Cam Waters, a regionally renowned National steel guitar player and singer, was found dead at his north Minneapolis home Sunday.
The blues/folk picker had no shortage of gigs over the past two months, ranging from an arts fundraiser hosted by Garrison Keillor at Zumbrota's historic State Theater to a regular stint at the rugged Minneapolis West Bank watering hole Palmer's Bar. He continued to impress audiences and peers with his guitar-playing skills and songwriting talent up until the end.
His death at age 51 ended a life that his musical friend Dakota Dave Hull called "a roller-coaster ride emotionally. He managed to hide his [emotional] problems pretty well, but he apparently never found peace with them." The official cause of death was not yet determined.
"Cam was well-versed in a wide breadth of music," said Hull, who frequently collaborated with Waters over two decades. "He had a strong sense of old blues and other traditional styles, but not at the expense of any modern sensibility."
Waters was newly married on Oct. 15. His wife, Trudy Waters, is planning a memorial service for after New Year's Day. She described the death as "unexpected" and said of his music: "He loved to play anywhere, whether it was the Fitzgerald Theater or Dunn Bros. or even just our living room."
Among the best-known projects in Waters' 30-year music career was his late-'90s trio the Sugar Kings, a jug-band-like group that also featured harp blower Clint Hoover and horn player Steve Sandberg. His handful of solo albums included two for Hull's Arabica label, "Shoetown" and "Central Standard," plus he played on Hull's 1991 album "Reunion Rag" for the national folk label Flying Fish Records. He was a regular at the Cedar Cultural Center's National Resophonic Night Out festivals and performed on concert bills with Doc Watson, Dave Van Ronk, Greg Brown and Maria Muldaur.
A native of Spirit Lake, Iowa, near touristy Arnold's Park, Waters moved around to numerous towns in Iowa and Minnesota before settling in Minneapolis last year after a seven-year stay in Rochester. By day, he worked at the Minneapolis Academy as a reading specialist.
The bio on his website says that for his pastime activities, he "listens to music obsessively, spends too much money dining out, bicycles when Minnesota weather permits, makes fun of Republicans, and of course does as many shows as possible."
Another of Waters' local musician friends, Lonnie Knight, hosted an online radio show with him in October and said he appeared to be in good spirits then.
"It's a bit shocking, but no matter what, it's a great loss," Knight said. "His talent was easy to recognize."
Chris Riemenschneider • 612-673-4658