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This article is for the guitarist. For the former football player see Tony Rice (American football).
Tony Rice

Background information
Born June 8, 1951 (1951-06-08) (age 58)
in Danville, Virginia
Genres Bluegrass, Country, Folk
Occupations Musician, Songwriter
Instruments Guitar
Years active 1970 - present
Labels Rounder
Website Official website
Notable instruments
Santa Cruz Tony Rice Signature model,
1935 Martin HD-28[1]

Tony Rice (born as David Anthony Rice on June 8, 1951 in Danville, Virginia) is an acoustic guitarist and bluegrass musician. He is considered as one of the most influential acoustic guitar players in bluegrass, progressive bluegrass, newgrass and acoustic jazz. [2] [3]

Rice spans the range of acoustic music, from traditional bluegrass to jazz-influenced "Spacegrass" music, to songwriter-oriented folk. Over the course of his career, he has 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 has recorded with drums, piano, soprano sax, as well as with traditional Bluegrass instrumentation. [4][5]


Early years

Rice was born in Danville, Virginia but grew up in Los Angeles, California, where he was introduced to bluegrass by his father, a semi-professional musician named Herb Rice. Tony and his brothers learned the fundamentals of bluegrass and country music from hot L.A. pickers like the Kentucky Colonels, led by Roland and Clarence White. 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. [6]

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). But when Ricky Skaggs joined up in 1974, 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.

David Grisman Quintet

Around this time, Rice met mandolinist David Grisman, who played with Red Allen during the '60s and was now working on some 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, Rice expanded his musical horizons beyond three chord bluegrass, studying chord theory, learning to read charts and expanding the range of his playing. Renowned guitarist John Carlini was brought 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.

RockyGrass 2005

Solo career and Bluegrass Album Band

In 1979, Rice left Grisman's group to pursue his own brand of music. He recorded "Acoustics", a jazz-inspired acoustic record, and then Manzanita [7], a collection of vocals and instrumentals, mostly in the bluegrass, but also folk style. This album is doesn't include the five-string banjo. In 1980, Rice, Crowe, Bobby Hicks, Doyle Lawson and Todd Phillips formed a highly successful coalition, attacking bluegrass standards under the name the Bluegrass Album Band. This group recorded six volumes of music from 1980 to 1996.

Rice’s solo career hit its stride with "Cold on the Shoulder", a collection of bluegrass-inspired vocals. With this album, "Native American" and "Me & My Guitar", Rice arrived at a formula that incorporated his disparate influences, combining bluegrass, the songwriting of folk artists like Ian Tyson, Joni Mitchell, Phil Ochs, Tom Paxton, Bob Dylan and especially Gordon Lightfoot, with nimble, jazz-inflected guitar work. Simultaneously, he pursued his jazz-infused, experimental “spacegrass” with the Tony Rice Unit on the albums "Mar West", "Still Inside", and "Backwaters".


In 1980 he recorded an album of bluegrass duets with Ricky Skaggs, called Skaggs & Rice. Two highly regarded albums with traditional instrumentalist and songwriter Norman Blake garnered a great deal of 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. In 1993 he joined David Grisman 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, Tony, his brother Larry, Chris Hillman (founder of Byrds) and banjoist Herb Pedersen, founded so-called "anti-supergroup" Rice, Rice, Hillman & Pedersen [8] and produced three volumes of music between 1997 and 2001.

Tony Rice today

Tony Rice (right) performing with Peter Rowan at the Kent Stage in Kent, Ohio, November 2008

Since the early nineties, Rice's singing voice has silenced due to damage to his vocal cords, related to dysphonia, but he remains one of new acoustic music's top instrumentalists, bringing originality and vitality to everything he plays. [9] He is collaborating with Peter Rowan since 2004 and they have recorded two CDs so far. Their latest effort is called Quartet - they are (joined by Bryn Bright on vocals/bass and Sharon Gilchrist on vocals/mandolin). [10] 2007 saw Tony team up with Alison Krauss and Union Station for a string of spring concerts, drawing material from Rice's 35 year career. Krauss always has cited Rice as being her prime musical influence. [11]


The authorized biography of Tony Rice, titled "Still Inside: The Tony Rice Story," has been completed by Tim Stafford (a member of award-winning bluegrass ensemble Blue Highway) and Hawai`i journalist Caroline Wright, and will be published by Word Of Mouth Press in Kingsport, TN, USA. The book's official release is tentatively planned for 2010's Merlefest in North Carolina, USA. [12] [13]




Grammy Awards

  • Best Country Instrumental Performance - The New South, Fireball - 1983

IBMA (International Bluegrass Music Association) Awards

  • Instrumental Performer of the Year - Guitar - 1990, 1991, 1994, 1996, 1997, 2007
  • Instrumental Group of the Year - The Tony Rice Unit - 1991, 1995
  • Instrumental Group of the Year - The Bluegrass Album Band - 1990
  • Instrumental Album of the Year - Bluegrass Instrumentals, Volume 6 (Rounder) ; The Bluegrass Album Band - 1997


External links

Simple English

Tony Rice
File:Tony Rice
Background information
Born June 8, 1951
in Danville, Virginia
Genres Bluegrass, country, folk
Occupations Musician, songwriter
Instruments Guitar
Years active since 1970
Website Official website

David Anthony "Tony" Rice (born June 8, 1951) is an American musician and songwriter. He was born in Danville, Virginia. He is famous for his skill at playing acoustic guitar.

His music can be bluegrass or country or folk.

He has played in music groups with J. D. Crowe, Norman Blake, and David Grisman, Jerry Garcia and Alison Krauss. His own band is called the "Tony Rice Unit." He also plays in a group with his brothers.

In 1983 Rice won a Grammy Award for "Best Country Instrumental Performance."


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