Friedman recorded 11 albums and hit it almost big, touring with Willie Nelson and Bob Dylan. He fully embraced the wild life, which he readily admits included mountains of cocaine.
"I think you have to find what you like and let it kill ya, you know? You struggle with your demons and you conquer them," he says. "I mean, I haven't done drugs in what? Twenty-five years or more. Been a long time. When I left New York. I was there for awhile in '85 and came back here when my mother died. I lived here at the ranch and that pretty well cleansed me, and I think the Texas Hill Country cured me."
It's country he knew from childhood. His parents were teachers who ran a summer camp, not poor enough, he says, to lead him to country music stardom, not rich enough for him to get into the quaint and colorful oil business.
He lives mostly alone with his immediate family — his dogs he calls the Friedmans. Lots of dogs. Down the road from his house, he's got 60 of them, all stray and abused and waiting in a kind of utopia to be adopted. In the past seven years, Friedman's Utopia Animal Rescue Ranch has helped 1,500 find new homes.
"And you know what I say, 'Money may buy you a fine dog, but only love can make 'em wag his tail,' " Friedman says.
Friedman, 61, says he thinks he will have a wife and family one day.
"I'd like to have a first lady, yeah. We'll see," he says. "I mean, there's no hurrying. I've waited this long. Why make a tragic mistake at this time, you know? Plus, I'm gonna be workin' for the people of Texas and it's gonna be fun."
Fun for Friedman and his pals. He has the support of some big names in country music, including Willie Nelson, who threw a fundraiser at his golf course with entertainment by Billy Joe Shaver.
And there's the literary Kinky Friedman, hit of the Texas book festival. He has written 23 books. Some are mysteries with a detective named Kinky Friedman. Others feature his wit and wisdom. The latest is called "Texas Hold 'Em : How I Was Born in a Manger, Died in the Saddle, and Came Back as a Horny Toad." And for years, he wrote a column for "Texas Monthly" magazine.
How serious is Friedman about his run for governor?
"I think he's dead serious. I think that if you ask him whether this is a joke, if you even suggest it's a joke, he'll lunge at you," says Evan Smith, the editor of "Texas Monthly," and one of the top political commentators in the state.
What does Smith think are Friedman's strengths as a candidate?
"His strengths, I think, begin with his independence," says Smith. "He's independent of everything and of everybody. And sometimes he's independent of his own brain. His mouth is independent of his brain. But I think the fact that he's willing to take on the establishment, however he defines it on a given day. Republicans, Democrats, you know people in power. He has tapped into a dissatisfaction with the accepted order."
"The Democrats and Republicans are the same guy admiring themself in the mirror," says Friedman. "And if an alternative is on that ballot in Texas, I guarantee you, Texans are gonna take it. The politicians don't know this yet, but the people do."
The one predictable thing about Kinky Friedman is that he's unpredictable.
"The Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments being taken out of the public schools. I want them back," says Friedman.
"I want them back, they belong there," says Friedman. "Maybe I'll have to change their name to the Ten Suggestions, you know. But they were taken out, not by separation of church and state, but by political correctness gone awry. One atheist stands up and says, 'I don't like the Ten Commandments,' and suddenly out they go. And, of course, we all know what happens to an atheist when he dies. His tombstone usually reads, 'All dressed up and no place to go.' "
Friedman has at times spoken irreverently about Jesus. Does he worry that religious voters in the very religious state of Texas might be offended?
"Well, I just said that Jesus and I were both Jewish and that neither of us ever had a job, we never had a home, we never married and we traveled around the countryside irritating people," says Friedman. "Now, if that's comparing myself to Jesus, I don't really think it is. But, the Jesus in my heart is a Jesus with a sense of humor. And, personally, I think he's enjoyin' my campaign as much as anybody right now. I think he is."
The issues Kinky Friedman will have to address may include headline issues such as gay marriage and prayer in schools.
"I'll tell you right now. I'm for prayer in school," he says. "I say what's wrong with a kid believing in something? I don't care if it's a tree or a rock or something, he should believe in something. I also support gay marriage. I say they have every right to be just as miserable as the rest of us. And I'll tell you another thing, you won't find any candidate that supports prayer in school and gay marriage. For that reason alone, people should vote for an independent-thinking person."