Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas & Happy Everything

After the Christmas morning festivities, after one family group has left, and while we wait for another to arrive, I sit on the front porch, enjoying the quiet stillness that can only occur on one day each year.  Is everyone gone to visit far-off relatives?  Are they all hunkered inside their homes, keeping to themselves?  Every five minutes or so, I hear a car in the distance.  A neighbor kid rides what looks like a brand new bike in circles in the deserted intersection of our road and a cross street.  I hear two men’s voices about a block away, laughing; probably stepped out for a smoke and/or a beer.  My daughter has her new doll perched in the windowsill, combing her hair.  Her mother’s enjoying a long, hot shower, with her fancy new soap.  Me, I’m back inside, sitting on the couch, watching my dog snooze at my feet, carefully keeping watch over her new Christmas bone. 

Christmas.  The one day when everything feels OK. 

“Daddy’s on the couch, not thinkin’ ‘bout his worries…”  - Binky Griptite, “Stoned Soul Christmas” (Daptone Records)

Friday, December 21, 2012

Look for the Helpers (Thanks Mister Rogers)

Like most folks, I suppose, I've been a lot more sensitive over the past week to all things dealing with children, schools, etc.  

This morning, when I dropped my daughter off at kindergarten, the principal of the school was out front, as always, helping every kid get out of their car and greeting parents (a class move I believe).

After I got Kate inside, I was headed back to my car and noticed a little boy who was crying, presumably because he just didn't want to leave mom this morning and face "The Real World" (and who, even as a grown person hasn't been THERE?). 

The principal was walking with him, all the way to the door, with his arm around him.  He was coaxing the little guy into a conversation about cool cars.  

And my heart warmed a little.  A small gesture, but one that made a big difference.  I'm sure it made a big difference to the kid, hopefully it did to the boy's mom, and it made my day, too.

When things like what happened in Connecticut happen last week, NOTHING good comes from them.  But sometimes, in what takes place in the aftermath, maybe little rays of light break in.

When these things happen, humans do tend to pull together.  I wish it lasted, but typically it doesn't last too long.  We go back to how things were.

In these days, keep an eye out for principals comforting little kids.  I use that specific example, but I really mean keep an eye out for hope and light.  If there's anything this world is short on, hope and light are on that list.  You'll notice those things more as we all reflect on and process this tragedy.

Eventually, we'll go back to not noticing those things so much.  But let's do our best to keep seeing that.  This world is indeed a jacked up place.  And it can get dark.  But there IS light.  Even when it only comes in small glimpses.  Let's also do our best to BE that light when the opportunity presents itself - even if they're small and seem insignificant.  (They're significant to SOMEbody).

"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers.  You will always find people who are helping.'  To this day, especially in times of 'disaster', I remember my mother's words, and I'm always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers - so many caring people in this world."  - Mister Rogers

Thursday, December 20, 2012

DIRTY ROOTS RADIO - December 20th Playlist

Tune in to Dirty Roots Radio every Thursday night from 8 to 10 p.m. (central) at www.wgrn.net.

Thanks to everyone for joining us for this once-a-year laid back time of Dirty Roots cheer!!  And an extra special thanks to my daughter, Kate, for co-hosting with me!!  

The Chipmunks – The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late)
Keith Richards – Run Rudolph Run
James Brown – Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto
Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings – Ain’t No Chimneys in the Projects
The Sonics – Santa Claus
Aqua Teen Hunger Force – Feliz Navidad
Twisted Sister – Oh Come All Ye Faithful
Miles Davis w/Bob Dorough – Blue Xmas (To Whom It May Concern)
Vince Guaraldi Trio – Linus & Lucy
The Blind Boys of Alabama – Last Month of the Year
The Blind Boys of Alabama w/Tom Waits – Go Tell It On the Mountain
Bob Seger – Sock It to Me Santa
Andre Williams – Rudibaker’s Christmas Wish
Girl in a Coma – Blue Christmas
Joan Jett & the Blackhearts – Little Drummer Boy
Chuck Berry – Merry Christmas, Baby
Johnny Cash – Christmas As I Knew It
The Boxmasters – Silver Bells
Jacob Miller, Inner Circle & Ray I – We Wish You a Merry
          Christmas/Ahameric Temple
The Blind Boys of Alabama w/Mavis Staples – Born in Bethlehem
John Prine – Christmas in Prison
The Kinks – Father Christmas
Willie Nelson feat. Norah Jones – Baby It’s Cold Outside
Louis Armstrong – ‘Zat You, Santa Claus?
Reverend Horton Heat – Frosty the Snowman
Rufus Thomas – I’ll Be Your Santa, Baby
Shonen Knife – We Wish You A Merry Christmas
Steve Earle – Christmas in Washington
Lemmy w/Dave Grohl & Billy F. Gibbons – Run Rudolph Run
Jimi Hendrix – Little Drummer Boy/Silent Night/Auld Lang Syne
Bob Dylan – O’ Little  Town of Bethlehem

