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Tony Rice
Tony Rice (Shutterstock)

Bluegrass Legend Tony Rice Dead At 69

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(CelebrityAccess) — Bluegrass legend Tony Rice, one of the most influential acoustic guitarists who performed with the likes of Norman Blake, and Jerry Garcia, and who recorded with his own group Tony Rice Unit, died at his home on December 25th. He was 69.

According to a statement from fellow Bluegrass artist Ricky Skaggs, Rice passed suddenly while making coffee on Christmas morning.

“Sometime during 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. It’s still quite a shock to the whole family. After talking with Tony’s wife Pam and their daughter India, they asked if I would make a statement on their behalf and give them some privacy to process during this difficult time. I was honored to help out. Tony is also survived by his brothers Wyatt and Ronnie, and all of you who loved his music and those who will continue to share it with others,” Skaggs said.

A native of Los Angeles, Rice was introduced to bluegrass by his father, and learned to play from other Southern California musicians such as Ry Cooder, Roland and Clarence White.

In 1970, he relocated to Louisville, KY where he performed with the Bluegrass Alliance and J.D. Crowe’s influential progressive Bluegrass group New South.

Rice returned to Los Angeles in 1977 to join the newly-formed David Grisman Quintet, appearing on the group’s seminal eponymously named debut album.

Along with his contribution to various Bluegrass and Newgrass groups, Rice recorded as a solo artist, and his releases include the jazz-infused 1979 album Acoustics as well as Manzanita, a bluegrass and folk inspired album.

His collaborations include an album of Bluegrass duets with Ricky Skaggs, multiple albums with Béla Fleck, and ‘The Pizza Tapes’ which he recorded with Jerry Garcia in 1993.

In 1994, Rice was diagnosed with a disorder known as muscle tension dysphonia, which often affects people who frequently use their voice such as singers and teachers. As a result, Rice forced to stop singing in live performance. His final live show came in 2013 when he was inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame.

“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. 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,” Rice told the Greensboro News & Record in 2018.

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