In search of Ron Schmeck

It’s easy to live here in Sacramento, tool around in your luxury sport sedan while listening to the latest recordings of business jazz masters, graze at all the finer Randy Paragary-owned establishments, admire our downtown with its burgeoning skyline of 28-story flat-top towers, and not have a clue as to the hard-twanging underbelly of our fine city.

In many places, this big valley is closer to Oklahoma than San Francisco. Merle Haggard lives at the north end, from which he phones late-night radio talk shows to chat about otherworldly strangeness, and Buck Owens still resides at the other end, in Bakersfield, where he operates a nightclub.

Sacramento sits smack dab in the middle. Our city has been trying to escape its past, as a spot where pickup truckloads of refugees from dust-bowl Oklahoma finally ran out of gas money and had to find semi-honest work. But the evidence is still around if you want to look for it.

One of this city’s finer artifacts occasionally turns up in thrift stores. Easy Living the American Way, an album recorded in the 1970s by Ron Schmeck, is a window into an unabashedly redneck California sensibility that’s all but disappeared.

Schmeck, who once owned an El Camino Avenue dealership that sold mobile homes and recreational vehicles, also had a TV show, Easy Living Country, which aired on local stations KTXL 40 and KCRA 3. For a connoisseur of fine C&W programming, it wasn’t quite up to Grand Old Opry standards, or even The Porter Wagoner Show With Dolly Parton. But it was locally produced, and it fit right in with such Saturday-afternoon diversions as Roller Derby and Big Time Wrestling.

As a songwriter, Schmeck was no Harlan Howard. His melodies were, well, a polite way to describe them would be to use the word “derivative.” But as a lyricist, Schmeck was like Brian Wilson; instead of evoking surfboards, hot rods and Malibu sunsets, however, Schmeck’s milieu was mobile-home parks and campgrounds with all the hookups. Like this: “Rolling down the highway with a camper on his truck, he’s a Good Sam,” Schmeck sang on an ode to those cool red stickers you see pasted on the backs of Winnebagos you might find parked down at the local KOA Kampground. “Moving down the highway with a camper behind, he’s a Good Sam / Tooling down the highway in a motor home, he’s a Good Sam.” You’ve got to admit, he nailed something essential there.

While Schmeck’s record still turns up, the man himself seems to have disappeared. Which is why we’re looking for him. If you know the whereabouts of this unheralded exponent of California country music, and you’d like to be a Good Sam, please feel free to contact me at the SN&R. My e-mail address is, and my phone number is (916) 498-1234, ext. 1364. Thanks.