BACKGROUND MUSIC: Los Straitjackets - Tis The Season For Los Straitjackets



"Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before.  What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store.? What it Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.?"  
- Dr. Seuss

Friday, December 14, 2012

Kris Kristofferson & Today's News

What the world doesn't need right now is one more voice talking about the school shooting today in Connecticut.  But these are my thoughts on how music helped me sort through my reaction to it today.  This post is rough, but it's supposed to be.  It's too long, I curse, it's probably not well-edited.  But I kind of wanted a raw response, so I left it as it came out of my brain.

Let's please not have an argument here about gun control and politics.  That's not what this is about and now's not the time for it. 


When I got up this morning, one of the news headlines on my regular internet routine was about the man who opened fire in an Oregon mall a few days ago.

A couple of hours later, I saw a headline about a shooting. 

At an elementary school.

I haven’t watched much of the coverage of the situation; partly because I don’t think I can take it and partly because I don’t want any sensationalism of what is already maybe the worst things I've ever heard of.

I don’t know that I've ever cried because of a news story.  I mean actually cried, real tears, coming down my cheeks.  Even 9/11, as horrific as it was, was so surreal and unbelievable that I just stood there, taking it all in, like everyone else in the world, slack-jawed.  I couldn't comprehend it.

But this – a shooting at an elementary school – I can comprehend.  I dropped my five-year old daughter off at an elementary school this morning; one about the same size as Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, where this situation is unfolding.

This story has absolutely broken my heart.  The details I know are that 26 are dead, including one gunmen (as of this writing, supposedly there might be two; one of whom is missing).  Of that number dead, 20 of them are children. 

Elementary school children.  


I wanted to dedicate a song to the kids and families affected and the first thing I thought of was one by a man I consider to be a modern day prophet (not a term I use lightly, by the way), Kris Kristofferson

By Kris Kristofferson

Read about the sorry way he done somebody's daughter
Chained her to a heavy thing and threw her in the water
And she sank into the darkness with their baby son inside her
A little piece of truth and beauty died

Burning up the atmosphere and cutting down the trees
The billion dollar bombing of a nation on its knees
Anyone not marching to their tune they call it treason
Everyone says God is on his side

See the lightning, hear the cries
Of the wounded in a world in Holy war
Mortal thunder from the skies
Killing everything they say they're fighting for

Broken babies, broken homes
Broken-hearted people dying every day
How'd this happen, what went wrong
Don't blame God, I swear to God I heard him say

"Not in my name, not on my ground
I want nothing but the ending of the war
No more killing, or it's over
And the mystery won't matter anymore"

Broken dreamers, broken rules
Broken-hearted people just like me and you
We are children of the stars
Don't blame God, I swear to God he's crying too

"Not in my name, not on my ground
I want nothing but the ending of the war
No more killing, or it's over
And the mystery won't matter anymore"

Read about the sorry way he done somebody's daughter
Chained her to a heavy thing and threw her in the water
And she sank into the darkness with their baby son inside her
A little piece of truth and beauty died

"In the News” is obviously not about today’s school shooting.  Its lyrics allude to the Scott & Laci Peterson story that consumed the news a few years ago and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Please make no mistake – I’m not posting this song with any political intentions about the war.

So many of these lyrics speak to me about today’s news:

“…a little piece of truth and beauty died.”

Whatever kind of statement the gunman in the Colorado theater shooting earlier this year wanted to make, he felt the way to do it was by carrying out some despicable act.  But it was mostly adults and it was in an unaffiliated public place.

Columbine was high school kids proving a sick point against other high school kids.

Again, NOTHING excuses these horrible acts.

But who the hell shoots children?

I have a five-year old little girl.  And every day I’m awed by the beauty of watching her life unfold.  I’m amazed as I can see her personality develop.  Every day that she gets out of the car to head in to school, my heart is filled with a bitter-sweet feeling.  I see these kids going to and fro; so innocent.  The other day when I picked my daughter up, a very rough-around-the-edges-looking little boy ran up to his rough-around-the-edges-looking mom and shouted, “I love you…all in my heart!”  It was beautiful.

