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Legendary bluegrass guitarist Tony Rice dead at 69

Influential bluegrass guitarist Tony Rice has passed away this Christmas day at the age of 69, according to his former label Rounder Records.

Tony Rice has reportedly died suddenly on Christmas day at the age of 69. A definitive character in the bluegrass cannon, Rice’s flatpicking guitar style was influential far and wide.

Both Rice’s former label Rounder Records and longtime friend and collaborator Ricky Skaggs have confirmed the news, with Skaggs noting Rice passed away while making his morning coffee.

Tony Rice dead at 69

The statement from Ricky Skaggs, who spoke on behalf of Rice’s family, reads:

“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. It’s still quite a shock to the whole family.”

“After talking with Tony’s wife Pam and their daughter India, they asked if I would make a statement on their behalf and give them some privacy to process during this difficult time. I was honored to help out. Tony is also survived by his brothers Wyatt and Ronnie, and all of you who loved his music and those who will continue to share it with others.”

After his early performances with J.D. Crowe and the New South, Tony Rice released his debut solo album Guitar in 1973. He would make a further name for himself with an extensive solo discography, plus award-winning albums as part of the Tony Rice Unit, the Bluegrass Album Band, and more.

Over his career Rice’s unique style saw him collaborate or play as a session musician alongside Jerry Garcia, Lou Reed, David Grisman, Emmylou Harris, and many others.

Since his passing a great many artists across country, folk, jazz, and bluegrass have paid tribute, including Jason Isbell, Béla Fleck, and others. Actor, comedian, and noted banjo aficionado Steve Martin also shared a few words.