Tony Rice, a flat guitarist considered one of the bluegrass giants, died at age 69 on Dec. 25, according to a Facebook post from his former label, Rounder Records.
“We were all deeply saddened by the news of Tony Rice’s sudden passing on Christmas Day, and we offer our deepest condolences to his loved ones and many fans. May he rest in peace, ”the Rounder note said.
Rice was known for his talent as a flatpicker, a complex, fast and melodic style of guitar playing. His work had an influence on his genre and extended to Jason Isbell and Steve Martin.
Born in California in 1951, he moved to Kentucky as an adult. There he immersed himself in bluegrass, playing five nights a week with JD Crowe and the New South. His first album was released in 1973, simply titled Guitar.
He followed 1978 Acoustic and 80s Mar West with the Tony Rice Unit. Along with this, he became a recognized collaborator in bluegrass, playing with guitarist Norman Blake and mandolin player David Grisman. In 1993 he worked with Grisman and the Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia on Pizza strips, a loose collection of folk songs released in 2000.
In the late 1970s he came out with the 1979 Manzanita, then 1983 Church Street Blues.
However, in 1994, he began to suffer from dysphonia, a disorder that causes difficulty speaking and affects his mouth, tongue, throat, and vocal cords. This kept him from singing for the rest of his career.
In 2013, Rice was inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Association Hall of Fame, making her last public performance on guitar. His last album was from 2011 Hartford Rice and Clements with banjo player John Hartford and fiddler Vassar Clements, a project recorded in 1988.
Information on the survivors or a memorial was not immediately available.