Tony Rice, the master bluegrass harvester, died at the age of 69.
Rice, famous for the fast, flowing sounds his Martin D-28 guitar evokes, died Friday at his home in Reidsville, North Carolina, according to International Bluegrass Music Association spokesman Casey Campbell. Rice lived in Reidsville with his wife, Pamela Hodges Rice.
Ricky Skaggs, who had performed and recorded with Rice, called him “the most influential acoustic guitarist of the last 50 years.”
“At some point during Christmas morning while making his coffee, our dear friend and guitar hero Tony Rice left this life and made his quick journey to his heavenly home,” Skaggs wrote on Facebook this weekend.
“Many, if not all, of today’s bluegrass guitarists would say they cut their teeth on the music of Tony Rice. He loved hearing next generation players play their licks. I think that’s where he got most of his joy as a player ”.
Other tributes came from musicians Jason Isbell and Béla Fleck and comedian and banjo player Steve Martin.
Tall and lean, and with a low-key live presence that contrasted with the dynamism of his guitar, Rice had experienced health problems for the past quarter century. A muscle disorder around his vocal cords left him unable to sing on stage, and his tennis elbow limited his performance. His last live guitar performance was in 2013, when he was inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame.
“I’m not going to come out into the open again until I can be the musician that I was, where I left off or better,” Rice told the Greensboro News & Record in 2015. “I’ve been blessed with a very devoted musician audience all these years. , and I’m certainly not going to disappoint anyone. “
Rice released dozens of albums, including several as a member of the David Grisman Quintet; Skaggs & Rice with Ricky Skaggs; Manzanita as Unit Leader Tony Rice; and solo efforts like Tony Rice and Me & My Guitar.
He played with everyone from Jerry Garcia to Dolly Parton and received many honors, most notably a 1993 Grammy for best country instrumental performance, and International Bluegrass Music Association honors as Guitarist of the Year.
Rice, whose birth name is David Anthony Rice in Danville, Virginia, grew up in Los Angeles and soon, along with his brothers Larry, Wyatt and Ronnie, absorbed their father’s love for bluegrass. At 20, Rice was a member of banjo star JD Crowe’s band New South, and by his mid-20s, he had co-founded the Grismen quintet.
A key early influence was guitarist Clarence White, a country and bluegrass star who turned to rock in the late 1960s as a member of the Byrds. White was just 29 when he was hit by a car in 1973, and among the possessions he left behind was a Martin D-28 that he had let Rice play when he was just nine years old.
The D-28, built in 1935, had a life that rivaled any of its owners. White once shot him with a pellet gun and again ran him over with his truck. After White’s death, Rice learned that the guitar had been sold to a friend of White’s in Kentucky and bought it for $ 550.
In the mid-90s, he nearly lost his guitar during a tropical storm in Florida. He was also known for having rattlesnakes, an ancient musical tradition. “It is a beautiful instrument,” he said. Tuning fork journal in 2016. “I never pick it up but I don’t think so. It has to be the Holy Grail. “
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