I used to work with a homeless outreach project and sometimes I’d take my daughter with me. She was about two then.  One of the homeless guys I became friends with used to always comment on her innocence.  It kind of freaked me out for a while, but I get it now.  He’d been in prison and had lived a very tough life.  He was in awe of the sweetness and untainted, pure innocence of a small child.

I watch these kids and I love their innocence.  Life hasn't knocked them around too much and everything is in front of them.  The hardships and disappointments of life haven’t affected them.  It’s bittersweet, though, because I know eventually those things will take their toll.  My daughter will always be loved by me and will always be beautiful to me; but that pure innocence and unguarded optimism eventually goes away.

But not when they’re five.  Not at school. That stuff happens later.  School should be an almost sacred place, in its own way.  Believe me, I have many issues with the “school system” in general.  (I was contemplating just today a blog post about the frustration of having to try to teach my daughter to color things their “standard/designated” colors when I know good and well that it’s cooler to make things fun colored and not worry too much about staying in the lines).  BUT, especially in kindergarten, school is magical.  Four months ago she couldn't read or write anything other than her name.  She now reads, writes, sort of understands money, can tell time a little bit, knows the days of the week and months of the year, and more.  She’s like Keanu Reeves’s Neo character in The Matrix when they first hook him up to the machine and pump him full of tons of new knowledge!

But all of that magic associated with those early years of school…the unguarded optimism…the pure innocence…that’s gone for these kids forever.  

The feeling of dropping my daughter off at school is also bittersweet because I know that as much as I love her, once I let her out of my care into the school, someone might not be nice to her.  I think about her throughout my day and I hope that everyone is treating her right and that she’s treating her classmates right.  The thought of someone hurting my little girl hurts me.

I understand that thought and concern is a typical part of being a parent.  But what happened today in Connecticut is not typical.  It’s normal for me to worry about someone giving my kid a hard time.  But I should NEVER have to worry about a grown-ass man coming in with an assault rifle and opening fire on my five-year old’s class.

The first picture I saw of the incident was a line of elementary school kids being led out of the building by their teacher, all holding hands in the classic “little duckling” scenario that little kids do.  It was a powerful juxtaposition; a classic “kid pose”, but a look on their little faces that said without question that nothing would ever be the same again.

There’s a little, but tangible, bit of truth and beauty that’s missing from the world now.  And if there’s anything in this world that we’re already short on, it’s truth and beauty.

“Broken babies, broken homes…brokenhearted people dying every day.”

Need I say more?  These were babies.  Their homes – as well as the lives of their families – are now forever broken, eleven days before Christmas.  Kristofferson may have meant those lines differently originally, but their applicability here is profound.

“I want nothing but the ending of the war”

Although I pledged that I wouldn't refer to Kristofferson’s opposition of the war in this song, I think this line fits because of a war of a different nature; a war against humanity.  Everything seems to be warring against humanity.

Institutions, corporations, politics, all seem to be out for themselves and people seem to be paying the price.  The media feeds on it.  We live in a culture of fear.  People treat each other badly all over the world; killing and dying in the name of their religion, on behalf of their government, over greed, and on and on.  We’re quickly losing our humanity.  To borrow a line from Mike Ehrmantrout on Breaking Bad, “I can foresee a lot of possible outcomes to this thing, and not a single one of them involves Miller Time”. 

We've simply got to figure this stuff out and start treating each other like people.

“How’d this happen?  What went wrong?”

An obvious line for today, and a question that everyone in America is most likely – and should be – asking themselves.

“No more killing…or it’s over…and the mystery won’t matter anymore.”

What if we don’t figure this out?  What if one of those situations does play out and, as Mike Ehrmantrout predicted, it doesn't end with Miller Time?

I’m certainly not saying I’m an enlightened person or that I have anything figured out.  But the collective stupidity of humanity astounds me.  Look at the life around you.

Human beings are complex organisms that live on a fuckin’ ROCK THAT’S SUSPENDED IN MID-AIR IN THE MIDDLE OF OUTER SPACE, just precisely the right distance close to and far away from the sun – a gigantic ball of flaming gas that sustains all life.  Ponder the amazing magnitude of that for a minute.

If we’re lucky, we each get about 90 years to inhabit some space on that rock.  We could spend those 90 years, learning as much as possible about this amazing creation we live in, and the amazing variety of people that inhabit the various spots on this rock, but instead we choose to follow our own little mouse trails, keep ourselves busy working toward and consuming mundane shit we don’t need, obsessing over the latest telephone that you can watch TV on, tweeting, and keeping up with Lindsay Lohan’s latest court date.  Rather than learn about each other and lift each other up and help each other though this life thing, we prefer to bicker over politics and kill each other over religion and real estate.

