Rainer Ptacek

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Rainer Ptacek
Birth name Rainer Jaromir Ptaček
Also known as Rainer
Born (1951-06-07)June 7, 1951
East Berlin, East Germany
Died November 12, 1997(1997-11-12) (aged 46)
Tucson, Arizona
Genres Blues, blues-rock, New Acoustic, contemporary folk, Americana, American Primitivism
Occupations Musician, singer-songwriter
Instruments Guitar
Years active 1970s–1997
Associated acts Giant Sand, The Band of Blacky Ranchette
Website Rainer official website
Notable instruments
Dobro, National Steel Guitar

Rainer Ptacek (a.k.a. Rainer) (June 7, 1951 – November 12, 1997) was a Tucson, Arizona based guitarist and singer-songwriter. His guitar technique, which incorporated slide, finger-picking, tape loops and electronic manipulation, earned him admiration of some notable musicians such as Robert Plant and Billy Gibbons. A tribute album to Ptacek, The Inner Flame, included contributions by Plant, Jimmy Page, PJ Harvey, Emmylou Harris and others, and was indicative of his reputation as a "musician's musician". He was diagnosed with a brain tumor in early 1996 and died nearly two years later after the illness recurred.

Early life and career[edit]

Ptacek was born in East Berlin to a family of Czech and German descent. His family fled East Germany for the United States when he was five years old. They eventually settled in Chicago, where young Ptacek was first exposed to blues music. He moved to Tucson in the early 1970s, where he began his own musical career, most often solo, but sometimes he plugged in and led a trio as Rainer & Das Combo. He co-founded Giant Sandworms with Howe Gelb in the late 1970s. When the band decided to move to New York, he opted to stay in Tucson to make sure that he would not disrupt his then-new family. Although he never became well known in the United States, he became more and more recognized in Europe. Billy Gibbons was so impressed with the singer-guitarist that he arranged to have Kurt Loder review Ptacek's "Mush Mind Blues" single in Rolling Stone. Ptacek later returned to Houston at the invitation from Billy Gibbons to complete the recordings at Gibbons' Gold Star Sound Services studio which saw release as "The Texas Tapes" meeting international attention and approval.[1] Robert Plant, similarly impressed, flew Ptacek to England for the sessions for B-sides to supplement the singles from Fate of Nations.[2]

Illness[edit]

He was diagnosed with a brain tumor and lymphoma in February 1996. He did not have medical insurance and his bills were mounting. Howe Gelb and Robert Plant organized sessions for a charity album. The resulting record, The Inner Flame: Rainer Ptacek Tribute, featured Ptacek-penned songs performed by Gelb (with Giant Sand), Plant, Jimmy Page, Emmylou Harris, Evan Dando, Victoria Williams, Vic Chesnutt, PJ Harvey, The Drovers, Madeleine Peyroux, Kris McKay, Jonathan Richman and Bill Janovitz. Ptacek is a participant on most of the tracks.

Intense chemotherapy sessions put his tumor into remission and Ptacek resumed his concert activity vigorously, beginning with a guest performance at Greg Brown's show in November 1996. By this time, media attention was more focused on him than ever before. Just when it seemed as though he had beaten his disease, it recurred in October 1997, and he died three weeks later at age 46.

Discography[edit]

  • Avid Demo List (circa 1979, cassette)
  • The Mush Mind Blues (1983, with Das Combo, cassette)
  • Live Downtown (1985, with Das Combo, cassette)
  • Barefoot Rock with Rainer and Das Combo (released on LP in 1986, re-issued on CD in 1994)
  • Worried Spirits (1992)
  • The Texas Tapes (1993, with Das Combo)
  • D.Y.O. Boot (1995)
  • Nocturnes (1995)
  • Rainulator (1996, cassette)
  • The Inner Flame: Rainer Ptacek Tribute (tribute and benefit album, released in 1997)
  • Alpaca Lips (released 2000)
  • Live at the Performance Center (released 2001)
  • The Farm (released 2002)
  • 17 Miracles (2005, collection)
  • The Rainer Collection (2006, collection)
  • The Westwood Sessions, Volume I (with Das Combo, released November 2007)
  • Roll Back The Years (with Joey Burns & John Convertino, released May 2011)

References[edit]

  1. ^ Schensul, Jill (April 19, 1984). "Tucson no longer a musical dead end". The Arizona Daily Star. Archived from the original on 2006-08-12. Retrieved 2006-12-31. 
  2. ^ Sheppard, Denise (August 29, 1997). "Flame Thrower". EPulse. Archived from the original on 2007-03-12. Retrieved 2006-12-31. 

External links[edit]