Interviews

Interview With Kinky Friedman “Nashville Does Not Want Country Outlaws Anymore”

 

At long last, Kinky Friedman’s second musical act begins. With the proclamation that here “is what music was, before it came homogenized, trivialized and sanitized,” Kinky is dropping his first all-new CD of original tunes in four decades. Called Circus of Life, it presents a side of Kinky that few would have suspected in the halcyon days of his Texas Jewboys, laying perhaps legit claim to the title “The Leonard Cohen of Texas.” On July 3, 2018, he will release it on his own terms and on his own Echo Hill Records.

A monster summer tour will follow in June, July, and August.  Yep, Kinky is finally doing it his way. Harking to his early years, he has chosen to ignore the Nashville ethos that all must be concertedly “radio friendly,” sweetened, and over-produced. What he and producer Brian Molnar have delivered is simply one of the most beautiful albums of this year or any other. The first single, “Autographs in the Rain (Song to Willie)” is already in heavy rotation on SiriusXM Outlaw Country, and there are at least four more top-shelf A sides.

Speaking of Molnar, he will be touring as Kinky’s opening act for most, if not all shows, promoting his new CD, Within Blue, also on the Echo Hill Records imprint.  Kinky and Brian have worked a number of tours together and now deliver a seamless performance, opener to headliner.

It started with a call from Willie (Nelson, of course), who asked Kinky what he was doing at that moment.  Kinky answered truthfully that he was watching Matlock, the old TV chestnut, to which Willie replied, “That is a sure sign of depression, Kinky. Turn Matlock off and start writing.”

Kinky did just that and started writing the songs he hadn’t written or even contemplated for decades, tunes like “Jesus in Pajamas,” “Me and My Guitar,” and “A Dog Named Freedom.” After writing several songs, Kinky called Willie to let him know how successful his advice had been.  When Kinky asked Willie how he was doing, Willie replied, “A little up, a little down. By the way Kinky, what channel is Matlock on?” The Circus of Life, by way of Matlock. Via Willie.

With Joe Cirotti on multiple instruments, and Mickey Raphael, Augie Meyers, original Jewboy Little Jewford, Clay Meyers, and Jim Beal providing amazing grace notes, not a single track on the album fails to reach its very high mark.  Kinky may “just have to stick with songwriting” after all. To verify this, he’s taking it on the road for one of the longest, most comprehensive tours of his storied career.  After flash mob-style appearances in Galveston, Houston and Nacogdoches, Texas, the Circus of Life Tour begins in earnest in Pittsburgh, and rumor has it that it will continue on forever.  Yes, the second act has begun.  May it never end.

It was Nelson who urged Friedman to fire up his songwriting engines once again. As the story goes, Nelson telephoned his friend one afternoon, while Friedman was watching an old Matlock rerun. “That is a sure sign of depression, Kinky,” Nelson said, while the show blared in the background. “Turn Matlock off and start writing.”

Friedman did as instructed, whipping up an album of dry wit and woozy beauty. The title track, which is premiering at Rolling Stone Country, walks a familiar line between tragedy and comedy, with Friedman likening a lovers’ doomed relationship to a Barnum & Bailey-worthy carnival. He gets by with a little help from his friends, too, including more than a few Texas.

“‘Circus of Life’ features Augie Meyers from Sir Douglas Quintet, Joe Cirotti and the incomparable Mickey Raphael on harmonica,” he says. “It is a song that was written mostly between the lines.”

 

 

Who else could have written a country song about the Holocaust (“Ride ‘Em Jewboy”), or about a human being kept in a cage as part of a circus (“Wild Man from Borneo”)? Outrageous and irreverent but nearly always thought-provoking, Kinky Friedman wrote and performed satirical country songs during the 1970s and has been hailed the Frank Zappa of country music. The son of a University of Texas professor who raised his children on the family ranch, Rio Duckworth, he was born Richard F. Friedman. He studied psychology at Texas and founded his first band while there. However, King Arthur & the Carrots — a group that poked fun at surf music — recorded only one single in 1966. After graduation, Friedman served three years in the Peace Corps; he was stationed in Borneo, where he was an agricultural extension worker.

Sold American

By 1971 he had founded his second band, Kinky Friedman & the Texas Jewboys. In keeping with the group’s satirical songs, each member had a deliberately politically incorrect name: they called themselves Little JewfordBig NigPanama Red, Rainbow Colors, and Snakebite JacobsFriedman got his break in 1973 thanks to Commander Cody, who contacted Vanguard Music on behalf of the acerbic young performer. That was the year he and his group made their debut album, Sold American, featuring John Hartford and Tompall Glaser. The title track, a bitter tale of a forgotten country singer dying an alcoholic death, barely made it onto the charts, but Friedman did attract enough attention to be invited to the Grand Ole Opry. In 1974, he recorded an eponymously titled album for ABC Records. Produced by Los Angeles pop helmsman Steve Barri, the album dissolved whatever pure country listenership Friedman might have had but delighted his growing core of fans with satirical pieces such as his response to anti-Semitism, “They Ain’t Making Jews Like Jesus Anymore.” Along with the satires, Friedman offered quieter sketches of American hard luck such as “Rapid City, South Dakota.” In the mid-’70s, Friedman and his band began touring with Bob Dylan & the Rolling Thunder Revue. In 1976 he made his third album, Lasso from El Paso, featuring Dylan and Eric ClaptonThe Texas Jewboys disbanded three years later, and Friedman moved to New York, where he often appeared at the Lone Star Cafe. In 1983, he released Under the Double Egofor Sunrise Records.

