travelogue, an etiquette guide and a one-time monthly column in Texas Monthly magazine. (This column was suspended in March 2005 during Kinky's unsuccessful bid for the Governorship of Texas, and reintroduced as a bi-weekly feature in 2008.) He has just wrapped up a book project with Billy Bob Thornton and is preparing to author a new publication with Willie Nelson.
While Kinky tackles almost everything with satirical humor, he takes politics very seriously. He is a champion for the small guy and is very unhappy with the state of the political sphere in the United States. As an independent running for Governor of Texas in 2006, he received less than 13 percent of the popular votes, but played a huge part in altering the outcome for the Democratic nominee, Chris Bell. Republican Rick Perry won with 39 percent of the popular vote. As Kinky said to me, "When I ran for Governor of Texas, I won that race every place except Texas." Despite not winning, Mr. Friedman managed to acquire over half a million votes throughout the state. Not bad for a Texas Independent.
On Tuesday next week he will bring his show to Des Moines to the Vaudeville Mews. You can find ticket information here, along with other dates and venues on the tour. A couple of weeks ago Kinky allowed me to interview him via telephone from his ranch near Kerrville, Texas. I asked him about each of his careers, and gathered his thoughts on the current music and political scenes. He was very cordial in our conversation, and seemed genuinely interested in my own thoughts as he gave me his. Hanging up the phone, I felt like I had just chatted with an old friend.
As I said, a champion for the little guy...
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When was the last time you were in Des Moines?
I don't think I have ever been in Des Moines, but it's conceivable.
Okay... (With laughter)
Because I have forgotten the first half of my life.
Why is that?
Well I don't know why. I probably repressed it.
I know the feeling.
Yes, but this is very nice cause I really don't know anybody there, and I think the best shows I do are for strangers.
Well very good... I am definitely going to be there. I am looking forward to it.
Well great, Troy. there's one I know.
Are you still writing new music?
Troy, what is this for? Internet, or a newspaper?
Yes... It's internet. It's for a webzine... A web magazine.
Ok. I haven't written any music in 25 years. The songs are older than many people in the audience. But they seem to have really gotten around in the oral folk tradition so a lot of the songs the audience seems to know. It's not as if they don't. This is true of Australia where I've just done a bunch of shows in June. And, very interesting audiences there... You know, when somethings funny, they laugh. They don't look around first to see if it's ok.
And they cry if something is sad. I think our culture's kind of out of sync, we're kinda like autistic children... You know if somebody falls down in the street and hurts themselves they laugh cause they don't know that the person may really be hurt.
So at any rate, songs like "They Ain't Making Jews Like Jesus Anymore" is popular. Um... More than popular. It's kind of an anthem against bigotry. We live in such a politically correct world now. I think political correctness has finally done us in.
I mean, if a young Richard Pryor walked up to us today, we could not make him a big star. I mean a main-stream star.
That's a good observation.
Yeah, same true with George Carlin or Lenny Bruce... or Mel Brooks. If you and I had a hundred million bucks, or a a couple hundred million, we could not get the movie Blazing Saddles made today. So it amounts to a giant cultural step backwards and that's why I think "They Ain't Making Jews Like Jesus Anymore" is important. But you know there are a lot of songs... Well "Old Ben Lucas Had A Lot of Mucous," I wrote that when I was 11.
And that is still a very well known song. "I Wanna Get Your Biscuits in the Oven and Your Buns in the Bed," "Sold American," so forth. I will also do a reading from the latest book, "Heroes of a Texas Childhood" and we will have that book available for signing after the show. I'll sign anything but bad legislation. We will talk some politics, and I'll answer any question I can of a political, or a sociological, or of a sexual nature.
Very good sir. Will this be a solo show?
Yes. It's the Jewish Troubadour Strikes Again.
|Photo by Nicole Weingart (Used with permission)|
Very good. You mentioned your latest book. Is that book by chance the book you have just written with Billy Bob Thornton?
No. That one we're just... We're just editing that one now. It's done.
But it wont be out 'til next year.
