Ted grew up along the Hudson River Valley in NY, the one quiet member of an otherwise loud family. This was the perfect environment for what Ted would grow into: an observer/songwriter and a bass player - the support person in a band who must be both unobtrusive and completely present at the same time.
A lover of music from early on, Ted immersed himself in music all through high school and college. He then moved onto Seattle to give music a go. He played 250 gigs a year with almost every type of band at every type of venue in the Northwest.
In '98 he formed Ponticello with fiddle player Chris Murphy. They were a roots inspired 3 piece band. Ted sang lead vocals and played bass, supported by electric violin and drums. As a trio they toured the West Coast and Rockies almost non-stop for 4 years and released 4 CD's.
By 2001, Ted was in L.A. starting to develop his own brand of American music while making a living playing with a million bands including Candye Kane, Kevin Banford, Eugene Edwards, Preston Smith, The Better Days, and Robin Wiley.
As Ted honed in on his musical interests - the combination of country and soul relying on the roots of American music, Ted formed his own band, Union Pacific, that played around L.A. and San Diego and, at the same time, became a highly sought after bassist doing session, national TV shows, and many international tours.
In 2003 Ted met and began playing bass with Shooter Jennings. The first Shooter Jennings album came out in March of 2005 on Universal South almost to the day when NorthSouth was released on Ted's own label PoMo Records. Ted spent most of 2005 touring the U.S. with Shooter as the band's 'Put the O Back In Country' sold 225,000 records. In fact, Ted wrote the song "Steady at the Wheel" on the Shooter record, which became the record's 2nd single and was #1 on the Texas charts for over a month.
In 2006, Shooter and the 357's released their second record in April, while Ted released 2 new records, comprised of many new songs written and recorded on the road with Shooter and the band as well as with his old friends from the L.A. scene. The band's year of touring included the David Letterman Show, The Craig Ferguson Show, Bonnaroo, the Wakarusa Festival, and the Willie Nelson 4th of July Picnic, a Summer tour opening for Lynyrd Skynyrd and 3 Doors Down, as well as headlining many venues - over 150 shows in 2006. And the new Shooter single "Gone To Carolina" broke the Top 20 Charts on CMT.
2007 started out with a big album for Ted: Divisadero was released on Jan. 30 and got a ton of great press. Ted made many radio station visits, did a bunch of gigs with the band, and even opened a bunch of shows for Shooter doing double duty. In November, after a great year of touring with Shooter and the .357's, Ted did his first solo tour in Europe, playing in Spain and France.
Trying to juggle a 'solo' career and be a support player for Shooter is difficult, but being a part of the Waylon Jennings - Jessi Colter - Shooter Jennings tradition is an indescribable honor.
With the start of 2008, Ted is looking to finish and release his next solo record and looks forward to another great year out on the road with Shooter and the .357's.
Full text of Ted's article on published in Lonestar Music Magazine, October 2007 Issue
Ted is a New York native now living in L.A. Lonestarmusic.com named him an "Honorary Lonestar" with his newest record, Divisadero, which has been doing great on Texas radio. He has also been playing bass with Shooter Jennings for 4 years ... since the beginning ... and he wrote the song 'Steady At The Wheel' from the first Shooter record 'Put The O Back In Country which was #1 on the Texas music charts for 6 weeks. He is truly honored to be welcomed into the state and its traditions in music.
Confessions of an Honorary Lonestar
by Ted Russell Kamp
I don't know what it is, but there's a larger than life quality about Texas. Maybe it's the lone star in the sky or the people that the star guides.
Maybe it's the sheer size of the state. Maybe it's something about the history of the frontier or the harsh climate that demands a strength and a sense of survival. Texas seems to breed lone wolves and free spirits. The won't-take-no-for-an-answer types. Presidents and explorers, cowboys and wanderers, rebels and outlaws. Texas is big. Really big. It was even its own country. It means a lot to a lot of people - both the people growing up in Texas, and the people on the outside looking in. There are lots of stories, myths, and trendsetters that hail from the state of Texas. And with all this, comes a lot of inspiration.
In the last ten or fifteen years, I have had a growing and ongoing love affair with the state itself, its people, and of course, its music. As an outsider and a fan, I want to give thanks and props to some of the key records and artists that inspired me the most, brought me closer to the music I love so much, led me to a life where I am proud to be making music for a living, and spending a good amount of time in Texas, the state that drew me into music in general.
