Showing posts with label Kinky Friedman. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Kinky Friedman. Show all posts

06 December 2012

Michael Simmons : I Was a Texas Jewboy!

Left to right: Larry Campbell, Michael Simmons, Jim Rider, and Kinky Friedman at the Lone Star Roadhouse, New York City, 1989. Photo by Cleveland Storrs.

Move over, Kinky:
I was a Texas Jewboy!
The Kinkster blew my still-growing mind and helped make me the disrespectful malcontent I am today.
By Michael Simmons / The Rag Blog / December 6, 2012

My first live sighting of Richard “Kinky” “Big Dick” Friedman was at Max’s Kansas City in New York in 1973. He was headlining Upstairs at Max’s with his band the Texas Jewboys and I was an 18-year old hometown Jewish country singer who revered both Hank Williams and Lenny Bruce. The Kinkster blew my still-growing mind and helped make me the disrespectful malcontent I am today.

Kinky practiced the freest of free speech, the kind guaranteed in the Constitution but relatively unused, particularly here in the 21st Century. He’s always insisted on telling the truth no matter how many people he pisses off.

Kinky’s songs satirized racism (“We Reserve The Right To Refuse Service To You”), serial-killing Boy Scout/Marines (“The Ballad Of Charles Whitman”), rednecks (“Asshole From El Paso”), religion (“They Ain’t Makin’ Jews Like Jesus Anymore”), and male chauvinism (“Get Your Biscuits In The Ovens And Your Buns In The Bed”). That proto-politically correct feminists failed to see the wit in the latter wasn’t Kinky’s fault and there were some ugly incidents including the storming of the stage in Buffalo, New York, where band and leader fled for their lives.

But Kink could also do poignant like nobody’s bidness in “Sold American,” ostensibly about a washed-up country star, but really about greed-American style, and “Ride ‘Em Jewboy,” a heartbreaking meditation on the Holocaust from his viewpoint as a Hebe from Kerrville, Texas. There’s a damn good reason the Kinkster is one of Bob Dylan’s favorite songwriters.

His tagline onstage was “Thank you for being an American!” Damn, he made this little hippie patriotic! I knew that night at Max’s that one of my goals in life was to be a Texas Jewboy. Me and my band Slewfoot were soon a popular act on the Northeastern country circuit, a crew of Yankee headnecks adept at Western Swing with a cannabinoided baditude.

In 1977 Slewfoot open-nighted a new honky-tonk on Fifth Avenue called the Lone Star Café where Kinky began regularly gigging, eventually settling in NYC. We were introduced and broke bread with a spoonful of irving. (Irving Berlin wrote “White Christmas” ...you do the math.) The Texas Jewboy invited me to sit in and I simply never left the stage. It wasn’t a stretch -- I knew all the songs!

The original Texas Jewboys had recently scattered and Kinky’s new band included, among others, Sweet Mary Hattersley on fiddle, Corky Laing (from Mountain) alternating with Howie Wyeth (Rolling Thunder Revue) on drums, Sredni Vollmer on harp, and a killer lead/pedal steel guitarist named Larry Campbell. Larry was bandleader, would later tour over six years with Dylan and became the late Levon Helm’s ringleader.

I played rhythm and, with mandolinist Jim Rider, sidekicked with the Kinkster, singing harmonies and staging semi-elaborate dance routines. Although technically we weren’t the original Jewboys -- names like the Entire Polish Army and the Exxon Bros. came and went -- people still referred to us as such, satisfying at least one of my life’s goals. (I’ve yet to do the hucklebuck with Catherine Deneuve.)

Kinky was (and remains) a celebrity magnet. He’s got an authentic and peculiar genius that can’t be duplicated and the talented and famous like to get close. In the Lone Star days, a partial list included my heroes Mike Bloomfield and Abbie Hoffman, as well as John Belushi, Hunter Thompson, Keith Richards, The Band, Dr. John, Robin Williams, of course Dylan, and a lot of others who are dead or ought to be.

There were fringe bohemians like JFK impersonator Vaughn Meader, who’d lost his job on November 22, 1963. I also met my best friend, author Larry “Ratso” Sloman, in that menagerie. And there were many women, so many that Kinky and I had a running joke that involved him inadvertently acting as my pimp.

We did some strange gigs, including a bar mitzvah in New Jersey that was more like a coronation. And in 1985, Kinky, Ratso, and I flew to Toronto for a three-night engagement, the surreal highlight of which was meeting Grand Ole Opry star Little Jimmy Dickens in full-dress Nudie Suit at Pearson International Airport.

