b. Rainer Ptacek, 7 June 1951, East Berlin, Germany, d. 12 November 1997, Tucson, Arizona, USA. A taste for seclusion and a penchant for unstructured, imaginative slide guitar playing made Rainer something of a cult figure before his records became generally available. His parents fled to West Berlin three years after his birth and in 1956 the family emigrated to America and settled in Chicago. While studying at the Saint Rita High School, Rainer heard blues players such as Muddy Waters, Paul Butterfield and Charlie Musselwhite at the Aragon Ballroom and the Electric Circus. He moved west in 1972 and settled in Tucson. For the next 20 years, his principal employment was as a guitar repairman after periods as a cab driver, janitor and cabinet maker. He was also a founding member of bands such as Giant Sand and the Band Of Blacky Ranchette, and formed Das Combo with Nick Augustine and Ralph Gilmore in 1984. Their initial cassette release, The Mush Mind Blues, was followed in 1986 by Barefoot Rock With... , which was only released in England. Rainer’s next release, 1992’s Worried Spirits, was a solo effort recorded in two days direct to DAT, incorporating natural sounds and effects machinery. The Texas Tapes, credited to Das Combo, was a long-standing project with ZZ Top guitarist Billy Gibbons. Rainer also recorded several times with Robert Plant, who returned the favour on The Inner Flame tribute album in 1997, which helped raise money for Rainer’s medical bills following the diagnosis of an inoperable brain tumour.
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