Old Testaments & New Revelations

After that, Friedman turned primarily toward writing, although he continued to make occasional nightclub appearances. He has written for Rolling Stone and Texas Monthly magazines and, most famously, has become a writer of unique and outrageous mystery novels such as Greenwich Killing Time, A Case of Lone Star, and The Mile High Club. Equal parts whimsy and metaphysics, the books blur fiction and reality. They feature a Jewish country singer turned Greenwich Village private eye named Kinky Friedman, who sometimes returns to his native Texas; other characters are drawn from Friedman‘s circle of friends in both New York and Texas. Many of Friedman‘s songs of the ’70s and early ’80s were collected on two CD compilations, Old Testaments & New Revelations (1994) and From One Good American to Another (1995). In 1999, the likes of Willie NelsonTom Waits, and Lyle Lovett covered Friedman‘s music on the tribute album Pearls in the Snow: The Songs of Kinky Friedman, and a second tribute volume was planned. In 2003 Friedman appeared in a nude, cigar-smoking triplicate on the cover of the Dallas Observer magazine, in a parody of the Dixie Chicks‘ nude Entertainment Weekly pose of that year. Vanguard released a 30th anniversary edition of Sold American (which included a couple of bonus tracks) in 2003. A previously unreleased 1973 live studio concert called Mayhem Aforethought appeared in June of 2005, followed by the compilation They Ain’t Making Jews Like Jesus Anymore later that October. An Austin City Limits appearance from 1975 that was deemed unfit to air finally saw the light of day thanks to New West Records’ 2007 release of Live from Austin, TX. In 2015, Friedman returned with his first proper studio album since 1976’s landmark Lasso From El Paso. Released by Avenue A Records, The Loneliest Man I Ever Met features a number of new originals, along with covers by Tom WaitsJohnny CashBob Dylan, and Willie Nelson, who also guest on the album.

Friedman formed his first band, King Arthur & the Carrots, while a student at the University of Texas at Austin. The band, which poked fun at surf music, recorded only one single in 1966 (“Schwinn 24/Beach Party Boo Boo”).

By 1971, Friedman had formed his second band, Kinky Friedman and The Texas Jewboys, which many took to be a play on the name of the famous band Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys. In keeping with the band’s satirical nature, each member had a comical name: in addition to Kinky there were Little Jewford, Big Nig, Panama Red, Wichita Culpepper, Sky Cap Adams, Rainbow Colours, and Snakebite Jacobs. More conventionally named roadie Jack Slaughter and road manager Dylan Ferrero rounded out the crew and provided most of the driving of the “tour bus”, a Cadillac with 10-year-old expired license plates and a propensity to break down (but, according to Friedman, her talent lay in her ability to stop on a dime and pick up the change).

Friedman’s father objected to the name of the band, calling it a “negative, hostile, peculiar thing”,[6] which gave Kinky even more reason to choose the name.

Arriving on the wave of country rock following on from Gram ParsonsThe Band, and the Eagles, Friedman originally found cult fame as a country and western singer. His break came in 1973 thanks to Commander Cody, who contacted Vanguard Music on his behalf. Friedman released Kinky Friedman in 1974 for ABC Records, then toured with Bob Dylan in 1975-6.[7] His repertoire mixed social commentary (“We Reserve the Right to Refuse Service to You”) and maudlin ballads (“Western Union Wire”) with raucous humor (such as “Get Your Biscuits in the Oven and Your Buns in Bed”). His “Ride ‘Em Jewboy” was an extended tribute to the victims of the Holocaust.

Some of his most famous numbers are “How Can I Tell You I Love You (When You’re Sitting On My Face)” and “They Ain’t Makin’ Jews Like Jesus Anymore,” a song in which Kinky verbally and physically beats up a drunken white racist who berates blacksJewsItaliansGreeks, and Sigma Nus in a bar.

Sample lyrics:

Oh, they ain’t makin’ Jews like Jesus anymore,
They ain’t makin’ carpenters that know what nails are for

Other Friedman tunes include “The Ballad of Charles Whitman,” in which Friedman lampooned Charles Whitman’s sniper attack from the University of Texas at Austin‘s Main Building tower on August 1, 1966. His cover of Chinga Chavin‘s “Asshole from El Paso“, a parody of Merle Haggard‘s “Okie from Muskogee” is, perhaps, his most famous song.