Sometimes when I look up at the stars, I’m simply amazed that I get the privilege for a short while to be a part of whatever this is all about.  And I spend most of that time in a cubicle, trying to get a buck, so I can make my way in the world that is infinitely cooler than we give it credit for.

Joe Strummer used to encourage his fans to wake up to the fact that we’re all here, alive, together, in the same place, and that we need to live that way.  Otherwise, life is truly passing us by.

I sign off my radio show each week by stealing Bill & Ted’s classic – and classically cheesy – line, “Be excellent to each other.”

We’re all we've got in this world, ya’ll.  If you have a family who loves you, you’re a lucky person.  If you have friends you can depend on, that’s a blessing.

Whatever god you pray to, or whatever it is that you believe in, or whatever motivates you – don’t let that stuff divide us.  Everything divides us: money, religion, power, etc.  We need to get back together and wake up and respect the humanity.  We need to treat each other excellently. 

My thoughts go out to the kids in Connecticut, to the families of those hurt or lost, and to the family of the perpetrator of this horrific tragedy.  Don’t forget that there must have been some serious pain and anguish that caused him to do this.

I’ll close with the words of another Kristofferson tune, from the same album mentioned above, “Pilgrim’s Progress”:

By Kris Kristofferson

Am I young enough to believe in revolution
Am I strong enough to get down on my knees and pray
Am I high enough on the chain of evolution
To respect myself, and my brother and my sister
And perfect myself in my own peculiar way
I get lazy, and forget my obligations
I'd go crazy, if I paid attention all the time
And I want justice, but I'll settle for some mercy
On this Holy Road through the Universal Mind

Am I young enough to believe in revolution
Am I strong enough to get down on my knees and pray
Am I high enough on the chain of evolution
To respect myself, and my brother and my sister
And perfect myself in my own peculiar way

I got lucky, I got everything I wanted
I got happy, there wasn't nothing else to do
And I'd be crazy not to wonder if I'm worthy
Of the part I play in this dream that's coming true

Am I young enough to believe in revolution
Am I strong enough to get down on my knees and pray
Am I high enough on the chain of evolution
To respect myself, and my brother and my sister
And perfect myself in my own peculiar way 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

DIRTY ROOTS RADIO - December 13th Playlist

Tune in to Dirty Roots Radio every Thursday night from 8 to 10 p.m. (central) at www.wgrn.net.

Tom Waits – Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis
Robert Earle Keen – Merry Christmas From The Family
Bruce Springsteen – Easy Money
Bruce Springsteen – Shackled And Drawn
WhiteTrash WhipLash – My Buick Goes 180
Dwight Yoakam – Dim Lights, Thick Smoke
Dr. John – Big Shot
Imelda May – Walking After Midnight
Nathaniel Mayer – Village Of Love
John Lee Hooker – Blues for Christmas
Aerosmith – Back In The Saddle
Chuck Berry – Crazy Arms
Mike Ness – No Man’s Friend
Albert King – Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin’
Jerry Lee Lewis – You Win Again
Two Gospel Keys – You Got to Move (When the Lord Gets Ready)
Bob Dylan – Long and Wasted Years
Willie Nelson – Devil In A Sleepin’ Bag
Gene Vincent – I’m A Lonesome Fugitive
The Sonics – Santa Claus
Muddy Waters – She’s All Right
William S. Burroughs – A Junky’s Christmas
Leonard Cohen – Hallelujah
Joe Tex – King of the Road
Johnny Thunders & the Heartbreakers – Do You Love Me
R.L. Burnside – Shake ‘Em on Down
Jon Langford – The Death of Country Music
Lemmy Kilmister, Dave Grohl & Billy F. Gibbons – Run Rudolph Run
Steve Earle – Breed
The Rolling Stones – Doom and Gloom
Pearl Jam – Nothingman



"Here's to the crazy ones.  The misfits.  The rebels.  The trouble makers.  The round heads in the square holes.  The ones who see things differently.  They're not fond of rules and they have no respect for the status quo.  You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them.  The only thing you can't do is ignore them.  Because they change things.  They push the human race forward and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius.  Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do."  - Jack Kerouac

"Be a deviant...or die of boredom."  - William S. Burroughs

"Great things are not accomplished by those who yield to trends and fads and popular opinion."  - Jack Kerouac

"After one look at this planet, any visitor from outer space would say, 'I want to see the manager'."  - William S. Burroughs

"The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, that ones that never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes, 'Awww!'"  - Jack Kerouac

Thursday, December 6, 2012

DIRTY ROOTS RADIO - December 6th Playlist

Tune in to Dirty Roots Radio every Thursday night from 8 to 10 p.m. (central) at www.wgrn.net.

