Willie Nelson's Advice Pays Off Big for Kinky Friedman

Kinky Friedman meets the press at Poison Girl
Kinky Friedman meets the press at Poison Girl
Photo by Texas Redd

Former candidate for governor and agriculture commissioner Richard “Kinky” Friedman comes to the Mucky Duck tonight on the heels of a slew of wonderful reviews for his first album of fresh material in 37 years, The Loneliest Man I Ever Met. When we recently caught up with him at his animal-rescue operation in Kerrville, he was ebullient and blustering.

“I talked to Willie on the phone a couple of weeks ago,” the Kinkster informed us, “and he gave me some really great advice that helped me.”

Okay, we’ll bite — just what was that advice Willie gave you?

“I told him that I’d gotten in the habit of staying up late and watching reruns of Matlock. Willie immediately said that I should stop that, that it was bad for my soul. So I told him I like Matlock, but Willie told me that is such a negative thing, that the whole premise is that young, inexperienced people who think they know it all get taken down by the old folks in the end. So the message is that the world is going to hell, that young folks are the problem and that old folks have the answers. He told me to just quit watching it. And I did.”

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Nelson also tried to steer the eternally dark Friedman toward some more spiritual light.

“Willie knows I like to gamble, so he told me that I should seriously think about just moving to Vegas,” Friedman intones, “that if gambling makes me happy, then I might as well move somewhere that I can do it whenever I want. I got to thinking about that and I’ll tell you, I’ve don’t even want to think about how much money I’ve lost gambling. So I get his point, but I’m not sure I’m ready to move to Vegas.”

One thing Friedman has noticed is that his album, which is distributed by the highly successful Thirty Tigers combine out of Nashville, has inspired him in ways he wasn’t expecting.

“I don’t think I’ve written a song in 25 years or so; I really couldn’t even pinpoint the last time I wrote a song or what that song was,” says the 71-year-old crime novelist. “But I’ve been out touring a lot and I’ve written three new songs, and I think they’re actually pretty good.”

Combine that with the acceptance of and praise for his most recent release, and Friedman is suddenly talking about the possibility of another recording, this time with all-new material of his own.

“It’s funny how it worked out, but it just sparked something inside me that I haven’t been able to tap into for a long time and it feels great," he says. "I wasn’t sure I’d ever write another song; now I’ve got three keepers, I think. We’ll see what happens.”

Friedman also noted that the attention and praise for the album have been especially rewarding.

“The press response has been so great,” says Friedman, “but what is really refreshing is how audiences responded to the live versions. For instance, my version of [Warren Zevon’s] 'My Shit’s Fucked Up,' my reading of it isn’t just a song by someone who’s saying how they feel about knowing they’re going to die; it’s more an overall indictment of how fucked up things are in this country right now.

"And you take the song 'A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square' — that’s not an easy song to get because it's from an entirely different era," he continues. "People our age may be familiar with it, but it’s not a song that’s widely known or was ever that popular, but people have really responded to it when we do it live. It’s very gratifying to know there are still people out there interested in serious songs, people who will listen carefully and wrestle with the meaning. Very gratifying.”

Outside music, Friedman is still pimping other work. He’s pitching another of his detective novels to publishers, and he hinted at “maybe writing something really special,” but he wouldn’t offer any more details until he has the deal in the bag.

“I’ve been around long enough I get some interesting proposals for projects, and I’m in negotiations right now for one I think will be a real financial pleasure if we can iron out the details.”

Meanwhile, Friedman, who has never won any election he has entered, has his eye on the White House. The last time we spoke, four months ago, Friedman offered that Donald Trump was the shake-things-up maverick with “a lot of interesting ideas.” But Friedman recently shifted his allegiance to the Bernie Sanders campaign.

“I don’t like guys who donate a million dollars to a children’s hospital and then put their name on it,” Friedman explains. “When it comes to charity and doing good things, I prefer Mr. Anonymous. Trump’s ego is his biggest problem.”

“Someone has to shake things up,” Friedman explains. “I’m disappointed in Obama; I don’t think we got much of the change he kept talking about. Trump has gone off the deep end, even though I still think he’s got some good ideas behind all the bombast. But I’ve got to tell you, I’d love to finally see a Jew in the highest office in the land. I found out when I talked to Willie that he’s for Sanders, and that’s the first time he and I have ever been on the same page about an election. But if Hillary is the candidate, I’ll probably vote for the Republican.

“If it turns out that Cruz or Rubio or Trump win the election, we have to hope they will listen to their better angels in the face of such massive responsibility,” he goes on. “Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt were both terrible people until they were elected and then their better angels came to the surface somehow; something seemed to transform them into men who could be trusted with looking out for our best interests. We have to hope that happens should any of the current crop of Republican candidates win the election, because right now they all seem like a bunch of sociopaths.”

Kinky Friedman performs at 7 p.m. tonight at McGonigel's Mucky Duck, 2425 Norfolk.


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