Tony Rice, a guitarist and bluegrass singer known for his innovative elegance, died Friday at his home in Redsville, North Carolina. He was 69 years old. Rice’s death was confirmed by the International Bluegrass Music Association, who inducted him into the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame in 2013.
David Anthony Rice was born in Virginia on June 8, 1951, and Rice learned about bluegrass from his father, an amateur musician who raised his family in Los Angeles, and Tony’s older brother Larry Rice, who played the mandolin. When Tony was 20, he joined his brother as a member of New South, the bluegrass group led by Banjo J.D. Crowe. The band played throughout Kentucky and introduced Rice to Ricky Skaggs, who joined New South in 1974. Upon his death, Skaggs declared Rice as “the most influential acoustic guitarist of the past 50 years.”
Praise is justified. Rice was a natural strength of guitar playing, and dazzled bluegrass fans with his flat grace and mastery of the Martin D-28 acoustic guitar. His solo debut album was in 1973 titled, Simply, guitar, And showcasing Rice’s interpretations of Merle Travis “Nine Pound Hammer,” and Bob Wills “Faded Love,” and one of his autographs, “Freeborn Man.” Rice’s singing and playing also made him the most central figure in the genre. Charlie Warsham, Rice’s assistant, “Even if Tony Rice didn’t play anything, his voice alone was a unique force, and the songs he sang strengthened the game for songwriting in Bluegrass and beyond.” Wrote On Twitter.
Besides his solo albums, Rice sang and recorded with David Grisman Quintet, with JD Crowe as the Bluegrass Album Band, with Norman Blake, with his siblings as Rice Brothers, with Birds Chris Hillman, with Peter Rowan, and with fellow New Southern Skaggs (they launched the collaborative LP Skaggs & Rice In 1980.) But with his own collection, The Tony Rice Unit, Rice has done some of his most famous and creative work. Outfit Album 1979 Manzanita It is a sacred text in the bluegrass, with guests such as Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas, Skaggs and Greasman making up the Rice Band. For 1980 Mar WestRice mixed bluegrass with elements of jazz and folk to create a hypnotic style he called “space grass.” In 1983, he won the Grammy Award for Best Country Musical Performance for Fireball, and six times he was named Guitarist of the Year by IBMA, most recently in 2007.
In the 1990s, Rice was diagnosed with dysarthria, a disease of the vocal cords that robbed him of his singing voice. Rice also suffered from arthritis and elbow problems that affected his playing. He gave his last public guitar performance during his 2013 induction into the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame and gave an emotional performance Acceptance speech. He said, “It is our duty not only as musicians but as participants in this music to be like any other musical form in history.” “It is our duty to allow bluegrass music … to grow and flourish, while at the same time keeping the most important part of it: this is the essence of the sound of real bluegrass music.”
Rice’s death on Christmas morning had an echo across the bluegrass world as well as the guitar community in general. “The list of guitarists who have reinvented the most played instrument in the world is very short. Eddie Van Hallen, Jimi Hendrix … a few others. Charlie Worsham said: Tony Rice is on that list.” Rolling rock In a letter. “Spend a lot of time with two guitarists, and you’ll hear phrases like“ Manzanita, ”or“ Cold on the Shoulder ”enter the conversation like a code, like a quiz to see how good you know this shit. Tony Rice is grateful to anyone who strives to choose the guitar with their strong right hand, to combine raw physical strength with the grace and precision of hummingbird wings.
John Osborne of the Brothers Osborne echoed Worsham’s Hendrix comparison. “What Hendrix did for the electric guitar, this guy did for the acoustic,” he said chirp. Billy Awtar I remembered Rice “Cool, neat, badass, neat … always in the same mood as the old D-28.” And Bella Flick Comparison Playing with Rice “to climb on a magic carpet. His play set you free.” Jason Esbel Encouraged Music enthusiasts to explore Rice’s catalog: “If you are not familiar with his music, please search for it. I don’t know if anyone could make anything more beautiful.”
Skaggs, in an official statement on behalf of the Rice family, reflected Rice’s enduring legacy. “Thank you for your wonderful talent, and music that will continue to inspire more and more generations to come,” he said.