Little Richard – Tutti Frutti
Little Richard – Get Rhythm
Little Richard – Rip It Up
Little Richard – I Don’t Know What You’ve Got (But It’s Got Me)
Social Distortion – Death or Glory
The Clash – Death or Glory
Motorhead – Ace of Spades (acoustic)
Townes Van Zandt – Lungs
Grandpa Boy – I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry
Waylon Jennings & Willie Nelson – Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love)
The Head Cat – Crying, Waiting, Hoping
The Head Cat – Fool’s Paradise
Roy Orbison – Lana
Boo Boo Davis – Mike In Jail
The Buchanan Brothers – When You See (Those Flying Saucers)
Roy Acuff – Sixteen Chickens and a Tambourine
Roy Orbison – Only the Lonely
The Squires – I Wonder
Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Walk Like a Giant
Nick Waterhouse – Time’s All Gone, Pt. 2
The Louvin Brothers – The Great Atomic Power
Uncle Tupelo – Atomic Power
Uncle Tupelo – Satan, Your Kingdom Must  Come Down
Bob Log III – Settin’ the Woods on Fire
Roy Acuff – Whoa Mule
Tom Waits – Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis
Dick Dale – Miserlou
Dick Dale – Third Stone from the Sun
Mavis Staples – You Are Not Alone
The Buchanan Brothers – Atomic Power
Tom Waits w/Keith Richards – Last Leaf
The Blind Boys of Alabama w/Tom Waits – Go Tell It on the Mountain
Joe Strummer & the Mescaleros – From Willesden to Cricklewood



"Little Richard is my idol."  - James Brown

"Little Richard is the beginning of rock 'n' roll."  - Smokey Robinson

"Little Richard is king."  - Mick Jagger

"The most exciting moment of my life was appearing on the same stage as Little Richard."  - Keith Richards

"If it hadn't been for Little Richard, I would not be here."  - Otis Redding

"I want to do with my guitar what Little Richard does with his voice."  - Jimi Hendrix

Thursday, November 29, 2012

DIRTY ROOTS RADIO - November 29th Playlist

Tune in to Dirty Roots Radio every Thursday night from 8 to 10 p.m. (central) at www.wgrn.net.

Joan Jett & The Blackhearts w/The Coasters – Nag
Kid Koala – 1 bit Blues (10,000 miles)
Jimi Hendrix – Third Stone From the Sun
George Harrison – Marwa Blues
Imelda May – Psycho
Imelda May – Johnny Got A Boom Boom
King Kahn & The BBQ Show – Fish Fight
Tim Timebomb & Friends – Bad Luck
Tim Timebomb & Friends – Ooh La La
Rival Sons – Keep On Swinging
Rival Sons – Pressure And Time
Jason & The Scorchers – White Lies
Dan Auerbach – Trouble Weighs a Ton
King Kahn & The Shrines – Bite My Tongue
Dolly Parton – Jolene
Merry Clayton – Gimme Shelter
Muddy Waters – I Just Want to Make Love to You
Charlie Rich – Behind Closed Doors
The Hooten Hallers – The Ugliest Girl
Bob Reuter’s Alley Ghost – Hell Town
Del Shannon – Runaway
The Rolling Stones – Rip This Joint
The Rolling Stones – Happy
Johnny Cash – One More Ride
Social Distortion – Bakersfield
Steve Earle – My Old Friend The Blues
Chuck Berry – Reelin’ and Rockin’ [live]
The Rolling Stones – Can’t You Hear Me Knocking
Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros – Blitzkrieg Bop [live]
Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers – Chinese Rocks
Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Down by the River
Paul Jones – Pucker Up Butter Cup
Dwight Yoakam – Dim Lights, Thick Smoke
Bobby Bare Jr.’s Young Criminals Starvation League – The Heart Bionic
Tom Waits – Down There by the Train
Rancid – East Bay Night
Rancid – Last One To Die
Joan Jett & The Blackhearts – Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah)
The Runaways – Queens Of Noise
Justin Townes Earle – The Good Life
Scott H. Biram – 18 Wheeler Fever
Bob Dylan – It’s All Good



"Some people never go crazy. What truly horrible lives they must lead."

