Saturday, December 26, 2020

Bluegrass Hall of Famer Tony Rice Passes Away At The Age Of 69

K.F. Raizor, author of the website Raizor's Edge and the book We Can't Sing and We Ain't Funny: The World of Homer and Jethro is our guest writer today on That Nashville Sound. She's ever so gracious to provide wonderful tributes to honor those to whom the music we treasure just wouldn't be the same without. Thank you, K.F.

Mandolin great Don Stiernberg put it perfectly:  "Every note he ever played or sang was the one we wanted to hear."

"He" was Tony Rice. 

The Bluegrass Hall of Famer died Christmas Day.  Ricky Skaggs' post announcing Rice's death stated, "Sometime 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."

David Anthony Rice was born in 1951 in Virginia.  He grew up in Los Angeles, where -- in one of the great understatements in music history -- learned to play guitar. By 1970 he was in Louisville as a member of the Bluegrass Alliance, then barely known but now regarded as one of the most influential acts in bluegrass music. 

From there, Rice was everywhere in bluegrass, both progressive and traditional: with J.D. Crowe and New South (getting a Grammy in 1983), the Bluegrass Album Band, the collaborative effort Rice, Rice, Hillman & Pedersen, recordings with Emmylou Harris, Ricky Skaggs, and David Grisman; and, of course, the Tony Rice Unit.

While the words "great musician" are thrown around to anyone who can make three chords, Rice's influence simply cannot be understated.  In his statement today (12/26) Skaggs emphasized, "Tony Rice was the single most influential acoustic guitar player of the past 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." 

Dysphonia, a vocal cord disorder, cut Rice's career short.  Later he also developed tennis elbow, affecting his guitar playing.  

Farewell to the legendary Tony Rice, who was but 69 years old.

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