Tony Rice                                                        8.6.1951-25.12.2020

David Anthony Rice (June 8, 1951-December 25, 2020) was an American guitarist and bluegrass musician. He was an influential acoustic guitar player in bluegrass, progressive bluegrass, newgrass and acoustic jazz. He was inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame in 2013.

Rice's music spans the range of acoustic from traditional bluegrass to jazz-influenced New Acoustic music to songwriteroriented folk. Over the course of his career, he played alongside J. D. Crowe and the New South, David Grisman (during the formation of "Dawg Music") and Jerry Garcia, led his own Tony Rice Unit, collaborated with Norman Blake, recorded with his brothers Wyatt, Ron, and Larry, and co-founded the Bluegrass Album Band. He recorded with drums, piano, soprano sax, as well as with traditional bluegrass instrumentation.


Press Reports

Nash Country Daily | by jwills  |  December 26, 2020

Kenny Chesney & Ricky Skaggs React to the Passing of Bluegrass Great Tony Rice at Age 69

IBMA Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame member, Tony Rice passed away yesterday, December 25, at age 69.


Today, he is remembered by fellow Bluegrass and Country music legend Ricky Skaggs and Country superstar Kenny Chesney.


Ricky Skaggs released the following statement:

“Sometime during Christmas morning while making his coffee, our dear friend and guitar hero Tony Rice passed from this life and made his swift journey to his heavenly home. It’s still quite a shock to the whole family. After talking with Tony’s wife Pam and their daughter India, they asked if I would make a statement on their behalf and give them some privacy to process during this difficult time. I was honored to help out.

Tony is also survived by his brothers Wyatt and Ronnie, and all of you who loved his music and those who will continue to share it with others. 


Tony Rice was the single most influential acoustic guitar player in the last 50 years. Many if not all of the Bluegrass guitar players of today would say that they cut their teeth on Tony Rice’s music. He loved hearing the next generation players play his licks. I think that’s where he got most of his joy as a player. With many IBMA Awards and a Grammy Award, Tony was a gracious recipient of the International Bluegrass Music Association’s highest honor as an inductee into their Hall of Fame in 2013.  Not only was Tony a brilliant guitar player but he was also one of the most stylistic lead vocalists in Bluegrass music history. When I joined the group The New South in 1974, I knew I’d found a singing soul mate with Tony. Our voices blended like brothers. In 1980, we recorded the album ‘Skaggs And Rice’ for Sugar Hill as a tribute to our duet heroes with just the simplicity of guitar, mandolin, and our voices. All these years later people tell me how much the purity of that record still touches their heart. That’s who Tony was, a singer from the heart.  I will miss him as I’m sure all of you will. But where Tony is right now, he’s not missing us. He’s in the place that God has prepared for those who love Him and receive Him. Rest In Peace dear brother. Thank you for your great talent and the music that will continue to inspire more and more generations to come.”

Kenny Chesney shared on his social media:

“When I was in college I played a lot of music with a couple friends of mine, Shawn Lane and Marcus Smith. Every Wednesday night we played a place called the Down Home in Johnson City, TN. Whether it was Green Light On The Southern, which was the first song we ever played, Four Strong Winds, or anything off the Skaggs/Rice album… His music was always a staple of our set. Tony Rice inspired so many, including a kid like me from East Tennessee who was in awe of the way he sang and played Me And My Guitar. I’ll never forget seeing him sing that at the IBMA bluegrass festival in Owensboro, KY. It’s printed in my brain forever! Rest In Peace Tony Rice.”


Kenny also shared the following performance of Tony Rice… 


Background information From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Early years

Rice was born in Danville, Virginia but grew up in Los Angeles, California, where his father, Herb Rice, introduced him to bluegrass.


Tony and his brothers learned the fundamentals of bluegrass and country music from L.A. musicians like the Kentucky Colonels, led by Roland and Clarence White. Clarence White in particular became a huge influence on Rice.


Crossing paths with fellow enthusiasts like Ry Cooder, Herb Pedersen and Chris Hillman reinforced the strength of the music he had learned from his father.


In 1970, Rice had moved to Louisville, Kentucky where he played with the Bluegrass Alliance, and shortly thereafter, J.D. Crowe's New South. The New South was known as one of the best and most progressive bluegrass groups - eventually adding drums and electric instruments (to Rice's displeasure). When Ricky Skaggs (left) joined them 1974, however, the band recorded "J. D. Crowe & the New South", an acoustic album that became Rounder's top-seller up to that time. At this point, the group consisted of Rice on guitar and lead vocals, Crowe on banjo and vocals, Jerry Douglas on Dobro, Skaggs on fiddle, mandolin, and tenor vocals, and Bobby Slone on bass and fiddle.


