TONY RICE 1951-2020

Tony Rice, the master bluegrass picker who drew fans worldwide for the chance to hear the quick, fluid sounds he conjured from his storied Martin D-28 guitar, has died at age 69.

Mr. Rice died Friday at his home in Reidsville, North Carolina, according to International Bluegrass Music Association spokesperson Casey Campbell, who did not immediately provide additional details. Mr Rice lived in Reidsville with his wife, Pamela Hodges Rice.

Ricky Skaggs, one of the many musicians who revered Mr. Rice and performed and recorded with him, called him “the single most influential acoustic guitar player in the last 50 years.” “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,” Skaggs wrote on Facebook this weekend.

Others paying tribute included Jason Isbell, Bela Fleck and actor-comedian Steve Martin, a longtime banjo player who tweeted, “Aw, Tony Rice. A name I’ve known my whole life. A great musician.”

Tall and lean, and with an understated live presence that contrasted with the dynamism of his guitar, Mr Rice had health problems over the past quarter-century. A muscle disorder around his vocal cords left him unable to sing onstage, and tennis elbow limited his playing. His last live guitar performance was in 2013, when he was inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame.

Rice released dozens of albums, including several as a member of the David Grisman Quintet; “Skaggs & Rice” with Ricky Skaggs; “Manzanita” as leader of “The Tony Rice Unit”; and such solo efforts as “Tony Rice” and “Me & My Guitar” He played with everyone from Jerry Garcia to Dolly Parton and received honors including a Grammy in 1993 for best country instrumental performance and citations from the International Bluegrass Music Association as guitarist of the year. AP