How was it that the two of you were able to pair up and work on a book together?
Well, I don't know. We started talking about the idea, and it seemed like a good one. I didn't write this book, I kind of produced it, so it's Billy's book essentially. So, I dealt with the agents, the management, the editors, and went to L.A. and Billy read the thing in his studio at night. I mean he like dictated it... Talked it.
And I asked him some questions and stuff and guided him through certain areas. But most of it is him talking which has quite remarkable results. Falls somewhere between... Well it;s like sitting down and having a very friendly conversation with Charles Bukowski. And of course he does have the word Fucking in about every single sentence.
We will clean it up a little bit without sanitizing it and yeah. I think it's going to be very interesting. Of course now Billy believes that the audience has become the show. That there will be no more heroes, because of the internet and so forth. Everybody thinks that they are a film critic, and everybody's a star. He doesn't think that there's gonna be another John Lennon or John Wayne... Or anybody named John coming along anytime soon.
And I think he is probably right.
Yeah. That's an interesting point for sure.
Well he points out when people ask him... An interviewer asked him 'What do you think of the song writers today?'... If you tell the truth, you get in trouble.
I mean the truth is, they suck!
I mean, not that there's not some young people that are writing good songs today, but if you look at country music, they've got these corporate whore houses in Nashville where three people sit down for a song writing appointment or whatever it is, at a certain hour, and they try to write something. And down the hall there are three more, and three more and so on.
And the past few decades they have produced almost nothing. Everything is derivative. And think about what Willie Nelson, and Roger Miller and Kris Kristofferson were able to write about in that same little town in a period of time when all of them were broke and fucked up and cross addicted to just about everything on the planet. And look what they were able to write! And today, nobody seems to be able to write "Hello Walls." Or "Me and Bobby McGee".
I agree with you 100 percent.
Now why would that be, Troy? Was everybody born too late? It's over? I mean... I'll give you one more piece of this puzzle, If you and I want to see something inspiring, see something that really touches us, we have to go and see a geezer.
We got to go see a Kristofferson, or a Merle Haggard or a Levon Helm. Billy Joe Shaver. Willie... Bob Dylan... Somebody in their '70s.
I mean, I couldn't take you to see a young band in Texas that you would think was really great or was going to be great. You see some that are good... But I don't know why that would be. But I think that it's true.
Well, you hit the nail on the head. The last big show we saw was Bob Dylan.
It's uncanny. Even if Bob sucks at the show, he is still great!
Yes! It was fantastic.
Yeah... I don't know what it indicates. I don't know if the pendulum is swinging, you know phases and stages... I asked Willie the same thing last week, why the hell is it that there's not a young person? There are successful people... Billy Bob says that if you're successful today... Real successful, you turn into a product like Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber. Even if they have a lot of talent, nobody cares. they are a product.
Amy Winehouse was our last artist.
So you either got to die... Or be a geezer.
Yeah. Very interesting. I wonder if the problem begins with mass production. I mean, what they play on the radio sucks, but yet somehow it appeals to the masses, and they just keep pushing out more and more, and it's quantity over quality, and it's just like society is dumbed down without realizing it.
Well it is amazing and of course you can see parallels in Hollywood and in Washington.
So what we're trying to do here is a real show. Kind of in the Woody Guthrie spirit. It's been great to have done a few of these solo shows and they're terrific, and I really enjoy doing them. We're also going to have a little bit of high tech stuff there. I'm not high tech of course.
I think an audio book or something that we've just done. And then some kind of Kinky-Nano thing that holds a couple hundred songs.
A little deal that we have. It's a very interesting audience. And Des Moines will be REALLY interesting because these are real people... It's not a place where I know a lot of people.
Well very good. I know I am looking forward to it. Aren't you and Willie Nelson writing a book together?
Yes we are. But it's been the longest negotiation period in the history of literary endeavor. It's taken about a year, but we are definitely doing it by this week.
It's called The Trouble Maker.
The Trouble Maker. Great name.
