Born on June 7, 1951, in East Germany, Rainer Jaromir Ptacek grew up in Chicago after his family fled the Communist country in 1953. Musically inclined from childhood, in the mid '60s Rainer swapped violin for guitar. (He once quipped, "None of the Beatles, it seemed, were interested in violin.") A decade later he'd become a fixture on the Tucson music scene, ultimately garnering an international reputation as a song stylist and slide virtuoso that had critics speaking of him, Ry Cooder and John Fahey in the same breath, while pondering the intricacies of an elaborate tape loop and delay pedal strategy he'd developed during his later years that allowed him to sound like three guitarists at once. In addition to four albums ("Barefoot Rock", "Worried Spirits", "Texas Tapes" and "Nocturnes") released between 1986 and 1994, he collaborated with everyone from Giant Sand and Germany's F.S.K. to ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons and Led Zep's Robert Plant.
On Groundhog's Day of '96, while Rainer was riding his bike to work at the Chicago Store (where he repaired string instruments), his brain faded out and he fell over. He wound up at the University Medical Center where they scanned him and imaged him and concluded that Rainer Ptácek had brain cancer. They said it appeared like a cloud throughout his head - no lump of malignancy that could be excised and let the man live in peace. So Rainer had to commence the exhausting ordeal of radiation and chemo treatments. "It took some time to relearn everything he'd known before the seizure," says Howe Gelb (of Giant Sand fame and Rainer´s best friend) of Rainer's initial recovery period. "The most amazing part of his trek - which was unbearably frustrating, given how his brain wouldn't work with him for the longest time to remember so many things, let alone the coordination it takes for his hands to carry out his brain's ideas - was that he not only was able to teach himself all over again; his stunning achievement was then to surpass his ability before he got sick!" Howe Gelb also was the moving force behind "The Inner Flame", a Rainer-tribute that featured the likes of Emmylou Harris, Evan Dando, Page & Plant, P.J. Harvey etc., but also showcased Ptacek and his trademark National Steel guitar on several cuts. The record which was just finished before his seizure - "Alpaca Lips" - was released in the fall of 2000.
Another triumph occurred at a Tucson concert on June 6, 1997, prior to Rainer's relapse. Recorded professionally and released in late 2001 as the second installment in the trilogy, "Live at the Performance Center" is, by Gelb's description, "the best live recording I have ever heard from anyone, anywhere, from any time. And if you listen with a critical ear - which is hard to do, given the emotional status - he keeps getting better and better as the set goes on. He's on a plane I have never heard anyone ever get to." The brain tumor that was thought to be in remission returned. "That came about after his final seizure [in '97]. I raced home from a European tour to find him talking in numbers. Again, he slowly began to relearn his guitar, but this time the end was imminent. We all knew it. And we had to tell him, as well. Anyway, I mentioned to him that he was coming up with all kinds of ideas on the guitar; would he like to record again? To focus on that for the healing it can do, and the relief of the art he gave himself to his whole life. A day or so later, he was up for it. He put in 4 days of recording spread over a couple of weeks, until his brain could not make sense enough to go on." (Howe Gelb)
The result is "The Farm", Rainer´s last recordings. Rainer Ptacek passed away on November 12, 1997. "What a great struggle for him at times to even read and make sense of the notes he'd made. The spine tingle is the delivery from a man who is perched on the precipice and able to look over into the void and deliver still, in this world, what he sees on both sides. What can I say? You can hear it." (Howe Gelb)
released January 1, 2002
Recorded in 1997 - Originally released in 2002
Rainer Ptacek - Dobro, National Steel and Vocals
Nick Augustine - Bass
Ralph Gilmore - Drums
John Convertino - Drums (1)
Howe Gelb - Piano Hammond B3 Roland Sampler Fender 6 String Bass