Meet Kinky Friedman, the World’s Most Famous Jewish Cowboy

Kinky FriedmanKinky Friedman. I just love saying his name. And I just love talking about him because he’s an extraordinary guy: singer, songwriter, novelist, actor, keynote speaker, humorist and politician. And did I mention, he’s um, well. . .shall we say, a little eccentric? But more to the point. . .he’s someone you’ll enjoy, so I’m going to tell you a little bit about him.

In the Beginning

Kinky’s parents at Echo Hill Ranch, 1952
Kinky’s parents at Echo Hill Ranch, 1952

Yeah, so OK . . . Kinky isn’t his real name. Mama and Papa Friedman named him Richard. He was born in Chicago in 1944, but the boy who would become Kinky moved to Texas with his parents when he was still a young tyke.

I’m told that growing up Jewish in Texas during the 40s and 50s meant that Kinky was about as unusual as a polar bear riding a unicycle down Main Street. The folks on Main Street were dubious. . .and, even the world’s polar bear population viewed him as suspect. Being set apart from the crowd must have shown Kinky that he was really good at, well. . . at being set apart from the crowd.

In 1952, Kinky’s parents opened a summer camp called Echo Hill Ranch. That may be where Kinky first caught the performing bug. He used to entertain the campers with comedy sketches and songs. Oh, if only there were home videos of those performances!

Kinky the Cantor? Hardly!

Kinky Friedman
Kinky, Shawn Siegel, Joe Kboudi: King Arthur and the Carrots

When Kinky left camp, he took his love of music with him. He started his first band when he was in college at the University of Texas. The band was called King Arthur & the Carrots. You’ve got to hand it to him. . .as the bumper stickers say, he was doing his part to “Keep Austin Weird!”

Kinky’s time at the University of Texas was important for, at least, a couple of reasons: 1. It’s where he earned a B.A. in Psychology. Now, when people call him “crazy,” Kinky can give his professional opinion, and 2. It’s where Kinky received the nickname of Kinky. (Psst… It’s because of his curly hair. Get your mind out of the gutter!)

Kinky FriedmanIn 1971, Kinky’s second band was formed—Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys. Personally, I would have gone with Kinky Friedman and the Lone Stars of David, but. . . whatever! No matter how you slice it,  the artist formerly known as Richard was really making a name for himself.

 

Friedman Collage

Kinky FriedmanIn the mid-70s, Kinky went on tour with Bob Dylan. I guess the times really were a-changin’!

Kinky has earned many notable distinctions during his career. He claims to have been the first “full blooded Jew” to perform at the Grand Ole Opry. Also in the 70s, the National Organization of Women awarded him the “Male Chauvinist Pig Award” (probably due to his song, “Get Your Biscuits in the Oven and Your Buns in the Bed”). Say what you will, the man isn’t afraid to let controversy stand in his way (as is evident by one of his more popular numbers, “They Ain’t Makin’ Jews Like Jesus Anymore”).

The Write Stuff

Kinky Friedman Books

By the 1980s, Kinky was ready to try his hand at writing. It was his sister who suggested he try writing mysteries. His books center around a retired country music performer turned detective named Kinky Friedman. How did he ever come up with that? Kinky has written twenty-three novels. His books, such as Armadillos and Old Lace, Elvis, Jesus and Coca Cola and God Bless John Wayne have garnered such notable fans as Pres. George W. Bush and Pres. Bill Clinton. Kinky has also written a couple of non-fiction books and was a regular columnist for Texas Monthly magazine.

Let’s Get Kinky, Texas!

Kinky Friedman

Just when things would quiet down a bit, Kinky would stand up and shout, “Hey, World! Do you remember me? It’s Kinky!” That’s pretty much what happened when Kinky Friedman made a very noisy run for Governor of Texas, during the 2006 election. He wasn’t the first celebrity to run for governor, but he was surely the most entertaining.

Kinky’s gubernatorial slogans included:

“Why the Hell Not?”
“My Governor is a Jewish Cowboy”
“He Ain’t Kinky, He’s My Governor.”
And my personal favorite, “How Hard Could It Be?”

Kinky Friedman, Texas Gubernatorial CandidateRunning on a “pro football” platform, Kinky Friedman definitely livened up the election season. On the topic of gay marriage, Kinky was quoted as saying, “I support gay marriage. I believe they have the right to be as miserable as the rest of us.” Shockingly, he did not win the election. He finished fourth in a six-man race, but he won a lot of fans! Besides, I’m pretty sure Governor Rick Perry has squatter’s rights in the Governor’s Mansion by now.

He came back for a brief gubernatorial run in 2009, this time as a Democrat. He dropped out of the campaign to seek the Democratic nomination for Texas Agriculture Commissioner, in 2010. Alas, he lost in the primary election.

Although he insists he’s finished with politics, something tells me we haven’t heard the last of Kinky Friedman in the realm of politics (or in music and writing, for that matter). To tell you the truth, there isn’t much that Kinky Friedman could do to surprise me!

Watch a great interview with Kinky Friedman!

Happy Trails, y’all!
Anita Lequoia

4 Replies to “Meet Kinky Friedman, the World’s Most Famous Jewish Cowboy”

  1. dear mr friedman, it is now 2015 and if joe biden is thinking of jumping into the 2016 race and you have three outsiders in front, i we would love to see YOU THROUGH YOUR HAT IN, one never knows although i think our country knows we need people outside of the political establishment i think that person is you, would love to see what you and your family built some day may god bless you and all that the people and animals you support, respectfully guy and pat vaccaro

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