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Kinky Friedman

"I won't be bullied and I can't be bought."

by Derek Halsey
November 2006

These are heady times for Kinky Friedman. A former musician whose fame hit its stride in the 1970’s, and a top-selling author since then, Friedman is familiar with the limelight. For some odd reason, however, in February of 2005 he decided to announce his run for the governorship of the state of Texas. When he started the campaign he was viewed as a bit of a novelty whom, nonetheless, was serious about his candidacy. He had the one liners that the reporters and the public got a kick out of at first, but then backed it up with a set of proposals that was different from the usual mainstream American political manifesto. He has proposed to legalize marijuana to open up more jail space for violent criminals and sexual predators. He has pledged to hire musician Billy Joe Shaver as the spiritual advisor for the state of Texas. He has said that he wants to end the reign of political correctness in an attempt to “de-wussify” the Lone Star State.

Friedman first announced his bid for the governorship at the Alamo, calling for current Texas governor Rick Perry’s “unconditional surrender.” Since then he has been profiled in media outlets such as the New Yorker Magazine, 60 Minutes, and many other TV and radio news shows who were looking for a fresh angle as election time neared. Then, the polls started showing Friedman in double digits, and the next thing he knew the other candidates for governor started to focus on him. Governor Rick Perry said on TV of Friedman, “He’s not running for class clown. He’s running for governor of a very important state.” Then, he was called a racist because the lyrics of a rowdy anti-racist song that he wrote 25 years ago were misinterpreted. But all of this doesn’t seem to faze him.

Friedman has also sparked something inside the young folks of the Lone Star State. Many of the college and university newspapers in the state have endorsed him, from Southern Methodist University’s Daily Campus to the University of North Texas’ North Texas Daily to the University of Texas at Austin’s Daily Texan. And, he has been endorsed by and has been campaigning with another former long shot candidate, the ex-governor of Minnesota Jesse Ventura. Says the candidate’s website, “The last independent governor of Texas was Sam Houston. The next will be Kinky Friedman.”

With the interest in all things Kinky on the rise, the idea came about to put a group of top musicians together to record a tribute album of all Kinky Friedman songs. The end result is “Why The Hell Not….The Songs Of Kinky Friedman” on Sustain Records. The song titles speak to Friedman’s eclecticism, if you could call it that. They include numbers such as “Get Your Biscuits In The Oven (And Your Buns In The Bed),” “Ride’em Jewboy,” “Homo Erectus,” “Solid American,” and “They Ain’t Makin’ Jews Like Jesus Anymore.” The artists performing the songs include Willie Nelson, Lyle Lovett, Dwight Yoakam, Asleep At The Wheel with Reckless Jelly, Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis, Charlie Robison, Jason Boland and the Stragglers, Todd Snider, and Kevin Fowler.
As Gritz Magazine talks to Kinky Friedman it is October 25th, 2006, two weeks before Election Day and three days after what is called ‘early voting’ has started in Texas. Although he was in the busiest time of the election process, Friedman took a few minutes to talk about his music and the new CD, this crazy political crazy campaign that he has found himself in, and the part of America that he loves with a passion.

Howdy Kinky. Good to talk to you. Man, you are in the thick of it down there. I have read that the early voting in Texas has started. How is the campaign going for you right now?
“We’ve been catching fire here. This is a record turnout so far. This is really an historical turnout for the first three days of early voting. And, it’s 50, to 60, to 70 percent higher than last time and that is going to do it. The 18 to 28 year old bracket is just unprecedented, and this will elect us.”

You seem to be getting the attention of young folks with this campaign, as more than a few college newspapers have endorsed you.
“All of the college newspapers are following suit now. This is a whole movement here, and it’s got about two weeks to catch fire totally, and I think it’s going to. So, you know, if you jump in front of the right revolution, good things happen. We told ‘em, ‘if you don’t vote, don’t bitch. If you’re old enough to fight in Iraq, you’re old enough to fix Texas.’ Now I’m calling for bringing down the drinking age to 18 because it is only fair. You might as well have a beer before you go over to Iraq and maybe get your ass shot off.”

In other words, if you can take a bullet, there’s should be no reason why you can’t drink a damn beer.
“Yeah, on the way over. That’s right. It’s not even common sense not to let them do that.”

I happened to be watching the Don Imus show that morning in 2005 when you first talked of your candidacy. A lot has happened since then. Do you really feel that you could be elected as the governor of Texas?
“It’s really starting to look doable. More than doable.”

One thing that’s changed in the last few weeks is that the other politicians have taken some jabs at you. Does that surprise you?
“No, that’s not surprising. That’s a good sign. We want that. That shows that they’re really more than nervous. Now they’re desperate.”

It seems to me that when you started to poll in the double digits, your opponents started to come after you.
“Yeah. They were just ignoring us before that. That is the standard. That is what they did to Jesse Ventura. They ignored him right until election eve, actually. (laughing) You see, he had about the same vote that we do right now, of likely voters. He had 20 percent. And, he came through and won with 37 percent. They were way off on that one, and I think that they are just as way off on this one.”