"Sometimes you climb out of bed in the morning and you think, I'm not going to make it, but you laugh inside - remembering all the times you've felt that way."

"We are all going to die, all of us, what a circus!  That alone should make us love each other but it doesn't.  We are terrorized and flattened by trivialities, we are eaten up by nothing."

"You have to die a few times before you can really live."

"I don't hate people.  I just feel better when they're not around."

"If you're losing your soul and you know it, then you've still got a soul left to lose."

"I was laying in bed one night and I thought, I'll just quit - to hell with it.  And another little voice inside me said, don't quite - save that tiny little ember of spark.  And never give them that spark because as long as you have that spark, you can start the greatest fire again."  

- Charles Bukowski

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Q & A: Kinky Friedman on Folk Music, Politics, Mass Murder, and His Bipolar Tour

Rapping with Kinky Friedman is always a great experience.  He’s been a guest on my Dirty Roots Radio show twice prior to this interview.  The process isn’t without its challenges, though.

You don’t so much “interview” Kinky as you just wind him up, give him a topic, and let him go.  When it works well, it’s much like a late-night talk show host feeding lines to a comedian to lead him into pre-planned jokes.  Other times, Kinky’s laid-back Texas attitude and slow delivery can make for long pauses while he loads his next one-liner.  If you’re not careful, you step on them.

This conversation was a blast and we talked about everything from folk music, to mass murderers, politics, and Mike Tyson.

This interview was to promote his Kinky’s upcoming show at the best venue in all of St. Louis, Off Broadway, on Saturday, December 1st.  (Tickets: http://offbroadwaystl.com/)

For more information and other dates on his Bipolar Tour, visit Kinky’s website at www.KinkyFriedman.com.


RYAN MIFFLIN: Brother Kinky!

KINKY FRIEDMAN: Hello Ryan, how are you?

I’m good, sir.  How are you?

Looking forward to seeing you Saturday night at Off Broadway in St. Louis!

Ditto that.  As we get started here, I always have my guests introduce themselves in their own words.

Hey folks.  Kinky Friedman here, the friendly Jewish cowboy, with a Texas toast: Here’s to you with a Mexican mouthwash.  Here’s to honor…..get on her and stay on her!

How do you define yourself when you have to fill out a job application?  I mean, you’re a singer-songwriter, a novelist, a satirist, a humorist, a politician…

And beautician!

There you go…

It’s a curse of being multi-talented, Ryan.  That’s the problem.  If I was just good at one thing I’d be enormously successful.

So you spread yourself too thin, then.

That’s correct, absolutely.  Mostly, though, I’m a defender of strays.  My only friends are stray dogs and old carriage horses.

You take care of such beasts out at your ranch, right?

Yeah, we’ve got a rescue ranch for animals here, Utopia Animal Rescue Ranch, or www.UtopiaRescue.com, and we’ve been running it about 15 years and we’ve rescued thousands of animals in that time.  So, any animal lovers can go to the website and check it out.  It’s been great work.  I always say money may buy you a fine dog, but only love can make him wag his tail.

Are you still doing your cigar enterprise as well?

Well, the cigars, yeah…Kinky Friedman Cigars…KFC.  But what’s overtaken that a bit is the tequila.  Kinky Friedman’s “Man in Black” tequila, which is the best Mexican mouthwash you’ll ever gargle.  This is not your father’s tequila.  This is your grandfather’s gardener’s tequila. 

You know, Ryan, here at “Man in Black”, we salute Zorro, Paladin, and Johnny Cash.

That’s the holy trinity right there, right?

Yep.  If we had people like that leading our country today, we’d be in great shape.

Since you bring that up, there’s not too many people who I would put this question to, because it’s so broad and ridiculous, but I want to ask…You don’t have to be an expert to look around and realize that the whole country – and probably the world – has lost its collective damn mind.  Where did we go off the rails, and do you have any thoughts on what we need to do to get things back in order?

Well, I’ve suggested limiting all elected officials to two terms; one in office and one in prison.  I think that would be a good start.  It’s just something about politics.  Poly means more than one.  And ticks are blood-sucking parasites…so that’s what we have.  And they’ve spent billions of dollars and we’re right back where we started from.  All those politicians seem to be more like Neville Chamberlain than Winston Churchill.

So, I’m confining myself to Texas, looking at the 2014 governor’s race.  But not running as an independent, this time running in the Democratic primary as an old-time blue dog Harry Truman Democrat.  And if I could win that thing, I think we’d be in the cat bird seat.  I think we’d have a very good chance to win a lot of Independent, Libertarian, Ron Paul, and Republican votes.

