Tony Rice (born David Anthony Rice, June 8, 1951, Danville, Virginia) is an American acoustic guitarist and bluegrass musician. He is considered one of the most influential acoustic guitar players in bluegrass, progressive bluegrass, newgrass and acoustic jazz.[1][2]

Rice spans the range of acoustic music, from traditional bluegrass to jazz-influenced New Acoustic 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. [3][4]



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. Clarence White in particular became a huge influence on Tony Rice. 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.[5]

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 QuintetEdit

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.

File:Tony Rice RockyGrass.jpg

Solo career and Bluegrass Album BandEdit

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,[6] a collection of vocals and instrumentals, mostly in the bluegrass, but also folk style. This album 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 [7] and produced three volumes of music between 1997 and 2001.


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 was published by Word Of Mouth Press in Kingsport, TN, USA in 2010. The book's official release took place at Merlefest in North Carolina, USA.[8][9]



Grammy AwardsEdit

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

IBMA (International Bluegrass Music Association) AwardsEdit

  • 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 linksEdit

Template:Tony Rice Template:Bluegrassmusic


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