Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
Within the first week of buying my first and hopefully last house, Ghostfinger's Richie (Fingers) Kirkpatrick was standing in my backyard with David Vandervelde and Vandervelde's wife. We were all very much drunk out of our minds, but Kirkpatrick was going back to the wilting box of Budweiser heavies until they were all gone. He was adamant about finishing the job. There were two 18-packs full and unopened at the start of a night that didn't begin until well past midnight, following any already sloshing gig at the pizza parlor, where he and DV opened for Justin Townes Earle.
They'd driven straight up from Nashville that day - eight or nine hours - to make it to the show and fatigue was no where to be found. As the punctuation marks for the crescendo of the evening might have been obvious to normal people, Kirkpatrick is not normal and there he was jamming a key into the bottom side of a can and popping the tab at the top to let it flow in a rushing, right into his gullet. Out there amongst the clear stars and dead silence of a neighborhood long retired to sleep, we made it until nearly 4 a.m. dining on some asinine, but uproariously entertaining dialogue about a valiant and trustworthy hawk/falcon named Trixie that feasted (or was it tormented?) dogs and was a faithful companion to anyone taking the speaking role of the narrator/owner at the time.
We still think about that hilarious conversation from time-to-time, but it was likely forgotten by Richie the next minute, not because of the high alcohol intake, but because he didn't need to retain such moments. He has a surplus of these bizarro inklings and absurdities. They keep his mustache curly at the corners and also a clever smile - that of a playful serial killer - on his face. He'd never be asked, "Why…SO…serious?" in a thunderously ominous tone. He's not serious and his non-seriousness is drizzled over top every Ghostfinger song - most of which are the collaborations with duo rider Matt Rowland. There's almost a constant clucking of the tongue, in a faux seriousness, as big ideas that are not at all genuine are offered as Spinal Tap-like parodies, only…wait, they're serious.
Yes, it's very confusing, but his scrambled mind is a maze that never stays straight for longer than three minutes and that explains so much as it's always on to the next thought to pervert and the next subject to throw off the bridge with a chuckle and a mooning or a wagging of genitals. There's never a clear sign, in anything that Kirkpatrick does or sings, that should make us think he's not kidding the hell around with us mentally, but it's deliciously baffling and loony. He sings about being all over the world, almost cultured in a sense, and the only thing that he's aware of doing is continuing to seek out his piece of the pie. But this can't be right as he's more (prepare for a second Joker reference in just under 15 lines) the guy who would douse with gasoline and then set $50 million in bills alight with fire and prefer to watch the world burn - so long as no one got hurt and could just stand off to the side for a good look, jabbing keys into the bottoms of Bud heavies and getting silly, stinking hammered as the scene played out and the next fire could be staked out and ignited. He's stimulated by that which is, but isn't rarified, just enough to capture his attention for the briefest of flickers.
"Lady" is seemingly a song about a man growing a baby in his leg, or not, cause it's dead. Who knows what that's supposed to stand for anyway. He doesn't, I'd bet. Here's a dream scenario to have Kirkpatrick in, to witness him at his shining best. We'd take him to Graceland (all of us), where we'd be suitably loaded on drink, and we'd riff on toilet jokes and somehow find a way to get him into that Jungle Room with those monkeys and some glue-on sideburns, some ballpark food, some live mink and all of the K-Y jelly or Jell-O he could need. Maybe a unicycle too, just to top it off. It would be one of the best American moments in the history of American moments and if he sang about that baby or Trixie growing in his pregnant leg, that would be beautifully pornographic. And American - still American.