You had a good showing when you ran for governor of Texas back in ’06, right?

Yeah, it was 600,000 people.  But Jesus Christ could not get elected as an Independent in Texas.

So, that’s something I’m looking at, but I’ll tell you it’s a much higher calling being a musician than being a politician.  We all recognize that.

I’m really looking forward to the Bipolar Tour coming up.

You’ve been touring a lot recently.  I think you’ve been through my neck of the woods (St. Louis) about three times in the last three or four years.

Yeah, this one is totally solo.  It’s kind of like Townes Van Zandt, Woody Guthrie…a little bit of Judy Garland in there.  It’s been working really well.  It’s kind of an idea I borrowed from Willie, which is running on adrenaline and the audience.  Its 28 shows in 27 days. 


So, we’ll see what shape I’m in by the time I get to St. Louis.  Right now everybody down here has the Texas Jew flu.  I don’t know what the hell it is.  I think its allergies.

So, in what other ways will this tour be similar or different to others that people may have seen?

Well, I make the practice of not having any new material. 

But there’s some old material that I haven’t done, like “The Ballad of Kevin Barry”, which almost nobody knows.  I learned it when I was about 10 years old, off a record by Paul Robeson, who was the greatest voice of the age.  Also a black communist.

And so we have Paul Robeson, singing to this little Jewish kid in Texas – me – about an Irish-Catholic martyr who was hung by the British and was only 18 years old…“a lad of 18 summers”…a medical student, and that would be Kevin Barry.  When I learned that song around 1960, it was so beautiful, I kind of took the song inside of me and I never recorded it or played it on any stage until this Bipolar Tour.

I think that’s what folk music is all about.  It’s kind of come back to me over a lifetime.  I’m not even sure if the lyrics I have are the same that Paul Robeson sang.  But it’s been really an effective song.

And, of course, there’s “They Ain’t Makin’ Jews Like Jesus Anymore”, which is kind of an anthem against political correctness.  


And I remind the audience that “Jesus loves you” can be very comforting words…unless you hear them in a Mexican prison.

We’ll have a reading from a book, “Heroes of a Texas Childhood”, 23 heroes of mine when I was a kid.

And afterwards, we’ll sign books.  I will sign anything but bad legislation.

I wish more people had that mentality.

That’s the truth.  Politics has really let us down.  One problem is what JFK said, “What you need in politics is money, money, and money.”  Those are the three things you need and money has completely corrupted the system.

Here in Texas, I think I’ve got a real chance, if I can be serious for the primary.  People were concerned [in ‘06] that they didn’t want a comedian in the governor’s mansion, and now they realize we’ve had one for about 12 years; his name is Rick Perry.

I don’t know…I just find that being on the road with just a guitar and a book….it is a high calling.  And it’s as close to the truth as you can sail without sinking the ship.

We’ll do a lot of other songs; “Get Your Biscuits in the Oven and Your Buns In the Bed”, “Proud to Be An Asshole from El Paso”, “Ride ‘Em Jewboy”, “Wildman from Borneo”.  Lots of others.  And there are some stories that go along with them.  I think it’s going to be a real good night in St. Louis, so come on down to Off Broadway…Saturday, December 1st.

I’ve got to watch what I’m doing on the Bipolar Tour because there is NO time off.  I’m a little ill coming into it, so I may be wheeled in on a gurney by that time, so we’ll see.

I saw one of your old buddies at the Fox Theatre in St. Louis last year and he was almost completely voiceless.  I don’t know what he’d been dealing with, but he pushed through, man.

Yeah, we like to call him Piss Pissed-Off-erson.  But he’s a great one. 

And I wonder why you have to go see a geezer to get inspired, you know?  The young people are not without talent.  But you gotta see Merle or Billy Joe Shaver or Bob Dylan or Willie or Kris.  Too late to see the late, great Levon Helm, of course.  But those kinds of people really inspire you. 

I think part of our problem as a country is that we kind of…well, we’re like Kinky Friedman tequila.  I call it the Barry Manilow drink, because it makes you feel good for a short period of time.  That’s what Barry Manilow’s songs do!  He’s very talented and he’s made more money than God.  But it makes you feel good for a short period of time.

I prefer to see Billy Joe or Kris or Willie or Bob or Merle or someone like that.  Those songs might make you think and they might stay with you a lifetime.

