Tony Rice, a flat-picking guitarist considered one of the giants of bluegrass, died on December 25th at the age of 69. This emerges from a Facebook post from his previous label Rounder Records.
“We were all deeply saddened by the news of Tony Rice’s sudden death on Christmas Day, and we extend our deepest condolences to his loved ones and his many fans. May he rest in peace, ”said the rounder.
Rice was known for his skills as a flatpicker, a complicated, fast-paced, melodic way of playing the guitar. His work was an influence on his genre and extended to the likes of Jason Isbell and Steve Martin.
Born in California in 1951, he moved to Kentucky as an adult. There he dove into bluegrass and played five nights a week with JD Crowe and the New South. His first album came in 1973 with the title Guitar.
Acoustics followed in 1978 and Mar West with the Tony Rice Unit in 1980. At the same time he became a well-known contributor to Bluegrass, performing with guitarist Norman Blake and mandolin player David Grisman. In 1993 he worked with Grisman and Jerry Garcia of The Grateful Dead on The Pizza Tapes, a loose collection of folk songs released in 2000.
As the 1970s ended, he came out with Manzanita in 1979 and Church Street Blues in 1983.
However, in 1994 he began to suffer from dysphonia, a disorder that causes difficulty speaking and affects the mouth, tongue, throat, and vocal cords. This prevented him from singing for the rest of his career.
In 2013, Rice was inducted into the Hall of Fame for the International Bluegrass Music Association and made his final public guitar performance. His last album was Hartford Rice and Clements in 2011 with banjo player John Hartford and violinist Vassar Clements, a project that was recorded in 1988.
Information on survivors or a memorial was not immediately available.