They Were Kinky Before Kinky Was Kinky: Musicians Who Have Held Public Office

Categories: Lists, Playbill

From Ted Nugent to Bruce Springsteen to those adorable Dixie Chicks, "Masters of War" to "George Bush doesn't care about black people," musicians have never been shy about voicing their political opinions. But when it comes to putting their money where their mouths are and filing the necessary paperwork to run for public office, that list gets a lot shorter.

Arguably the most famous musician to ever succumb to the political bug, author/humorist/gadfly Kinky Friedman, stops by the Mucky Duck for two shows at 7 and 9:30 tonight. No doubt he'll mention he's running for Texas Agriculture Commissioner at some point, and we hope he wins. The Kinkster would certainly give Jim Hightower a run for his money as the most colorful Ag Commissioner Texas has ever had.

It's hard enough to find any musicians who have stood for office, a list that includes Jello Biafra (Mayor of San Francisco) and Roy Acuff (Governor of Tennessee), but Rocks Off did some digging, polled our writers (thanks, guys) and found a handful of musicians who have not only appeared on the ballot but actually won.


John Hall: The band Orleans is probably as well-known for the above man-tastic album cover as its '70s soft-rock hit "Still the One." Singer/guitarist John Hall parlayed his anti-nuclear activism into a political career and now represents New York state's 19th district in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Sonny Bono: Long after "I Got You Babe," the good-looking half of Sonny and Cher ran for mayor of Palm Springs, Calif., after growing frustrated with the California desert resort town's bureaucracy when he was trying to open a restaurant. He won, served for four years and went on to Congress, where the Republican represented the Golden State's 44th district from 1994 until his untimely death in a skiing accident four years later. His name lives on with the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, which President Clinton signed into law ten months after Bono's death.

W. Lee "Pappy" O'Daniel: Ohio native O'Daniel moved to Fort Worth to work at the Burris Flour Company's mill in Cowtown, and wound up in charge of advertising. That led to a popular radio program, so O'Daniel - known for his catchphrase "pass the biscuits" - hired some Western swing musicians to provide the tunes, and named them the Light Crust Doughboys before he was was elected Governor of Texas in 1938 and 1940. His most significant achievement is a toss-up between music and politics - Bob Wills was a Light Crust Doughboy before starting the Texas Playboys, and O'Daniel won the only election Lyndon Baines Johnson ever lost, a special election for Texas' junior U.S. Senate seat in 1941.

Jerry Butler: The soul singer known as "The Ice Man" helped friend and fellow Chicago church-choir member Curtis Mayfield found the Impressions in the late '50s, but struck out on his own after writing the group's hit song "For Your Precious Love." Butler was a fixture on the R&B charts throughout the '60s with songs like "Let It Be Me," "Hey, Western Union Man" and the stirring "Only the Strong Survive." Still in Chicago, Butler has been a Cook County Commissioner since 1985.

Martha Reeves: The dynamic lead singer of Motown's Martha & the Vandellas ("Dancing In the Street," "Nowhere to Run") caused a "Heat Wave" or two after being elected to Detroit City Council in 2005. Although some critics thought she spent too much time on tour, she helped get Motown's West Grand Boulevard changed to Berry Gordy Jr. Boulevard in honor of her former boss, and proposed a series of downtown statues of onetime labelmates such as Stevie Wonder and Smokey Robinson. She told entertainment Web site WENN the statues were "in the pipeline" in January 2009, but that's the last thing we could find about them; Reeves lost her bid for re-election a few months later.

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