Among bluegrass musicians, Tony Rice is universally regarded as the most important and influential guitarist in the genre’s history. In the simplest terms, beginning with his first albums 3 decades ago, Tony Rice all but singled-handedly established the guitar’s place as a lead instrument in bluegrass music. The New Yorker recently said of him, “If you play bluegrass guitar, you have to come to terms with Rice the way portrait photographers have to come to terms with Avedon.”
He was born in Danville Virginia, but raised in California, where he fell under the influence of the L.A. bluegrass band The Kentucky Colonels, and especially their innovative flatpick-style guitarist Clarence White. Rice joined J.D. Crowe & the New South, playing and singing lead vocals, alongside Ricky Skaggs and Jerry Douglas. His landmark Manzanita album contained many elements of bluegrass and traditional music, as well as flashes of jazz and new acoustic – but in a clear break from convention, no banjo whatsoever.
Tony Rice was also a highly sought-after singer, but lost his beloved baritone voice to a mysterious throat ailment nearly 20 years ago. But he showed remarkable improvement in the fall of 2013, speaking before an emotional audience as he was inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Hall of Fame. Tony plays and sings during this Mountain Stage set, recorded August 6th 1989, along with his brother Wyatt on guitar, Jimmy Gaudreau on mandolin, fiddler Ricky Simpkins, and bassist Mark Schatz.
Listen to Tony Rice play and sing bluegrass on Mountain Stage.