But by the mid-‘80s, Kinky was burning out on rock ‘n’ roll and irving, not necessarily in that order. “I need a lifestyle that doesn’t require my presence,” he told me. He loved Agatha Christie and began scribing mystery novels with himself as the Sherlock, Ratso as the Watson, and our friends as other characters, real names and all.

I’m a hard-drinkin’, Hank-singin’ murder suspect in A Case Of Lone Star and am described as engaging in all kinds of debasement. (It may have been what did my late mother in when she read it.) The books became best-sellers and Kinky became hugely famous in your household definition and Bill Clinton’s favorite author. Some were appalled when he likewise palled around with George W. Bush, but Kinky’s World is a big one, as anyone who followed his noble -- albeit failed -- 2006 run for Governor of Texas knows.

No matter how many books he autographs, the Kinkster has always identified with outsiders – particularly musicians. You can take the Texas Jewboy out of music, but you cannot take the melody out of Kinky. He and guitar are currently out on his Bi-Polar Tour -- 28 shows in 27 days. “It’s a much higher calling being a musician than being a politician,” he says.

It’s been (almost) 40 years since that night at Max’s Kansas City and there are few public figures who’ve consistently entertained me and even fewer friends who are as loyal as Kinky Friedman. Thank you, Kinky, for being an American.

Kinky Friedman performs two shows at McCabe’s Guitar Shop in Santa Monica, California, Friday, December 7 at 8 and 10 p.m. Brian Molnar -- and maybe even Michael Simmons -- will open up.

A version of this article appeared in the July 29, 2010, issue of the
LA Weekly.

[As leader of the band Slewfoot, Michael Simmons was dubbed "The Father Of Country Punk" by Creem magazine in the 1970s. He was an editor at the National Lampoon in the '80s where he wrote the popular column "Drinking Tips And Other War Stories." He won a Los Angeles Press Club Award in the '90s for investigative journalism and has written for MOJO, LA Weekly, Rolling Stone, Penthouse, High Times, the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, CounterPunch, and The Progressive. Currently wrapping a solo album, Michael can be reached at guydebord@sbcglobal.net.]
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25 October 2012

RAG RADIO / Thorne Webb Dreyer : 'Texas Jewboy' Kinky Friedman Mulls Second Run for Governor's Mansion

Kinky Friedman in the studios of KOOP-FM in Austin, Texas, Friday, October 19, 2012. Photo by William Michael Hanks / The Rag Blog.

Rag Radio podcast:
The Kinkster talks music and politics
and second run for Texas governor

By Thorne Webb Dreyer / The Rag Blog / October 25, 2012

Noted Texas Singer-songwriter, mystery writer, and social satirist Kinky Friedman of “Texas Jewboys” fame -- and a former independent candidate for governor of Texas -- said on Rag Radio, Friday, October 19, that he’s seriously considering a second run for governor in 2014, this time as a Democrat.

On the show, Kinky speculated about his political future; discussed his musical past and current “BiPolar World Tour”; related his experiences with musicians like Willie Nelson and Bob Dylan; and talked about his latest books, Heroes of a Texas Childhood, and Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die, written with Nelson, and his views on such topics as “political correctness” -- a tenet that he has happily violated in the past.

Kinky also performed three songs live during the show.

Rag Radio is a syndicated radio show produced in the studios of KOOP-FM, a cooperatively-run, all-volunteer community radio station in Austin, Texas. You can listen to the podcast of Thorne Dreyer's interview with Kinky Friedman here.


Rag Radio features hour-long in-depth interviews and discussion about issues of progressive politics, culture, and history. It is broadcast live on KOOP Fridays at 2 p.m. (CDT) and streamed live on the Internet, and is rebroadcast on WFTE-FM in Mt. Cobb and Scranton, PA., on Sunday mornings at 10 (EDT).

Kinky Friedman, who ran for Texas governor as an independent in 2004, received some 600,000 votes, about 13 percent of the total cast, and raised more money than Democratic candidate Chris Bell. Kinky -- whose campaign slogan in 2004 was “Why the Hell not?” -- said if he runs next time, it will be as an “old-fashioned Harry Truman Democrat... a real happy-warrior blue-dog Democrat.”

Counting such Texas Democratic legends as Barbara Jordan, Molly Ivins, and Ann Richards as his political models, Kinky said he thinks he could not only win the Democratic primary, but also gain substantial support among independents and even Libertarians and Tea Party-types in the general election.

Concerning the often sardonic approach of his last run, Friedman said, “I’ve evolved.” During his 2004 campaign, “People asked, ‘Do we want a comedian in the Governor’s mansion? Do we want a clown?’ Now they realize we’ve had one for nearly 12 years,” he said with a wry smile, referring to multiple-term Texas Governor (and failed presidential candidate) Rick Perry.