As a shy kid growing up in the suburbs of New York City, I was around a lot of ethnicities and cultures. I remember feeling like a silent boring observer stuck in the middle of all these loud and colorful characters: a stranger, not allowed into any one culture, a tourist everywhere I went. So, a lot of my freedom as a kid came from music, in the form of the radio, and the earliest local-only version of MTV, and the places that music took my imagination.
I guess we're all drawn to things and people bigger than ourselves. Things that seem greater. People that seem stronger. More powerful. More sure of themselves. Texas music, like its people, has this power. And a singular vision. Not being afraid to take a stance. Whether it's with a story, a gun, a Cadillac, or a melody, I saw that lone star in the sky, and have been following it ever since. Maybe drawing inspiration from it is a better way to say it.
Stevie Ray Vaughn
My first conscious hit of the power of Texas music was, strangely enough, David Bowie. The first song of his I really heard was "Let's Dance" featuring the guitar playing of Stevie Ray Vaughan. I heard it and was hooked. Even as a kid, I knew just by the way people talked about him, that Bowie was one of the greats, one of the truly unique artists in the world of modern music. But when I heard this song, not only did I immediately sense the perfect simplicity of the song itself, but also Bowie's larger than life rock star persona. And then, just as big as that was THAT GUITAR.
In only a few screaming single high notes and a little passage you could barely call a solo, I knew immediately I needed to find out who THAT was. Apparently it was Stevie Ray Vaughan, of Austin. Bowie had 'discovered' him at a music festival in Europe and asked him to play a bit on his new record. The rest is history.
That sound spread through my bones like nothing I had ever experienced. Those lone stinging notes breathed a passion into me that was completely new and like nothing I'd heard in music before. There was a solitary confidence, something huge and totally masculine, yet totally controlled - almost like Clint Eastwood or a snake waiting in the grass, where even if you just see him, and even if he's not moving, you can feel the confidence and know that at any second that raw surge of energy can and probably will take charge and take over.
The first actual Stevie Ray record I got was "The Sky is Crying", a greatest hits collection. It featured the acoustic "Life by the Drop", which gave a narrative story-telling kind of mission statement to set the rest of the record to. Surrounded by all the blues shuffles and fiery guitar and riff driven songs, it gave me a description of the person behind the persona. The song, and then the album, brought out the subtlety of Kenny Burrell's jazzy "Chitlins Con Carne" and the emotional roller-coaster instrumental version of Hendrix's "Little Wing", the classic blues-in-overdrive of "Close To You", and Howlin' Wolf"s "May I Have a Talk With You". It also brought me into my first contact with one of Stevie Ray's biggest influences Lonnie Mack. With his take on "Wham", the world of heart and soul in music really opened up for me.
This was a big-as-Texas full on musical version of the old adage 'three chords and the truth'. That honesty, that directness, and that power are all true and defining parts of the blues. And all parts of how and why it has shifted, evolved, and survived from region to region, and decade to decade, giving so many greats (and novices) a language in which to express themselves.
In an artist like Stevie Ray Vaughn, you don't just see one man, but the slow burn of the incredible history of Texas music within the Blues that he wore on his sleeve. He led me back to his inspirations, back through the electrified Chicago Blues of Muddy Waters and Little Walter, deep into Texans like T-Bone Walker and the acoustic blues of the Mississippi Delta. Not only did I find other artists, but the other artists playing with Stevie Ray himself: Tommy Shannon and Chris Layton - Double Trouble. The same intensity I got from the guitar and the voice, I heard in the pounding and persistant bass and drums. There really was a bedrock in that rhythm section. They perfectly paved the highway that let Stevie Ray drive as fast and furiously as he wanted.
To a budding bass player like myself, these guys, the support players, were just as inspirational as the 'artist'. Feeling that there was a team effort and not simply one genius creating the music was a deep and meaningful realization for me. My search for the unsung heros, the assist players, the inspirations, the obscure influences, and contributors began. In this case, it welcomed me into Texas blues. The idea of the band, the producer, the genre, and the 'artist' all working together, within a tradition made this totally current and new, as well as something ancient and timeless.
Past the sheer power and swagger of Texas music like Stevie Ray Vaughn, my next lesson in life and Texas was subtler. The story. The weaving of a yarn. Sitting on a porch listening to an elder. An uncle. A grandfather. Hearing a story. Getting the moral. The lesson. The humor. The hard truth. The lyric. Sometimes poetic. Sometimes plainly spoken.
The record of truly Texan music that opened my eyes to this was Nanci Griffith's "Other Voices Other Rooms".
