Kinky Friedman Biography

Richard Friedman, 31 October 1944, Chicago, Illinois, USA. Friedman, a Jew in Texas, remarks, ‘Cowboys and Jews have a common bond. They are the only two groups to wear their hats indoors and attach a certain importance to it.’ Friedman, whose father was a university lecturer, first recorded as part of the surfing band King Arthur And The Carrots, in 1966. One of the Carrots, Jeff Shelby, became Little Jewford Shelby in Friedman’s band, the Texas Jewboys, the name satirizing Bob Wills’ Texas Playboys. Chuck Glaser of the Glaser Brothers took him to Nashville for his first album, 1973’s Sold American. The title song combined the qualities of Ralph McTell’s ‘Streets Of London’ with Phil Ochs’ ‘Chords Of Fame’, and has been recorded by Glen Campbell and Tompall Glaser, the latter version being co-produced by Friedman. His Jewish upbringing and culture was reinforced in songs such as ‘We Refuse The Right To Refuse Service To You’ and ‘Ride ‘Em Jewboy’. Friedman’s single ‘Carryin’ The Torch’, an offbeat look at the Statue of Liberty, was produced by Waylon Jennings. Friedman’s self-titled second album was a patchy mixture of blasphemy and ballads, and included a good-natured romp produced by Willie Nelson, ‘They Ain’t Makin’ Jews Like Jesus Anymore’. A hoarse recording of ‘Sold American’, recorded as part of Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue, was included on 1976’s Lasso From El Paso. Buck Owens, who published ‘Okie From Muskogee’, refused to allow the album to be called Asshole From El Paso. ‘Ol’ Ben Lucas’, about nose-picking, features Eric Clapton’s guitar-picking, while ‘Men’s Room, L.A.’ is about a shortage of toilet paper and features Ringo Starr as Christ wanting to use the toilet.

Friedman’s own music career never shone as brightly as the 3-D portrait of Christ he had at his home, and in 1977, he dropped his touring band and went solo. He also improved his diction so that his insults could be understood. He sang the title song of the television movie Skating On Thin Ice, and he was murdered in his acting role in The Being, a 1983 reel starring Dorothy Malone and Ruth Buzzi.

Friedman maintained a low-key recording career into the new millennium, but his music has been overshadowed by his success as a writer. He is a perceptive journalist, writing on country music for Rolling Stone and a regular column for the magazine Texas Monthly. In recent years Friedman has become a successful writer of crime novels, and he tries to write a new novel each year. Friedman says his autobiography will be printed backwards, like old Jewish texts. He also intends to write a mystery in which one of Willie Nelson’s ex-wives is out to kill him - and has the full co-operation of the participants for this! On his promotional tours for his books, he goes ‘singing the song that made me infamous and reading from the books that made me respectable’.


Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.


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