Bluegrass guitarist/singer Tony Rice dies at 69
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Bluegrass guitarist/singer Tony Rice dies at 69

Sunday, December 27, 2020 – Bluegrass guitarist Tony Rice, a member of the International Bluegrass Hall of Fame, died on Christmas at the age of 69.

Rice died sometime Friday morning while making coffee, according to Ricky Skaggs, who played with Rice and released a statement on his behalf.

"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."

"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.

Rice was considered an influential acoustic guitar player in bluegrass, progressive bluegrass and newgrass. He died at his home in Reidsville, N.C.

During his career, Rice played with J. D. Crowe and the New South, David Grisman and Jerry Garcia, fronted his own Tony Rice Unit, worked with Norman Blake, recorded with his brothers Wyatt, Ron, and Larry, and co-founded the Bluegrass Album Band.

Rice was born June 8, 1951 in Danville, Va. but grew up in Los Angeles where his father, Herb, introduced him to bluegrass. Tony and his brothers learned the fundamentals of bluegrass and country music from Los Angeles musicians like the Kentucky Colonels, led by Roland and Clarence White.

In 1970, Rice moved to Louisvillel, Ky. where he played with the Bluegrass Alliance, and soon thereafter, J.D. Crowe's New South, which was considered one f the best progressive bluegrass groups incorporating drums and electric instruments.When Ricky Skaggs joined them in 1974, the band recorded "J. D. Crowe & the New South, an acoustic album that became Rounder Records' top-seller up to that time

At about the same time, Rice met mandolinist David Grisman, had material meshing jazz, bluegrass and classical styles. Rice left the New South for California to join Grisman's all-instrumental group.

In 1980, Rice, Crowe, Bobby Hicks, Doyle Lawson and Todd Phillips formed the Bluegrass Album Band and recorded from 1980 to 1996.

Rice later formed the Tony Rice Unit, playing experimental "spacegrass" music on ":Mar West," "Still Inside" and "Backwaters." The band included Jimmy Gaudreau (mandolin), Wyatt Rice (guitar), Ronnie Simpkins (bass) and Rickie Simpkins (fiddle).

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

Starting in 1984, Rice worked 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).

Rice collaborated with Grisman and Jerry Garcia in 1993 to record "The Pizza Tapes. " He also worked with Grisman on "Tone Poems," Mark Johnson on "Clawgrass Mark Johnson with the Rice brothers and friends."

In 1997, Rice, his brother Larry, Chris Hillman (formerly of the Flying Burrito Brothers and the Byrds) and banjoist Herb Pedersen, formed Rice, Rice, Hillman & Pedersen, which released three volumes of music between 1997 and 2001. In the 2000s and 2010s, he played with a quartet with guitarist/singer-songwriter Peter Rowan, bassist Bryn Bright (later known as Bryn Davies), and mandolinist Billy Bright.

Bluegrass guitarist Tony Rice, a member of the International Bluegrass Hall of Fame, died on Christmas at the age of 69 after a long battle with cancer.

Rice was considered an influential acoustic guitar player in bluegrass, progressive bluegrass and newgrass. He died at his home in Reidsville, N.C.

During his career< Rice played withJ. D. Crowe and the New South, David Grisman and Jerry Garcia, fronted his own Tony Rice Unit, worked with Norman Blake, recorded with his brothers Wyatt, Ron, and Larry, and co-founded the Bluegrass Album Band.

Rice was born June 8, 1951 in Danville, Va. but grew up in Los Angeles where his father, Herb, introduced him to bluegrass. Tony and his brothers learned the fundamentals of bluegrass and country music from Los Angeles musicians like the Kentucky Colonels, led by Roland and Clarence White.

