If you stayed in the Bern, Switzerland, in between ~1980 and 2003 you may have seen Ralph Reimann busking under the alcoves in the historic city center.
In 1999 I stayed in Bern for holidays, when my friend, who was a guitarist too, his girlfriend and I heard him play the first time. I was amazed to hear a fingerstyle guitarist like he was busking, when he could play on any stage. Next day I saw him again. I was alone (…), so I sat down and we talked till early in the morning. About all the world and his brother and Hannes Wader. He lost his eye light as a baby due to an infection, but this didn’t stop him to become a fantastic fingerstyler.
One day I went with his Sigma guitar to Gitarren Total to change all the frets. When the salesman realized how equal ALL the frets were outworn, he looked at me with really big eyes. I said «Oh no, it’s not mine – it’s my blind friends guitar.» His eyes nearly popped out, then he looked somehow … disbeliving. «No joke!» I said. I felt really cool!
Ralph was my introduction to the true art of guitar playing. The first time he changed my life! But it took me two years to realize that: 2001 I left my hometown and moved to Bern.
One day he said «you will like that» and played Strength in Numbers on his small ghetto blaster. I felt like reborn, hearing Jerry Douglas for the first time. It changed not only my life, it changed my whole self! Again it took me some time to realize that: I bought my first Dobro 2006, after five more years. Well, that’s me…
And Ralph was a lot like that too – probably that was the reason we got along that well. His credo was always: We are here to help each other. I know nobody who put it into action like he did and, forgive me, I don’t think you do. He gave away his money for food and stayed with his beer, because he thought he could better withstand hunger.
He studied medicine for some years and was a doctor for all the marginal groups, got prescription drugs for unlucky people from a friend who was pharmacist. But Ralph himself, his everyday medicine was beer. His lifestyle was not what I would call healthy. Later he came down with a weak digestion and finally esophageal cancer. Ralph died in 2003 after a short time suffering. I was with him and since then I know that one should live every moment as if it were the last.
What Ralph has left to us is a kind of «house concert» someone recorded on a DAT, you can hear cooking going on in the background. I mastered it from an audio cassette as good as I could, the DAT was not available anymore. You may have already clicked on the play button on top of this page. Yeah, and two pictures. Thank you for being with me and your inspiration!
(This is the only recording he left, made in a kitchen after some beers. Please contact me if you would like to get the music or recognize one of the unnamed tracks, thank you!)