It's kind of about people who get into trouble. Well, like Willie says, as a child his greatest talent was getting into trouble and getting out of it. But this is about people like Socrates and Jesus and Hank Williams Jr.
I look forward to being up in Iowa. A friend of mine, Will Hoover, used to write for the Des Moines Register back when you were jumping rope in a school yard, Troy.
Is he still alive?
Yes. He lives in Hawaii.
Oh I see. He's not around anymore.
No. Well, he's around... There.
But he's not around Des Moines.
Not around Des Moines. He was a song writer in Nashville. That's where I met Hoover. We've been friends for many decades and I've always had a fondness for Iowa through stories that Hoover has told me.
It's beautiful. I am sure you will like it. Des Moines is a neat little town. I think you will enjoy the people here. Some of the friendliest in the world. I am really sure you will enjoy your time in Des Moines.
Great. I look forward to it. I think it's going to be really good because... Well like I said. I haven't written a song in 25 years. With this audience it's kind of like rotating the crop I guess. The audiences change.
|Photo by Brian Kanof (Used with permission)|
So on your tour you are doing 14 cities in 15 days. Do you have a plan for maintaining that?
Well it's kind of a certain regiment I am trying to keep. I think there's a point of not taking a day off. Keep in mind that Willie smokes a joint the size of a large kosher salami and he never forgets a lyric.
And a guy like me is doing other things like politics and writing, and so forth. And I have a new tequila company coming out in January, which is Kinky Friedman's "Man in Black" Tequila.
Oh man... Sounds great.
Which salutes Zorro, Paladin and Johnny Cash.
It's great Mexican mouthwash. The best. So Man in Black Tequila is happening. And yeah. I'm saying that coming off of the road like this... Or getting back on the road... I mean. Well Willie plays a couple of hundred shows a year, and I don't do anything like that. But yeah. 15 shows in a row, doing it solo, with no road management or nothing there. It's got a good feel. It's a bit like Townes Van Zandt or Woody Guthrie or something like that. I kind of like it. It's monastic. It's lonely in a way, and the only people that you meet are who you meet at the shows, you know?
So it should be good. I'm sure it will be my two favorite words in the English language, which is "Sold Out."
Yeah. I hope it is too. I really do. Des Moines is a weird little town when it comes to live music. I think any agent that books bands through Des Moines will tell you... On a Monday night it might sell out to a mediocre band, and then on a Thursday a great band will come through and nobody will show up for it. I honestly think you will pull in some people. There's a big base of music fans my age and older who will put out for it, I think.
Well yeah. The problem I've got is that my audience is very fractured. There's a whole lot of them that are political. You know when I ran for Governor of Texas, I won that race every place except Texas.
So people know about that and there's people that know the music and there's people that know the books.
There's a literary component there. When I do a reading from "Heroes From a Texas Childhood" it will be like a Mark Twain moment. People don't do that much anymore.
Wow. I'm really looking forward to it. It's going to be a fun night.
It's going to be a good night. But Troy... That's great. I'll answer some questions from the crowd but it's mostly music.
Can you tell me about the infamous 1975 taping at the Austin City Limits that never got aired?
Well, yeah. It seemed pretty normal to me. They said "Do your show. Do your basic show and we will edit it." Instead of editing it, they made it look like I was Lenny Bruce or something. So that's the only show that they never aired. But I guess New West Records reissued it. It's available now as a CD and it's pretty tame, I think. By today's standards.
Isn't that something.
Yeah. I don't think it's outrageous.
What a reversal, because in 1975, it certainly was not a politically correct time.
And now it is, and it's not even considered vulgar.
I wonder if this is connected. I wonder if the political correctness or the tome of the times has anything to do with the fact that so little creation is coming out of it.
I'd say it's absolutely connected.
I mean it's all connected, I'm sure. Isn't that something? I mean that in Hollywood... I mean if you are waiting for a good movie to come out of Hollywood, you can just forget it? It's not going to happen. And if you are waiting for Obama to turn into Winston Churchill, you will wait for the rest of your life. It's never going to happen.