Nanci Griffith was part of the same Texas scene and generation as Steve Earle, Lyle Lovett, and Robert Earl Keene, but a bit more on the country/folky side. I became a fan of a lot of her records, but this was one that really spoke to me. It was an homage to the song writers she loved: the people that got her into playing music and writing songs. In fact, this is a record of all covers, one each by many of the writers she admired most: Dylan ("Boots of Spanish Leather"), Woody Guthrie ("Do Re Mi"), and then, of course there is a strong showing by Texans (or honorary Texans) in Townes Van Zandt ("Tecumseh Valley"), Jerry Jeff Walker ("Morning Song For Sally"), John Prine ("Speed of the Sound Of Loneliness"), and more.
She chose an incredible batch of songs that brought a wonderful sincerity to the stories we share as humans. With this album, I noticed something new and special (and particularly Texan) in the approach to the songs. By telling a story with very simple words, and weaving a good yarn in the storytelling, we can follow a path through a song as we try to describe and get closer to the seemingly impossible to understand truths of life. A perfect example of this is found in the rich emotion and sadness that comes through Townes Van Zandt's "Tecumseh Valley". We hear the same repetitive lilt over and over in the words, the melody of each verse remaining almost identical. We hone in on the words, which often repeat as well, single words or phrases coming back to haunt and linger as one verse segues to the next. A story unfolds. A tragedy reveals itself, and then we close with the first verse repeated, only this time the girl we met with hope in the beginning of the song, is just a tragic and passing memory in the final stanza. Nanci brings us on another journey using similar tools, but this time it's Jerry Jeff Walker's "Morning Song For Sally". With the same kind of simple speech and plainly stated images we come to know the regret and fading memory and of a lover surrounded by a million reminders of a love long lost.
This record was a real jumping off point for me. It put a spotlight on the songs themselves and turned me onto the songwriters and the tradition of the Texas troubadour. I grew to love their simple, yet poetic directness: the use of common speech and everyday words to illuminate the spiritual and the abstract, as well as the shades of sarcasm and humor that often peek through life and music. This album, and the statement it made to me, was a symbol of the true and down-to-earth humanity of the music and the people of Texas and people in general. Proud, confident, and honest, yet simply stated often with an aw-shucks humility. It was real and it made a believer out of me. Not all the songs came from Texas, but they were compiled and sung by a true Texan, sticking to a style of storytelling and songwriting I unmistakenly associate with Texas. And it has actually continued to define what I find to be 'good' folk and 'good' country music.
As an aside, this album turned a lot of people onto Nanci and her music when it won the 1994 Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Record. For us roots music people, this is really the award that is the closest thing we have to an 'album of the year'. Outside of the constraints of mainstream rock and country, and thankfully a little more free from the constraints of major label politics, this award is much closer to a real judge of great and timeless roots flavored music. Bob Dylan has won this award 3 times, Lucinda Williams, Tom Waits, the list goes on and on of great artists doing great work and actually winning awards, helping them get the recognition and respect they deserve.
This album also inspired me from an instrumental and tonal point of view. Great music is often the combination of light and dark, of beautiful and ugly, of extreme loud and soft. The tone of Nanci Griffith's voice is so light and wispy, that she can add beauty to a concept that might be impossible to swallow if it had been presented by someone else. On the opposite end of the spectrum might be an artist like Tom Waits. His voice is so growly and caricaturish, that he can give weight and heart to the sappiest and most romantic lyric. The playing on this record is very acoustic and very subtle, featuring many of the players that were in Nanci Griffith's touring band at the time and it adds a true sincerity to the songs. The sweetness of the sounds and acoustic textures really help to express the bittersweet and sometimes beautiful nature of life and love working, at times with, and at times against the harsh and sometimes hopeless sentiments in the lyrics. The players used traditional instruments as well as those associated with more current folk, rock, and country. By singing songs and using instruments associated with the American roots music, as well as the brand new, Nanci Griffith and her band help place this music and these songs on a pedestal, proving them current and timeless, and also universal and personal.
A few years later, as I began my long tenure in various unknown bands playing in honky tonks, blues bars, and local clubs around the country, another Texas-sized breakthrough for me was Doug Sahm. Whether on his own, with the Sir Douglas Quintet or the Texas Tornadoes, Sahm was another musical giant that was totally unique, totally new, and totally timeless. He embodied that same confidence I already loved about Texas musicians, but the thing that made him special to me was his sense of rebellion. His music was grounded in tradition with the Tex-Mex overtones, the early roots of rock and roll rhythms, and the classic country melodies, yet it was also somehow amped up and on acid ... and therefore completely new and larger than life and totally ROCK. He was funny, irreverent, and ballsy, firmly using the traditions of music he loved so much, and turning them upside down at the same time.