Around this time, Rice met mandolinist David Grisman, who played with Red Allen during the 1960s and was now working on original material that blended jazz, bluegrass, and classical styles. Rice left the New South and moved to California to join Grisman's all-instrumental group. As part of the David Grisman Quintet, in order to broaden his expertise and make himself more marketable, Rice began studying chord theory, learned to read charts, and began to expand his playing beyond bluegrass. Renowned guitarist John Carlini came in to teach Rice music theory, and Carlini helped him learn the intricacies of jazz playing and musical improvisation in general. The David Grisman Quintet's 1977 debut recording is considered a landmark of acoustic string band music.


In 1980, Rice, Crowe, Bobby Hicks, Doyle Lawson and Todd Phillips formed the Bluegrass Album Band and recorded from 1980 to 1996. With the Tony Rice Unit, he pursued experimental "spacegrass" music on Mar West, Still Inside, and Backwaters. Members of the Unit included Jimmy Gaudreau (mandolin), Wyatt Rice (guitar), Ronnie Simpkins (bass), and Rickie Simpkins (fiddle). In the late 1980's Alison Krauss played regularly with the group in concert for about a year but never appeared on the albums. Alison Brown also guested with the group during that period. 


In 1980, he recorded an album of bluegrass duets with Ricky Skaggs, called "Skaggs & Rice". Two albums with traditional instrumentalist and songwriter Norman Blake garnered acclaim, as well as two Rice Brothers albums (1992 and 1994) that featured him teamed with his late elder brother, Larry, and younger brothers, Wyatt and Ronnie.


Beginning in 1984, Rice has collaborated on four albums by Béla Fleck - "Double Time" (Béla Fleck album) (1984), "Drive" (Béla Fleck album) (1988), "Tales from the Acoustic Planet" (1995), and "The Bluegrass Sessions: Tales from the Acoustic Planet, Vol. 2" (1999).


In 1993, he joined David Grisman (left) and Jerry Garcia, to record "The Pizza Tapes". Year after, Rice and Grisman recorded "Tone Poems", an original collection of material, where they used historical vintage mandolins and guitars, different for each track.


In 1995, Rice recorded folk album featuring just two guitars with John Carlini, who also worked for David Grisman Quintet. In 1997, Rice, his brother Larry, Chris Hillman (a member of the Byrds' original lineup) and banjoist Herb Pedersen, founded the so-called "anti-supergroup" Rice, Rice, Hillman & Pedersen and produced three volumes of music between 1997 and 2001.


In the 2000s and 2010s, he performed as a quartet with guitarist/singer-songwriter Peter Rowan, bassist Bryn Bright (later known as Bryn Davies), and mandolinist Billy Bright (replaced by Sharon Gilchrist.

Solo career

In 1979, Rice left Grisman's group to record Acoustics, a jazz-inspired album, and then "Manzanita", a bluegrass and folk album. A similar combination was evident on "Cold on the Shoulder", "Native American", and "Me & My Guitar", albums which combined bluegrass, jazzy guitar work, and the songwriting of Ian Tyson, Joni Mitchell, Phil Ochs, Tom Paxton, Bob Dylan, and Gordon Lightfoot.


Rice's singing voice was a distinctive baritone.

In 1994 he was diagnosed with a disorder known as muscle tension dysphonia and as a result was forced to stop singing in live performance. A 2014 diagnosis of lateral epicondylitis ("tennis elbow") made guitar playing painful and Rice's last performance playing guitar live was his induction into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame in 2013. In 2015, Rice was quoted as saying


«I am not going to go back out into the public eye until I can be the musician that I was, where I left off or better. I have been blessed with a very devout audience all these years, and I am certainly not going to let anybody down. I am not going to risk going out there and performing in front of people again until I can entertain them in a way that takes away from them the rigors and the dust, the bumps in the road of everyday life.»


The authorized biography of Tony Rice, titled Still Inside: The Tony Rice Story, has been completed by Tim Stafford and Hawaii-based journalist Caroline Wright, and was published by Word of Mouth Press in Kingsport, Tennessee, United States in 2010. The book's official release took place at Merlefest in North Carolina.


Tony Rice died at his home in Reidsville, North Carolina on December 25, 2020. He died while making his coffee, according to a statement from longtime friend and collaborator Ricky Skaggs.


Rice’s 2013 induction into the International Bluegrass Hall of Fame reportedly was the last time he played guitar in public due to a medical condition (lateral epicondylitis, also known as tennis elbow that affected his ability to play in his last years.


Album covers


Videos, Downloads

*Immanuel Kant


Created: 20160811

Updated: 20170712 20190210 | 20210102

Wikipedia: This page was last edited on 2 January 2021, at 00:09 (UTC).