One of Friedman’s most infamous concerts was a 1973 performance in BuffaloNew York; upon performing “Get Your Biscuits in the Oven and Your Buns in the Bed” (a song that lampoons feminism), a group of what Friedman described as “cranked-up lesbians” entered into a fight with the band and forced the concert to end early while Friedman and the band were escorted off stage. The National Organization for Women awarded Friedman the “Male Chauvinist Pig Award” later that year, an award Friedman took with pride.

Kinky’s Website: http://www.kinkyfriedman.com

Kinky’s Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kinkyfriedmanofficial/ 

Kinky Friedman Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kinkyfriedmanofficial/

 

Tour Dates

July
Circus of Life Tour

Sunday, July 1

Club Cafe

w/Brian Molnar

56 South 12th St.

Pittsburgh, PA

412-431-4950

Tickets 

Monday, July 2

The Hungry Duck

819 E. Main St.

Roaring Spring, PA

814-205-2228

Tuesday, July 3

Nighttown

w/Brian Molnar

12383 Cedar Rd.

Cleveland, OH

216-795-0550

Wednesday, July 4

Nighttown

w/Brian Molnar

12383 Cedar Rd.

Cleveland, OH

216-795-0550

Thursday, July 5

Woodlands Tavern

w/Brian Molnar

1200 W. 3rd Avenue

Columbus, OH

614-299-4987
Tickets

Friday, July 6

Buffalo Ironworks

w/Brian Molnar

49 Illinois St.

Buffalo, NY
Tickets

Saturday, July 7

Daryl’s House Club 

130 NY-22

Pawling, NY  12564

845-289-0185

Sunday, July 8

The City Winery

w/Brian Molnar

155 Varick Street

New York, NY

212-608-0555

Monday, July 9

The City Winery

w/Brian Molnar

1350 Okie St. NE

Washington, DC  20002
Tickets

Tuesday, July 10

Monty Hall

w/Brian Molnar

43 Montgomery St.

Jersey City, NJ

Tickets

Wednesday, July 11

The Narrows

w/Brian Molnar

16 Anawan Street

Fall River, MA

508-324-1926

Thursday, July 12

Bridge Street Live

w/Brian Molnar

41 Bridge St.

Collinsville, CT

860-693-9762

Friday July 13

Club Passim

w/Brian Molnar

47 Palmer St.

Cambridge, MA

617-492-5300

Saturday, July 14

Roy’s Hall

w/Brian Molnar

30 Main Street

Blairstown, NJ

908-362-1399

Sunday, July 15

Cafe Nine

w/Brian Molnar

250 State St.

New Haven, CT

203-789-8281

Monday, July 16

Sellersville Theater

w/Brian Molnar

24 W. Temple Ave.

Sellersville, PA

215-257-5808

Tuesday, July 17

Rams Head On Stage

w/Brian Molnar

33 West St.

Annapolis, MD

410-268-4545

Thursday, July 19

Bearsville Theater 

291 Tinker St.

Woodstock, NY

845-679-4406

Friday, July 20

Caffe Lena

w/Brian Molnar

47 Phila St.

Saratoga Springs, NY

518-583-0022

Saturday, July 21

Live At Drew’s House

w/Brian Molnar

246 Cupshaw Drive

Ringwood, NJ  07456

Sunday, July 22

The Turning Point

w/Brian Molnar

468 Piermont Ave.

Piermont, NY

845-536-0964

Sunday, July 29

Period Modern

4347 McCullough Ave.

San Antonio, TX

210-902-1217

Monday, July 30

Poor David’s Pub

1313 South Lamar

Dallas, TX
214-565-1295
Tickets

Tuesday, July 31

The Blue Door 

2805 N McKinley Ave

Oklahoma City, OK
405-524-0738

August
Circus of Life Tour

Wednesday, Aug 1

Oklahoma Jazz Hall Of Fame

111 East First Street

Tulsa, OK

Thursday, Aug 2

Knuckleheads

The Gospel Lounge

2715 Rochester St.

Kansas City, MO

816-483-1456

Friday, Aug 3

Byron’s

112 S. Main Street

Pomeroy, IA  50575

712-468-2372

Saturday, Aug 4

Kiki’s House Of Righteous Music

(House Concert)

1326 MacArthur Road

Madison, WI  53714

righteousmusicmanagement@gmail.com

Doors 7pm / Show 8pm

Sunday, Aug 5

SPACE

1245 Chicago Ave

Evanston, IL (Chicago) 60202

847-492-8860

Monday, Aug 6

Shank Hall   

1434 N Farwell Ave

Milwaukee, WI

414-332-3061
Tickets

Tuesday, Aug 7

Turf Club  

1601 University Ave
St. Paul, MN  55104

651-647-0486

Thursday, Aug 9

Off Broadway

3509 Lemp Avenue

St. Louis, MO

314-498-6989

Saturday, Aug 11

Hi-Dive

7 South Broadway

Denver, CO  80209

(303) 733-0230