Kinky was roundly criticized by progressives after he wrote an article about Rick Perry for The Daily Beast on August 24, 2011 -- which the Beast headlined “Kinky for Perry.” In the feature, Friedman answered his own hypothetical question -- “Would I support Rick Perry for president?” -- with a resounding “Hell, yes!”

On Rag Radio, Kinky said he never intended to actually endorse Perry, whom he characterized as his “political nemesis,” and meant the article to be humorous. “I’m not in the business of endorsing people,” he told us. “I’m a musician, which is a much higher calling than a politician.”

“Perry’s not a bad guy,” he said, and he’s “given us the best business climate in the country,” though he added that that probably would have happened even "if a blue-buttocked baboon were governor.” He criticized Perry for cutting funding for education, an issue which he said “isn’t even on Perry’s radar.”

"I don’t think that Perry and [Lt. Gov. David] Dewhurst have done anything in 12 years for the people, except they’ve both gotten rich," Kinky said.

Kinky Friedman sings "Autograph," dedicated to the late Levon Helm, on Rag Radio, Friday, October 19, 2012. Filmed by William Michael Hanks, The Rag Blog.

Kinky Friedman is a country-rooted singer-songwriter, a novelist whose witty detective stories gained him a wide audience and critical notice, and an edgy humorist and social satirist. He first gained fame with his band, Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys, whose 1973 Vanguard album, Sold American -- which featured songs like "They Ain't Making Jews Like Jesus Anymore" and his feminist lampoon, "Get Your Biscuits in the Oven and Your Buns in the Bed" -- was a masterwork of social commentary and raucous humor.

In the mid-1970s Kinky toured with Bob Dylan and the Rolling Thunder Review. In the ‘80s he was a mainstay at New York's legendary Lone Star Café, where his shows featured guests like Robin Williams and John Belushi. He was a musical guest on Saturday Night Live in its first season and claims to have been the first “full-blooded Jew” to appear at the Grand Ole Opry.

Kinky Friedman’s droll and highly engaging detective novels feature a fictionalized version of himself solving crimes in New York City. He has also written books about everything from social mores to armadillos, and was a columnist for Texas Monthly magazine.

A 2007 compilation album called Why the Hell Not... featured artists like Willie Nelson, Lyle Lovett, Dwight Yoakum, and Asleep at the Wheel covering Friedman's songs.

Kinky's latest CD, Live from Woodstock, was recorded on the "first American leg" of his "BiPolar World Tour.” In March 2013 the tour will take him to Europe and Australia, where he will do “35 shows in 36 days, each one in a different city.”

Kinky was in Austin October 19 to perform live with rising country star Jesse Dayton at the Cactus Café, in a feisty (and often raunchy) showcase gig filmed for later broadcast by ESPN’s Texas Network. Dayton -- known for his work with Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash (and horror filmmaker Rob Zombie) -- recently recorded an album of Friedman's songs titled Jesse Does Kinky. Dayton also starred as Friedman in road productions of Becoming Kinky, by noted playwright Ted Swindley.

Kinky also told the Rag Radio audience that a Russian filmmaker is currently making a movie of his detective book, Kill Two Birds and Get Stoned. “It’s about three Merry Prankster types who are trying to bring down a Starbucks in New York City. It’s a counterculture type of book. They’re doing it with a very European sensibility,” he said.

Kinky Friedman lives in Kerrville, Texas, at the Echo Hill Ranch, a summer camp for kids run by his family since 1952. He also runs the Utopia Animal Rescue Ranch at the same location. “We take in stray and abused animals,” he said. “We’ve been doing it for 14 years now, and we’ve adopted thousands of animals.”

And that experience has taught Kinky an important life lesson: “Money can buy you a fine dog, but only love can make him wag his tale.”


Rag Radio, which has aired since September 2009, is produced in association with The Rag Blog, a progressive internet newsmagazine, and the New Journalism Project, a Texas 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation.

The host and producer of Rag Radio is Rag Blog editor and long-time alternative journalist Thorne Dreyer, a pioneer of the Sixties underground press movement. Tracey Schulz is the show's engineer and co-producer.

All Rag Radio shows are posted as podcasts and can be found at the Internet Archive.

Rag Radio can be contacted at ragradio@koop.org.

Coming up on Rag Radio:
THIS FRIDAY, October 26, 2012: Historian Martin Duberman, author of Howard Zinn: A Life on the Left.
November 2, 2012: Jan Reid, author of Let the People In: The Life and Times of Ann Richards.

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