I wore out the handle of my first case in a few months. Because it was the original case, my Martin rep scored me a new case for nothing. I broke that handle in a few months. I asked my Martin rep if they had a case for, you know, someone who actually carried a guitar around in it. He gave me another case. That handle broke a few months later, right before the 2007 Kerrville Folk Festival.
I carried my guitar into camp underneath my arm and it lived handleless under the big camp tarp with the other instruments. One morning, I woke up and this handle was on my case. T.R. Ritchie was up early. He had one of his harmonicas in pieces and was tuning it by hand.
"I made you a handle. It's better than nothing."
Damn right it was better than nothing. It outlasted the "real" handles by more than six years. This handle has been from British Columbia to Nova Scotia. From Texas to the Yukon. From Austria to Iceland. Now even the case is falling apart, the corners worn away, the back peeling off the sides, duct-taped together for one last tour of Denmark and Germany in February. The handle will outlast the case.
In fact, it outlasted its maker. T.R. died this morning of pancreatic cancer. He wasn't famous like Pete Seeger and this obituary won't show up in The Huffington Post. But like Pete, T.R. left a legacy- in this handle, in our hearts, and in his songs.
He also had a wicked sense of humor. He's been warming up all his life and now he's really ready to sing you this song.
DECOMPOSING THE BLUES by T.R. Ritchie
I didn't wake up this morning; I just lay there in the bed. When I finally came to my senses I realized I was dead. No more problems. No more worries about paying my dues. I'm just gonna lay here 'til somebody finds me, Decomposing the blues.
My doctor warned me this might happen. He said I was pressing my luck. I guess I should've been listening But I was too busy living it up. The party's over, But I think I can see the point He was trying to prove. There's a very thin line Between a really good time And decomposing the blues.
Now I'm staring up at the ceiling With a look of sober surprise, And I'm having a lot of mixed feelings Concerning my recent demise. Part of me feels kinda foolish; Part of me just doesn't care; And part of me's glad I'm unable to smell The aroma that hangs in the air.
I can see where my present condition Might put a little cramp in my style. I'm just gonna have to adjust And hope I get used to it after a while. It won't be so bad. The irony of it all is gonna keep me amused. 'Cause, see, now that I'm dead I'll probably get famous for Decomposing the blues.
Nobody else die this week, okay? Thanks. Your fan,