Speaking of songs making you think, many of your signature songs were recorded before my time.  I wasn’t around to see the reception to “They Ain’t Makin’ Jews Like Jesus Anymore” or “Get Your Biscuits In the Oven and Your Buns In the Bed”.  You almost can’t imagine someone doing a song like that nowadays – maybe Randy Newman, but not many others.  Did you come up against a lot of opposition or people just taking those things completely wrong at the time?

Oh, hell yes.  The Texas Jewboys were misunderstood by just about everybody they could be.  We kept telling them, just listen to the song, you know?

But today, political correctness has, I think, pretty well won out everywhere.

Although, I must say, these songs have gone over very well.  So, the kind of people who are coming to see me…a lot of them are political types, a lot of them are music fans, and a lot of them are fans of the books.  So you’ve got a kind of mixed bags.  And you’ve got a lot of people who weren’t even born when the songs were written, but they know them.

It’s a genius audience.  And that makes a genius performance every time.

That’s as opposed to a very successful commercial band like the Rolling Stones.  The people who see them are pretty much coming to see nostalgia.  They want to hear “Satisfaction”; they don’t want to hear the new album.  It’s like that with my pal Jimmy Buffet.  His audiences are middle aged lawyers that want to go back to a happier time.  That’s nostalgia.  And it works.  I mean, it’s very successful.

But I like to be forward-looking.  I like to embrace the future, even if it slaps me in the face.

What else are you working on now?

Well right now, Ryan, we’re riding high with the book I did with Willie Nelson, “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die”.

Loved it!

It’s now number 14 on the New York Times bestseller list and number 30 on Amazon.  So it’s on its way up like a rocket ship and if it goes up high enough, it’s going to be a financial pleasure for Willie and myself.

It was great working with him.  But, you know, Willie does not believe in the concept of an editor.  It’s kind of childlike, but there’s a lot of truth to what he’s saying.  I mean, if he wrote a song, would he give it to me and say, “Kinky, you edit this”?  No, you don’t do that!  And it’s the same with a book.

I think he’s right.  I told him my definition of an editor is someone who takes something great and makes it good.  That’s what they do.  But this one got away with a lot of good stuff in it, so I’m pretty happy with that one.

We’ve got that and we’ve got the tour.  And if I survive that one, there’s a 35-city, non-stop, Bipolar Tour of Europe.

Part of the reason it’s called the Bipolar Tour is the “Ballad of Charles Whitman”, about the guy who climbed the Texas Tower and shot about 27 people back in the ‘60s.  He was the first mass murderer, really, who caught on with the imagination of the American people.  There’ve been a lot of imitators.  People like to say that Charlie was probably bipolar, because he wasn’t weird or anything.  He was just really a normal, good guy.  Everybody liked him until he climbed the tower and killed all those people.  They say if we’d known about “bipolar” back then in the ‘60s we could have given him medication and so forth.

But the truth is…my theory is that either nobody’s bipolar or everybody’s bipolar.

Little deep there.

My friend Ratso is working on a book with Mike Tyson.  And Tyson’s been studying philosophy lately.

I’ve heard that.

So, Ratso tells him, “Hey, my friend Kinky Friedman says ‘It’s a small step from the limo to the gutter’.”  And Mike Tyson says, (in a Tyson-imitating squeaky voice) “That’s deep!  That’s deep!”


Well, we’ll put a link to the show info out there and try to get some folks over to Off Broadway on Saturday.

Yeah, it’s coming right up!

Are you gonna get down there, Ryan?

I hope to be able to.

Well, look, if you do, let’s have us a tequila drinking contest, OK?

Sounds good!

This Kinky Friedman stuff…you’ll really like it, I guarantee ya. 

That sounds wonderful to me.

In the meantime, find what you like and let it kill you. 


I don’t consider myself a big success in many areas.  But I just received a personal invitation to drink tequila with the great Kinky Friedman.  That’s gotta count for something, right?

For more on Kinky Friedman’s new “Man In Black” tequila, visit www.ManInBlackTequila.com.

Other Kinky info…

Kinky Friedman Cigars and Special Blend Coffee: www.KinkyCigars.com

Kinky Friedman’s Utopia Animal Rescue Ranch: www.UtopiaRanch.com

Ryan Mifflin is the host of Dirty Roots Radio, a "Quentin Tarantino-ization of a spaghetti western style old-school record show" featuring renegade country, vintage gospel, raw blues, greasy soul, punk, and funk.

Tune in to Dirty Roots Radio every Thursday night from 8 to 10 p.m. (central) on WGRN 89.5 FM. Listen online from anywhere in the world at www.wgrn.net.