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Ricky Welch, a massage therapist who works at Campbell Barracks, likes to use semi-precious stones such as jade, malachite and rose quartz in his massages.

Ricky Welch, a massage therapist who works at Campbell Barracks, likes to use semi-precious stones such as jade, malachite and rose quartz in his massages. (Courtesy of Ricky Welch)

Sometimes, a little lying goes a long way.

Young Ricky Welch wasn’t planning to massage anyone the night years ago he went to Eppelheim, Germany, to see the Scorpions, only to find it sold out. So the aspiring massage therapist improvised his way into the concert. He walked back to his car, got his portable massage table from the trunk and headed for the concert hall back door. Someone had called for a masseur, he told security, and he was it.

After much confusion, many profanities from the band’s manager and the help of a nice woman named Tootsie, Welch’s problems were over. Scorpion guitarist Rudolph Schenker, on hearing there was a masseur in the house, said, according to Welch, “‘Fantastic! I’ve got a pain in my back from jumping down from a speaker.’”

Welch went to work. “I put two vertebras back in place and [Schenker] said, ‘That’s the best massage I ever had.’ I followed them on tour for eight years,” Welch said. “That was great.”

Before long, Welch says, he was massaging ACDC’s drummer, Billy Idol and even Bono of U2.

Which leads naturally to the question of how Bono, international megastar and humanitarian, looks naked. “I can’t say too much,” Welch says, drawing an imaginary zipper across his lips. “He’s tight. He’s very cut.”

Welch, a cheerful and chubby German-American massage therapist with an earring and a dedicated if noncelebrity local clientele at Campbell Barracks, may not be through with famous bodies yet.

Maybe some day he’ll cart his portable massage table to the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York City, whip out his hot jade and cold crystal and put David Letterman out of his misery.

Letterman is a reported sufferer of tinnitus, or ringing in the ears. Welch claims to have devised a special massage that makes the incessant, annoying sounds stop.

He calls it the “Aurum Manus,” Latin for golden hands. Welch says the massage treats only stress-induced tinnitus, as well as headache and migraine, not tinnitus due to organic damage of some sort.

Medical science isn’t certain of the ailment’s causes, and has yet to find a cure. But Welch says his surprising results have captured the imagination of not only German otolaryngologists, but also Letterman’s regular masseur.

For now, though, Welch can be found most days kneading and prodding the stiff, sore muscles of soldiers and civilians in a former shower room in the gym at Campbell Barracks.

There, with his oils and hot rocks, music and theories about the importance of the kidneys, he aims to fight barehanded the ravages to the body caused by stress, sports injuries, over use and … sitting.

“They sit a lot,” Welch said of his clients. “They have the problems with their shoulders, their necks.”

Welch, 36, and the son of a U.S. Army father and German mother, studied for two years at Heidelberg University, starting when he was 18, and apprenticed for another year before getting his diploma, he says.

But his interest in massage therapy began when he was 13, when he laid eyes on the massage room at a local swimming pool. To Welch, it was magic.

“The wonderful atmosphere. The nice light and candles. The smell of the oils,” Welch says. “I was excited. I thought massages must be great.”

He started massaging family and friends. Although his mother thought he’d become a doctor and his father thought he was going through a phase, everyone noticed something else. “They said, ‘Hey, You’ve got a good grip,’” Welch said.

Welch can name — and does — 14 different types of massage, including the Turkish Maham massage, which involves a marble table, possibly heated, and a lot of soap.

Although he admits to craving a nicer massage room, Welch said he’s happy to work on military types. “I treated soccer teams so that they could be successful,” he said. “I said, ‘This is the same thing, but it’s a bigger team. It’s the U.S. Army.”

He’d welcome the chance to massage Gen. B. B. Bell, commander of U.S. Army Europe, he said, whom he assumes is under a great deal of stress.

“I had a general before — a chaplain,” Welch said. And how did he look naked?

“He was very tight, too,” Welch said.

author picture
Nancy is an Italy-based reporter for Stars and Stripes who writes about military health, legal and social issues. An upstate New York native who served three years in the U.S. Army before graduating from the University of Arizona, she previously worked at The Anchorage Daily News and The Seattle Times. Over her nearly 40-year journalism career she’s won several regional and national awards for her stories and was part of a newsroom-wide team at the Anchorage Daily News that was awarded the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.
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