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Bluegrass World Mourns the Loss of Tony Rice

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The International Bluegrass Music Association confirmed Saturday, December 26, that Bluegrass Legend Tony Rice died at the age of 69. There were no further statements that were released on the official cause of death of Rice. Ricky Skaggs wrote on behalf of Rice’s family that his death occurred sometime on Christmas morning while having his coffee.

Rice was known mostly for his skill playing the guitar. Yet he has proven over the years that he was more than just an instrumentalist and had one of the most stylistic lead vocals in bluegrass music history. Skaggs, who was with Rice in New South in the mid-’70s, remembered his friend’s legacy in gratitude for the great talent that he showed everyone and hopes to impact more upcoming artists in the future.

Who’s Tony Rice?

Born on June 8, 1951, Tony Rice grew up in Los Angeles California with his father, Herb Rice. Rice and his siblings were all introduced to bluegrass music through the likes of Clarence White of the Kentucky Colonels who mainly has become the influence to Rice’s legendary career.

Rice found commercial success through the late ’80s and early ’90s. He co-founded the Bluegrass Album Band with Doyle Lawson. He was also known for his other projects like the Tony Rice Unit where Alison Krauss played with the group for about a year.

Rice also recorded with his three brothers, made four albums with Bela Fleck, worked with Jerry Garcia and Norman Blake, and had three albums as Rice, Hillman, and Pedersen with ex-flying Burrito Brothers and Byrds member Chris Hillman along with some of his solo projects.

As a whole, Tony Rice won a Grammy Award for Best Country Instrumental Performance with the New South and has been a 10-time International Bluegrass Music Association Award Winner, Rice did also win Instrumental Performer of the Year by the IBMA.

Early Diagnosis

Muscle tension dysphonia, a condition that made singing live impossible has been bugging Rice since 1994. In 2014, Rice was diagnosed with epicondylitis commonly known as tennis elbow which made playing the guitar painful. Though neither of the diseases was fatal, this made performing hard for Price. His last public appearance happened in 2013 for his Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame induction.

Pam, Rice’s wife, is left with their daughter India along with his brothers Wyatt and Ronnie. Funeral details are still to be announced in the following days.

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