Kinky Friedman (photo: courtesy of Conqueroo)
Kinky Friedman (photo: courtesy of Conqueroo)

Texas country singer, novelist, humorist, cigar peddler and former gubernatorial candidate Richard S. “Kinky” Friedman hasn’t written a new song in at least 20 years. But such tunes as “The Ballard of Charles Whitman” (the Texas tower sniper), “Ride ‘Em Jewboy” and his cover of Chinga Chavin’s “A**hole from El Paso” have brought him a cult following that extends as far away as Europe.

“This European tour we did last year was really something,” Friedman, 65, said by phone from his Texas ranch. “It was all sold out and we went to seven different countries. And the audiences were very young and they knew every lyric and they’d read every book.

“The songs are really older than most of the people in the audience. . . . I’m pleased they’ve held up so well over time.”

Friedman, a Chicago native who grew up in central Texas with parents who founded a children’s camp, rose to fame in the 1970s, along with a lot of other “outlaw country” musicians. His outrageous (and to some, offensive) songs and eccentric stage persona made fans of Bob Dylan, Don Imus, Robin Williams and John Belushi.

The Kinkster, as he is known to friends, toured with Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue and appeared on the first season of “Saturday Night Live.” An “Austin City Limits” performance was never aired because the content was deemed offensive, but the taping is available in limited edition on DVD.

When Friedman played the Grand Ole Opry in the early ’70s, the Rev. Jimmy Rodgers Snow (the son of country star Hank Snow) introduced him “as the first full-blooded Jew” to appear on the Opry stage.

Friedman returns to the West Coast in late July for the first time in nearly 20 years, on a tour dubbed “The Go West Young Kinky Tour.” The tour includes a show at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday (July 27) at the Triple Door. Bob Malone opens. Tickets are $30.

“I think politics derailed me — and writing the books,” he said. “Twenty-nine books I’ve turned out, all beautifully crafted. That’s an index of an empty life.”

Backing Friedman is an original member of the Texas Jewboys, Little Jewford (“He’s a Jew and he drives a Ford,” Friedman explained); and Washington Ratso, whom Friedman described as “a Lebanese fellow that I met on the gangplank of Noah’s Ark.”

“I’ve known him for 35 years,” Friedman said of the latter. “We consider ourselves the last true hope for peace in the Middle East.”

During the show, Friedman will do a reading from his book, “Heroes of a Texas Childhood,” which will be available for purchase after the show, along with copies of “The Kinky File” (a limited edition) and a selection of trademark Friedman cigars suitable for chomping.

Friedman will cheerfully sign “anything but bad legislation.” The value of hanging out after a show to sign autographs and meet with fans is something he learned from pal Willie Nelson.

“Sign stuff for everybody for as long as they want. As long as they want to stay, I’ll stay,” he said.

Friedman’s next book will be a collaboration with actor Billy Bob Thornton, whom Friedman describes as “a really eccentric individual living right there in Beverly Hills.”

“I think it’s really going to be fun and provocative and interesting,” Friedman said. “He’s one of those few actors I think that’s really intelligent and has an idea of who he is, not just where he wants his career to go, but where the culture’s going. That makes him interesting.”

Friedman, Thornton and singer-songwriter Billy Joe Shaver are planning a tour of Australia in December.

Friedman is a complex individual with a robust sense of humor and fertile imagination. His life has been shaped by his unusual upbringing, Texas politics and culture, and the zaniness of the ’70s music scene in Austin. He jokes about “the curse of being multi-talented.”

Friedman was an infant when his parents moved to Texas to found the Echo Hill Ranch in Kerrville, Texas.

“I couldn’t find work,” he quipped.

Growing up in Texas was an amazing experience for a young Jewish boy.

“It was a real eye-opener, meeting real cowboys,” he said. “And there wasn’t any discrimination against the Jews because everybody was busy picking on the Mexicans. So I kind of skated through that.”

After graduating from Austin High School, Friedman earned a BA in psychology at the University of Texas, where Chinga Chavin gave him the nickname “Kinky” because of his kinky hair.

After college, Friedman served in the Peace Corps and taught in Malaysia. Today, he lives at Echo Hill Ranch, where he founded Utopia Animal Rescue Ranch, committed to saving animals from euthanasia.

Next fall, the “Bridges to Utopia” program will brings underprivileged, inner-city kids, as well as those with cancer, to the ranch “to walk the dogs, go fishing and feed the horses.”

A prolific writer, Friedman has produced columns for the New York Times, Texas Monthly and Playboy. He has also been a commentator on the cable TV networks.

He worries about the homogenization of America.

“Political correctness has finally done us in,” he said. “Today, if Mel Brooks were trying to make ‘Blazing Saddles,’ I don’t think he could do it.”

Hoping to follow the celebrity-turned-politician careers of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jesse Ventura and Ronald Reagan, Friedman launched a serious campaign for Texas governor in 2006, but was soundly defeated.

He has a dim view of politics and politicians. One of his books is titled “You Can Lead a Politician to Water, But You Can’t Make Him Think: Ten Commandments for Texas Politics.”

” ‘Poli’ means more than one, and ticks are blood-sucking parasites,” he said in a bemused tone.

“They’re all the same. They’re as corrupt as they could be. Politics is the only field in which the more experience you have the worse you get. In anything else, you get better.

“As I said during the campaign, if musicians ran this world instead of politicians, we wouldn’t get a hell of a lot done in the morning. But we’d work late and we’d be honest.”

Friedman frets that the Democratic party has lost its “moral clarity.”

“I never expected much of Republicans, but now the Democrats and the Republicans seem to have become the same guy admiring himself in the mirror,” he said. “And it is George Washington’s worst nightmare — a government totally void of common sense.”

Friedman jokes that his last will and testament will include a special request.

“When I die, I’m going to be cremated and my ashes are to be thrown in (Texas Gov.) Rick Perry’s hair,” he said.

“Everywhere I go, I meet young people who say they want to volunteer to help me with that. They’re either trying to hurry me to the grave or they feel the same way I do.”

Friedman’s “Go West” tour will be short but grueling — 16 shows in 16 days.

“They may be wheeling me out in a gurney before it’s over,” he said.

Watch a video of Kinky singing “They Ain’t Making Jews Like Jesus Anymore” here.

Are you planning to see Kinky Friedman perform at the Triple Door? Let me know what you think in the comments section below.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This story was published by GeneStout.com.)

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