I found him by accident when I saw a greatest hits compilation CD of his sitting on the top of a friend's stereo. I thought 'Who is this hippie guy with the Ray Manzerek hair and sideburns, holding instruments like guns? He looks like he's on even more acid than the Doors must have been ... because he's from Texas, not L.A.' It was a 'best of' collection entitled "The Best Of Doug Sahm and the Sir Douglas Quintet 1968-75".
I soon got that strangely recorded greatest CD for myself. The song that struck me the most was a slow and yet completely in your face version of 'Texas Me' in 12/8 time. It loped along like a Fats Domino New Orleans roots-of-rock-and-roll song yet completely raucous. Sahm's vocals were somehow singing, scratching, and screaming at me, all at the same time, with so much drive the song could've worked with just him and the drums. The song told the story of a Texan traveling to California: the land of milk and honey and rock and roll dreams. It read like the passionate autobiography of a small town Texan yearning for a new and deeper home in the hippie culture in late '60's America: a time when San Francisco was the Mecca for rebellion. At the end of the journey, he is disillusioned and wonders what happened to 'the real old Texas me?'. With a heart and soul that could only come from someone who had given up a real home and a true sense of grounding, he left in the search for change, and for a new personal and political freedom. After looking for a more satisfying and traveling to the ground zero of the American counter-culture, he was completely let down nothing but confusion and wasted time in Sausalito and San Francisco.
What's left at the end of the rebel's journey? The Rebel. Still alone. Still searching. Telling his story for all to hear. Saying don't settle. There is something grounding in home and tradition that the left is forgetting, while there's something necessary and earth-shatteringly wonderful about change and searching that the right is blind to. Doug stands in between, on the road alone, confident enough to stand on his own and keep searching. To me, this is truly Texas.
On this record we hear the classics "Mendocino" and "Is Anybody Going To San Antone", with their Tex-Mex influence: the German polka evolving into the train beat and rock and roll before your very eyes. There is also the deep and yearning, "Wasted Days and Wasted Nights", a song so powerful and classic it virtually defined Freddie Fender's entire career. They also recorded a funk tune with one of the great song titles of all time, "You Never Get Too Big, and You Sure Don't Get Too Heavy, That You Don't Have To Stop And Pay Your Dues Sometimes". Like a lot of the great funky rock from that era, it pulses and rollicks along like a rickety old train about to derail, but you know sure as hell, it'll get you where you need to go.
They brought something very new, very special - and to my musician ears - very hip, to their interpretations of old sounds, making music that was wonderfully new and fresh. Even Augie Meyers' Farfisa organ, a true trademark of some of Sahm's greatest music, had a perfect blend of kitsch and history: a real love of the "not perfect - but what the hell". All this wrapped the music in a real humility and respect, yet full of true Texan bravado and confidence. Three chords and MY truth - it might not be the most eloquent thing ever said, but "here it goes - it's the best we have to offer - and we BELIEVE in it".
Sahm and the musicians on these recordings had a true sense of American musical tradition: blues, roots, country, soul, and gospel. They combine all this history with the rebellious and modern need to reinterpret and make it all their own. In this, they really do represent the Texan branch of the very best that the Woodstock generation had to offer. They really were truly a part of that first generation where we saw rock and rollers playing country. The sounds of the cowboys and the hippies coming together. The old men and the young rebels sharing influences and stories.
And these are just a few of the records and milestones I found along the way that that drew me in to Texas. Not to mention all the friends and musicians on all those bandstands and honky tonks that recommended I check out Waylon and Willie, or introduced me to Ray Wylie and Ray Price. And not to mention, my first trips with bands to Texas to play South By Southwest, and the subsequent trips back, with even more bands, where I first saw the non-South-By 'real' Austin: still a minimum of five shows every night worth seeing. And not to mention that one of the first shows I played with Shooter was at the Waylon Jennings Red River Tribute a few years back where I met Cross Canadian, Boland, Shaver, Django and Jerry Jeff, and so many contemporaries I can't name. You all opened up a community of current Texas music that proudly brings the tradition into the modern day and the future.
So with the power of Stevie Ray Vaughn, the storytelling of Nanci Griffith, the rebellion of Doug Sahm, and the sense of tradition that all of them - and all of us - share ... here I am... in Texas.
you weavers of yarns,
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Ted proudly plays Gibson Guitars and Basses.
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