In 1970, Rice moved to Louisvillel, Ky. where he played with the Bluegrass Alliance, and soon thereafter, J.D. Crowe's New South, which was considered one f the best progressive bluegrass groups incorporating drums and electric instruments.When Ricky Skaggs joined them in 1974, the band recorded "J. D. Crowe & the New South, an acoustic album that became Rounder Records' top-seller up to that time

At about the same time, Rice met mandolinist David Grisman, had material meshing jazz, bluegrass and classical styles. Rice left the New South for California to join Grisman's all-instrumental group.

In 1980, Rice, Crowe, Bobby Hicks, Doyle Lawson and Todd Phillips formed the Bluegrass Album Band and recorded from 1980 to 1996.

Rice later formed the Tony Rice Unit, playing experimental "spacegrass" music on ":Mar West," "Still Inside" and "Backwaters." The band included Jimmy Gaudreau (mandolin), Wyatt Rice (guitar), Ronnie Simpkins (bass) and Rickie Simpkins (fiddle).

In 1980, he recorded an album of bluegrass duets with Ricky Skaggs, "Skaggs & Rice." Two with traditional instrumentalist and songwriter Norman Blake and two as the Rice Brothers albums (1992 and 1994) with his late elder brother, Larry, and younger brothers, Wyatt and Ronnie. Beginning in 1984, Rice 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). He joined David Grisman and Jerry Garcia in 1993 to record The Pizza Tapes. In 1994 Rice and Grisman recorded Tone Poems, an original collection of material, where they used historical vintage mandolins and guitars, different for each track. In 1994, Rice joined Mark Johnson to record "Clawgrass Mark Johnson with the Rice Brothers and Friends" which featured Tony as well as his late brother Larry Rice and his other brothers Wyatt and Ronnie. In 1995, Rice recorded a duo album with John Carlini, who also played with the David Grisman Quintet. In 1997, Rice, his brother Larry, Chris Hillman (formerly of the Flying Burrito Brothers and the Byrds) and banjoist Herb Pedersen, founded the so-called "anti-supergroup" Rice, Rice, Hillman & Pedersen[9] 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).

Rice's career was felled by several severed ailments. In 1994, he was diagnosed with muscle tension dysphonia, forcing him too stop singing in live performance. A 2014 diagnosis of lateral epicondylitis ("tennis elbow") made guitar playing painful. Rice's final performance playing guitar live was his induction into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame in 2013.

Allison Krauss tweeted, "We all mourn the loss of our one and only Tony Rice. We're so grateful for what he gave us and left with us. The highest peak."

"I've listened and cried all evening like so many others...heartbroken by the passing of Tony Rice," tweeted Sierra Hull. "His music has influenced me as much as anyone I could ever imagine...from the moment I heard Church Street Blues at 8 years old till now. This one really hurts.


More news for Tony Rice


CD reviews for Tony Rice

CD review - The Bill Monroe Collection Tony Rice's CD is yet another tribute to Bill Monroe, collected from several albums. Bluegrass is seeing a greater emphasis on the guitar than Monroe placed on it in his bands. Rice is still active as a guitarist, but his acclaimed singing voice is mostly something of the past. Various throat problems make it difficult for him to speak at great lengths and singing is very rare. A criticism of this release could be that it's just another anthology. There have been other Rice ...
CD review - Night Flyer Tony Rice is one of the most influential musicians of this generation. His smooth vocal style and one-of-a-kind guitar picking, brought countless new fans to bluegrass and acoustic music. Alison Krauss lists Rice as one of her main influences. Rice is still a trail-blazer on the guitar, though vocal problems prevent him from singing these days. This is a collection of some of his best work from the '80s and '90s plus 3 previously unreleased cuts. Green Light On The Southern, ...
Tony Rice has been a fixture in the bluegrass scene for over three decades. He epitomizes the hard driving instrumental style associated with bluegrass music. He has successfully experimented with other genres, but the core of his music is bluegrass. A decade ago, throat problems silenced his singing, but Rice's guitar playing has never lost its power and attraction. This CD is a compilation from many recordings. Included are so many standards that you'll have a hard time picking a favorite, but ...


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