Tony Rice is an American guitarist and bluegrass musician born in Danville, Virginia. He is considered one of the most influential acoustic guitar players in bluegrass, progressive bluegrass, newgrass and acoustic jazz. Over the course of his career, he has played alongside J. D. Crowe and the New South, David Grisman 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. In 1983, Rice won a Grammy for Best Country Instrumental Performance and was inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame in 2013.

Tony Rice

Tony Rice Born David Anthony Rice in 1951 in Danville, Va., Tony Rice moved to California as a child with his parents and brother, Larry. Their father, Herb, played mandolin and helped to start the band, the Golden State Boys.

Herb Rice gave Tony his first guitar. Tony sang on the radio at age 9. By age 11, he played in a band with Larry on mandolin.

The family moved from California to Florida, then to other Southern states. Tony began playing with other bands, leading him at age 20 to banjoist J.D. Crowe and the New South.

Over the next few decades, he performed with a string of bands. He started the Tony Rice Unit in 1979.

At the 2013 International Bluegrass Music Awards, Rowan called several of Rice’s albums “ legendary in their execution and legacy,” among them “Manzanita,” “Roses in the Snow,” “Scaggs and Rice,” “Still Inside” and “Church Street Blues.”

The New South’s recording of “Fireball” won a 1983 Grammy Award for Best Country Instrumental Performance. Rice has won several awards from the International Bluegrass Music Association, including Instrumental Performer of the Year on guitar six times.

He played with groups that included J.D. Crowe and the New South, the David Grisman Quintet, the Bluegrass Album Band and his own group, the Tony Rice Unit. He performed with his brothers Wyatt, Ronnie and his oldest brother, Larry, now deceased.

He recorded his own songs and those of others. His discography in the 2010 biography, “Still Inside: The Tony Rice Story,” lists 283 recordings, seven videos and performances on three movie soundtracks:  “Preacherman” in 1971, “Eat My Dust” in 1976 and “King of the Gypsies” in 1978. He last recorded in 1999, a cover of Tom Waits’ “Pony.”

Occasionally, he still picks up the guitar he calls the “Antique.” Once owned by Clarence White of the Kentucky Colonels and The Byrds, Rice tracked it down in 1975, a few years after White was killed by a drunken driver, and bought it for $550.

Rice said he aims to return to performing, but he isn’t sure when.

“But I am not going to go back out into the public eye until I can be the musician that I was, where I left off or better,” Rice said. “I have been blessed with a very devout audience all these years, and I am certainly not going to let anybody down. I am not going to risk going out there and performing in front of people again until I can entertain them in a way that takes away from them the rigors and the dust, the bumps in the road of everyday life.”

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