There is one thing that was said about you that did make me cringe when I thought of the reaction to it, and that was when you were accused of being against hunting and fishing. I doubt this position went over big down there.
“We want to straighten that out because (Texas Governor) Perry is lying. The governor is lying about my stand that I am anti-hunting and fishing. It’s not true. He is just lying to hold on to power. I made it very clear that I am pro-hunting and pro-fishing, and would even call for a constitutional amendment to protect it in Texas. And that was a change in view on my part three or four years back. That came from meeting and talking to so many hunters cross Texas. You won’t find another candidate that will tell you he was wrong on something. And, Perry is persisting to desperately email people that I’m against hunting and fishing when he knows it’s not true. Half the species wouldn’t even be here if it wasn’t for hunters. And the responsible hunters, I’ve suggested to let them maintain the state parks, which are in terrible shape. It’s not the do-gooders who have protected the animals, it’s responsible hunters.”

You have been consistent about saying that you would bring musician Billy Joe Shaver into your cabinet should you be elected. We have interviewed him here in Gritz Magazine, and he is a legendary songwriter who has been through a lot of tragedy in is life. Why do you want him in your cabinet?
“He’s my spiritual advisor. He’s going to be the spiritual advisor for Texas very soon. He’s sure been there and done that. You’re right. He’s been through more tragedy than just about anybody that I know. He is a dealer in hope, and he is still a brilliant writer and poet. Most of us are pretty burned out right now, a far as writing is concerned. But, he is still writing at a great level. More importantly, he really connects with people, and that’s why I think he could do a lot for the public schools in Texas. He’d bring a real spiritual fabric to the public schools.”

It is an impressive array of Texas musicians that appear on this tribute album to you. Some of the best in the business came out to sing your songs.
“Yeah, they did. And, I sure appreciate that. There are some great versions on here. This is really a good record. Usually, when you do one of these tribute albums, they suck. In this case, most of the songs are better than they’ve ever been recorded. Kevin Fowler, Charlie Robison, Lyle, Willie, Dwight…Dwight is the only non-Texan on the record.”

A ton of music comes across my desk on a weekly basis and more times than not, the best and most authentic-sounding country music tends to come out of Texas instead of Nashville. Have you noticed that?
“That could well be. Nashville is producing nothing. Just nothing. And, you know, they go through phases. But, the Waylon Jennings phase is over there, and right now they are into just crap. You’re right. Commercial crap, which is what they do best. Texas is real. That Todd Snider’s version of ‘They Ain’t Makin' Jews Like Jesus Anymore’ is terrific. And, that is a whole new generation of people that have never heard these songs. The kids haven’t heard them, and we rotate the crop, you know? The same songs with a little different feel, a little different version, and I think they are going down very well.”

You should be proud that the songs hold up.
“Yeah, yeah. Well, it’s a good thing, because I haven’t written anything in 20 years (laughing). It’s a good thing they hold up.”

What will your approach be concerning Texas music, culture, and tradition should you win the governorship?
“Well, it’s going to be a great renaissance for Texas, a great rebirth of all things musical and artistic. The musicians will run the state instead of the politicians, and that is a beautiful thought. Texas always had a lot of spiritual elbowroom beginning with way before Buddy Holly, but he is a good example of it, of how an original thought comes out of nowhere. An original sound that is so good that the Beatles later emulated it, and inspires them. Texas is its own country, and I say Texas is my country, and to do good is my religion.”

One of your campaign pledges is to hire the best and most qualified officials for the various government positions regardless of what party they are in. Do you think that position is winning support for you?
“There is no question that an independent governor has it all over a party candidate. He doesn’t tow the line for any party, and I won’t be bullied and I can’t be bought. They are coming out. We’re seeing republicans and democrats defecting in big numbers to us. That is what’s happening. And, young people that have never voted for anybody, and people that have never voted that are older and are voting for the first time. That’s huge.”

I have watched various news segments on your campaign and you have taken the time to go to many small town fairs and similar various events in the last year. What have you learned from talking with the normal, every day townsfolk of Texas?
“Well, I pride myself in trying to be a good shepherd, and not being a hired hand. I’ve said that the governor doesn’t know the waitresses’ name at the coffee shop. He doesn’t bother to know her name. And I know her name, and sometimes I ask her for her telephone number. That’s the difference between us. I’ve met real Texans by being a musician and an author. I think that’s the key. And, real Texans have had it. My Dad’s airplane, his B-24 in World War Two, was called ‘I’ve Had It.’ That is how Texans feel right now. By the way, this protest vote should not be taken lightly. As I’ve said before, this ‘middle finger’ vote is exactly the spirit of the American Revolution. It’s what created this country, the protest vote.”

If I remember my history correctly, Texas was its own country for about ten years or so in the 1800’s before becoming a part of America.
“That’s right. The country of Texas. Absolutely. Without the ‘middle finger’ vote, we wouldn’t be here. If they hadn’t of drug Sam Houston out drunk from under the bridge and got him to run for governor, it’d be very different. An opium addict and a drunkard, Sam Houston, the most visionary governor we’ve ever had. The greatest. He made Texas.”


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