Kinky Friedman performs "The Ballad of Ira Hayes"
"It looks like a power year for the Kinkster," says Kinky Friedman, on the phone from his Echo Hill Ranch in Medina, Tex.
"A lot of good things are happening—though none leap to mind!"
Then a second later, they begin to. First up is a "massive tour"—this one dubbed Kinky Friedman—Resurrected— starting at the Mucky Duck in Houston on April 7, then heading north for stops including theTurning Point in Piermont, N.Y. on April 11, New Haven's Cafe Nine on April 13, two nights (April 14 and 15) at Bridge Street Live in Collinsville, Conn., and what he calls a "Jew show" at the Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton, Mass. on April 16—Easter Sunday.
"I don't think religious Catholics will show up," explains the legendary Friedman, who achieved that status leading his 1970s outlaw country band Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys. The next night's show at B.B. King's, though, should be ecumenical, same with the one the night after at the Hamilton Live in Washington, D.C.
The tour ends in Oklahoma City with two nights at the Blue Door (May 13 and 14), with a fundraiser for CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates, for abused or neglected children) following May 15 at the N at Hardway Ranch in Bluff Dale, Tex., hosted by Friedman's friend Ruth Buzzi.
"It's 35 shows in 36 days," says Friedman, crediting Willie Nelson for the grueling schedule.
"Willie is my shrink, and his opinion is that playing to live audiences is a tonic—and doing them back-to-back without a break makes you start running on pure adrenaline. So the shows are real raw and pure, and the only trick is to get to the next town without slashing your wrists."
Nelson also encouraged Friedman to start writing songs again.
"I was sitting here last year and Willie called at three in the morning and asked what I was doing. I told him I was watching Matlock, and he said that was a sure sign of depression—and to turn it off and 'start writing, Kinky. Start writing.' I'm not that much younger, but when a guy Willie's age is interested in somebody else's work, it's inspiring. So I started writing songs again—something I hadn't indulged in much in 40 years! It reminded me what a high calling being a songwriter is—compared to being a politician."
Friedman, of course, has become an acclaimed essayist and murder mystery writer, as well as an unsuccessful candidate for Texas offices including governor.
"I've now written about 14 new songs, and they make up half of the new shows. So far they've done really well in concert in Australia and Europe. In fact, I'm becoming the new David Hasselhoff for young people at sold-out shows all over Europe."
One of Friedman's new songs, "Jesus in Pajamas," is based on "a true incident that happened to me. Willie especially likes it and is talking about recording it."
Friedman says that Ruth Buzzi played his new five-song Resurrected EP (which he's "bootlegging at concerts before they bootleg it") to Anne Murray, who declared "Me and My Guitar" a "smash hit."
New song "A Dog Named Freedom"—"about a three-legged dog"—"is really going down well," and Friedman wrote another song last week and still another yesterday.
"It's like working without a net," he says of performing them live. "Some I can't remember, and occasionally I have to call up a volunteer to hold up the lyrics."
Accompanying Friedman on tour are guitarists Brian Molnar and Joe Cirotti, who both backed him last time he played B.B. King's in 2015. Photojournalist Brian Kanof will also be on hand to conduct live auctions for Friedman's Man in Black Tequila, all sales to benefit the Utopia Animal Rescue Ranch in Echo Hill. Kanof actually started the brand, which is available only in Texas.
"This is not your father's tequila," says Friedman. "It's your grandfather's gardener's tequila."
Meanwhile, Friedman has three new books in the works. Mary Lou Sullivan, who authored a bio on the late Johnny Winter, has completed Everything's Bigger in Texas: The Life and Times of Kinky Friedman, due from Backbeat Books in November. For Random House, Friedman himself has finished a book about Bob Dylan, The Boys from the North Country: My Life with Robert Zimmerman and Bob Dylan, written with Louis Kemp, Dylan's childhood friend.
"They've been friends for over 50 years, so he has stories no one else has," says Friedman, who toured with Dylan in his famous Rolling Thunder Revue tour of the mid-1970s. "I refer to him as Bob's childhood toboggan companion, who then produced the Rolling Thunder Revue--the only tour in history that didn't spend time on promotion or even list the performers, and still sold out through word-of-mouth."
The Boys from the North Country offers "uniquely American stories reminiscent of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn," continues Friedman, and "comes nearest to explaining Bob's religious beliefs than anything I've ever seen."
Finally forthcoming, but with pub date undecided, is The Tin Can Telephone, Friedman's first mystery novel in many years. And when the Resurrected tour is over, he plans a return to the studio to record his new songs—with Willie Nelson's blessing.
"I called Willie a few months ago," says Friedman. "He was in Hawaii, and I asked how he was doing. 'A little up, a little down—the usual,' he said. I told him I had these songs and he said to send them to him. Then he said, 'By the way, Kinky. What channel is Matlock on?'"