Kinky Friedman Biography
I first met Kinky in 1967 before he was Kinky. The name came afterwards–probably due to extensive curly moss or a monstro-wig personality. At the time we were both Peace Corps volunteers on the island of Borneo. Kinky always claimed his only accomplishment in the Peace Corps was to introduce the Frisbee which the natives used to make their lips big. He also wrote songs. One of them was The Ballad of Charles Whitman. In 1966 Whitman, a law student at the University of Texas, took the elevator along with a steamer trunk full of guns up the clock tower in the middle of the campus and began putting the brakes on a number of students. As the chorus line of the song states, “there was a rumor of a tumor nestled at the base of his brain.” The song never made the charts but was an enormous crowd pleaser at the Armadillo World Headquarters in Austentatious, Texas in the mid-seventies.
After the Peace Corps, Kinky returned to the land of his birth, Texas. Previous biographers have placed the exact location at either Palestine or Rio Duckworth or even possibly Buttocks, Texas. I think it actually was in the back of a blue bus in a little green valley deep in the Hill Country of Texas. Being both a Jew and a Texan gave him a leg up on the boisterous, neurotic, irritant personality ladder. Kinky always said, “New Yorkers think you can only find a Texas Jew in National Geographic.” He also continually referred to the Empire State as Jew York which was a crowd pleaser in Max’s Kansas City or the Bottom Line in Manhattan in the mid-seventies with his band of gypsies, the musically impaired Texas Jewboys. It was during a gig at this time that Kinky became close friends with the voice of Jew York, himself, Don Imus, who then was attempting to be a stand-up comic.
The songs that Kinky wrote during and after the Peace Corps propelled him and The Texas Jewboys on the highways and byways of America throughout the seventies, closing many a nightclub in their wake. Actually the band had a hard core following and the various writers of the day such as Chet Flippo of Rolling Stone loved the material. The irony of it all was that many Jewish owned chain stores at the time thought the name of the band was somehow anti-Semitic and refused to carry the Vanguard release. No one, of course, could look down the road 25 years and foresee the popularity of Gangsta Rap. It’s all come a long way from “Elvis the Pelvis”.
Kinky continued to tour and write throughout the seventies. Along the way many of the artists of the day came to be his friends. People like Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Danny Hutton of Three Dog Night, Lowell George of Little Feat, Rick Danko and Levon Helm of The Band and a whole host of others became Kinky Friedman fans. His influence upon those of influence continues today as both George W. Bush and Bill Clinton read Kinky Friedman books. Dwight Yoakam often quotes Kinky in interviews, and Don Imus mentions him often on his morning radio show as does Sammy Alred ,the radio voice of Austin.
By the end of the seventies, after touring with Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Review, Kinky went solo, finishing out the decade at the Lone Star Café in New York. Throughout the years he always returned home to his family in Texas. Kinky’s mother, Min Friedman, had worked in children’s summer camps before she had met Kinky’s father, Tom who had flown in bombing missions over Germany during World War II.
By 1952 Tom and Min had opened their own summer camp called Echo Hill Ranch. It was there that the young Richard Friedman began life as an entertainer. On camp skit nights, he was coming up with ideas for comedy routines. On bunk song night, his bunk always won. It was a great place for an American original to develop. It was also a great place to belch and expel gas profusely–two habits Kinky exhibits to this day. This may dismay some and amuse others but that’s what makes a horse race. Echo Hill Ranch is still alive and well as this is written.
Kinky spends much of his time at the ranch writing when he isn’t out on the road autographing books. The infamous little green trailer where many of his early books were written is now occupied by an armadillo and various fungi which cover a sign from Singapore that reads "No Dumping Allowed".
Kinky has a younger brother, Roger, whom he has referred to as “the huskier and more handsome Friedman.” Both Roger and Tom are Dr. Friedmans of the psychological rather than medical type. Both don’t care to be addressed as Doctor. Kinky’s sister, Marcie, works for the International Red Cross. She has been director of Echo Hill Ranch. In the early 80’s, when Kinky felt it was time to leave the music world behind and as he stated, “have a lifestyle that doesn’t require my presence”, Marcie suggested that he might try writing mysteries since he and their mother, Min were so interested in reading them. The rest as they say is history.
Kinky felt he should use his own name and those of his friends as various characters in the stories. He made himself the retired country music performer turned detective and the setting for the most part a loft on Vandam Street in the Village in New York. The first book was entitled Greenwich Killing Time, a title suggested to him by his friend and subsequent Emmy award winner, Ted Mann. There have been a dozen books out since then, the most recent being The Mile High Club. They have been published in 495.95 languages. One of the more interesting translations are those in Japanese where the book is read from back to front.
Of course, “the cat said nothing” in all of the languages. There have been interesting rumors in recent years of a movie being made. The Kinkster would make a great movie land character along with all the Village Irregulars that readers have enjoyed throughout the years. I feel that Billy Bob Thornton would make a perfect Kinky. Those of you reading Kinky’s website…get involved!! Place a vote for this idea on Kinky’s message board and on Billy Bob’s. Hell, if the net made the Blair Witch Project happen, why not this ?