Cam King is a guitar player, songwriter, and carpenter who is working on putting his music on CD for the first time. Photo by Phil Houseal
Cam King: Pickles & Jams
by Phil Houseal
Cam King packs a mean jar of pickles.
It’s the same way he preserves his music.
“For 30 years I’ve been doing other people’s music,” said King, who describes himself as a guitar player who writes songs. “Now I am recording new songs and tons of songs I haven’t recorded yet. I am rerecording songs featuring other singers, that deserve a contemporary recording.”
He calls it “collecting time.”
“I don’t collect stuff; I collect time,” he said. “I am burdened with hundreds of hours of recording. And I am trying to archive it.”
It’s a burden he does not want to leave to future musicians. That means he is trying to determine what is junk and what is worth keeping. He does not want to saddle the next generation with junk.
“The less we leave, the more precious it is.”
I was only the second outsider allowed inside his inner sanctum, a super secret music studio somewhere in the hill country. I felt immediately at home, and not just because he greeted me with his homemade jar of pickles. There was recording equipment, guitars, keyboards, drums, even the very same model TEAC 4-track reel-to-reel tape deck I used to record on back in the 1970s. That’s the way we made music, you digital delinquents: on 7-inch reels of 1/4-inch tape traveling at 7 1/2 inches per second across a recording head.
It’s also how we used to make pickles. Planting and picking the cucumbers ourselves, then slicing, pickling, and packing them in Mason jars.
That’s King’s style. Think throwback. Think Telecaster. Think Clarence White, James Burton, and The Ventures.
Of course now he uses digital recording equipment and computers. But he has his hands on everything, from playing all the instruments to building out the studio.
“I don’t want to be a jack-of-all-trades,” he said. “My purpose is to be master of as much as I can. If I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it the best that I can.”
King has insight. There are two kinds of songwriters, he says: those that have a day job, and those that have a wife who has a day job.
In other words, it ain’t easy making a living writing songs.
King has a dry wit. How did he end up in Fredericksburg?
Songwriter protection program, he joked.
Actually it was the same reason any man ends up anywhere: relationships. Starts good. Goes bad. Moves. Gets good again.
His connection to Texas goes back to the 1970s. He played with an Austin band The Explosives, and recorded at John and Laurie Hill’s Loma Studios. Later, The Explosives backed up Roky Erickson, legendary leader of the local legendary 13th Floor Elevators.
These days, King has opinions.
“The current music business is in a swirl,” he said. “No one knows how to make money with music. Music has become a free medium. The good news is that people who were locked out, now can get in the open market.”
The bad news is that the digital age has affected everything.
“Digital games have changed the way people want to be entertained. How can people sit around campfires and talk about games? The answer is there are not going to be any more campfires.”
In the end, he can’t worry about the future of the mainstream.
“I can only do what I do.”
What he does, and continues to love to do, is to play live, working class, old school rock and roll music.
“When I play at Hondo’s, you are looking at a guy who has put in a hardworking day since 5 a.m. Music is my dessert for a hard day done. I deliver my best performance if I am alert from a full day’s activity.”
He continues to collate all the old songs into the new medium. King wants to make his work available in digital format and online. And in all these years, playing with all these bands, putting his guitar on endless tracks, he has not recorded a CD of his work. That is his goal.
“I want fans to have a physical product in their hand, something to take home,” he said. “It’s a signature of the work being done, the work that I want to find its way into other people’s repertoires. After all, the best demo is a well-made album.”
As the best cucumber is a well-packed pickle.