None of these guys are going to do that. They're ALL perpetually behind the curve. And that saddens me. You know because I am an Independent, but I was a Democrat. I grew up as one. And to see the Democrats go from Harry Truman to Harry Reid is really a fall.
I mean, think of what they used to be... They used to be like the Tea Party. That's true. Now they spend their whole time calling Bill Clinton or Kinky Friedman a racist. Mark Twain, or the Tea Party. That's what they spend their time doing, and whereas Truman made these great courageous unpopular decisions you know. Dropping the bomb at Hiroshima, firing the most popular general in the world, you know these were big deals, and he stood by them.
You can't imagine Obama doing anything like that.
No, or any of them... It's like they are all controlled by the same puppeteer.
It seems that way. Yes. So that's my definition of politics. "Poli" means more than one, and "Tics" are blood sucking parasites.
What do you think of the Occupy Wall Street crowd?
Well there's a note in there that I like. There's something in there. I think Bill Clinton is right on that one too. I think they got to come up with some idea. Like force all the corporations to come back to America. Or something like that.
They have to have something specific that they are for and not just that they are against all this shit.
Being against stuff doesn't really get you anywhere. So yeah. I think it's confused at this time. I'm not sure it amounts to much. Of course there was Woodstock. It was a confusion... With Wavy Gravy and all that. And I think it went on to become something. It went on to shepherd in a real era of creation.
That's just it. Sometimes that's all it takes. Just one big idea to shift the cosmos.
Yeah. And as Ben Stein says all they are doing is beating on drums and defecating on the ground.
And leave their feces on the ground. That's it. That's what they are able to do.
And they are pissing off the wrong people.
Well, it's funny that the wrong people always do everything in this country. I mean the wrong people take care of their health fanatically, the ones that don't need to. The wrong people, the ones who already live a pretty clean life are the ones who are obsessed with religious tracts, or things like that.
The people who need to be doing things, don't. People who need to see a certain movie don't see it. Or read a certain book, one that might help them. People that need to diet don't care. They don't. So anyway... I might be wheeled in on a gurney by the time I get to Des Moines.
We'll see how that goes. We are going to turn on the juice and cut the damn thing loose. It's going to be a very good night.
Sounds great, Kinky. Can I give you one more question? Just a hypothetical one?
You are friends with Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Lets say that you are going to Mardi Gras this next February, and you had to pick one of these two guys to go with you, which one would you choose, and why?
Well, I'd take Bill, because he leads with his heart. He's a complete "gut instinct" person I think. Has a great native sensitivity, sometimes that gets him in trouble. In fact, that's the source of all his problems, or most of them. But it's served him well, too. And I think he'd be more fun. I have hung out with Bill before in Australia after he got out of the presidency. That was great. And not that George isn't... George is a lot faster and funnier than people think. I don't know how people got that impression of him. I guess he is uncomfortable on television, and during interviews, and he seems very stiff, and whatever it is he seems. It's not who he really is. He is really fast and quirky. But that didn't translate at all, did it?
I'll take your word for it, Kinky.
But now of course we got Rick Perry. I'll tell you what. These are strange times in Texas. All the blonds and the Aggies are telling Rick Perry jokes now.
And I of course have it in my Last Will and Testament that when I die, I am to be cremated and my ashes are to be thrown into Rick Perry's hair.
Troy, can I give you some advice that Willie gave me before I got into the Governor's race?
He said to me, "Kinky, if you ever have sex with an animal, always make it a horse. Because that way if things do not work out, at least you've got a ride home."
That advice has served me well.
Great advice from a guy who's advice I would certainly consider. Very good sir. Thank you so much for your time. I certainly appreciate it.
Well Troy, find what you like and let it kill you.
Love it. When you are in Des Moines, I will definitely stop you and say hi.
Cool. We'll hang out.
Looking forward to it.
Well Troy, thanks for your help with the show, and lets make it a great financial pleasure for the Kinkster if we can.
Well I hope that this article will help to sell some tickets.
Ok. We'll see you soon.