Bluegrass Star Tony Rice Dies At 69

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Ricky Skaggs, Kenny Chesney and Rosanne Cash are among the country music stars paying tribute to bluegrass artist Tony Rice, who died Christmas morning at 69.

According to Skaggs, Rice died while making coffee at his home in Reidsville, North Carolina.

“Tony Rice was the single most influential acoustic guitar player in the last 50 years,” Skaggs wrote in a statement on Facebook. “Many if not all of the Bluegrass guitar players of today would say that they cut their teeth on Tony Rice’s music.

“Not only was Tony a brilliant guitar player but he was also one of the most stylistic lead vocalists in Bluegrass music history.”

Skaggs and Rice played together in the band The New South in the mid-70s and recorded a duets album in 1980.

Chesney tweeted: “Tony Rice inspired so many including a kid like me from East Tennessee who was in awe of the way he sang and played 'Me And My Guitar.'”

Cash called Rice’s death “a significant loss” and said he “never played a bad not in his life.” She tweeted: “Bluegrass music has an enormous vacancy.”

Rice was inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Association Hall of Fame in 2013 and won a Grammy for Best Country Instrumental Performance in 1983.

He released a dozen solo albums between 1973 and 2008 – including a 1996 collection of covers of songs by Canada’s Gordon Lightfoot – as well as dozens of albums as part of a group or with other artists.

Rice also played on albums by acts like Emmylou Harris, Béla Fleck and Mary Chapin Carpenter.

“Tony Rice was the king of the flatpicked flattop guitar,” tweeted Jason Isbell. “His influence cannot possibly be overstated. If you aren’t familiar with his music, please look it up. I don’t know if a person can make anything more beautiful.”

Rice was forced to stop singing in the mid-‘90s due a muscle tension dysphonia and had to give up playing guitar in 2013 due to lateral epicondylitis.

Rice is survived by wife Pam and daughter India as well as brothers Wyatt and Ronnie.

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