Category Archives: Popular Culture

Tony Rice

We have lost a legend of acoustic flat-picking guitar.

It’s late, but more thoughts tomorrow, with personal remembrances.

[Sunday-morning update]

I saw him live several times. The first time, I think, was with the Grisman Quintet at McCabes in Santa Monica. He was later replaced in the band by fiddling prodigy Mark O’Connor, who is/was also an amazing guitarist. But the most memorable concert I saw him in was at the Birchmere in Alexandria, Virginia, about thirty years ago. It wasn’t just him, but Norman Blake and Doc Watson. It was like a pantheon of the flatpicking guitar gods.

He was an amazing innovator, in folk, bluegrass, and jazz, often integrating them. He picked up the fallen torch of Clarence White after he was killed in an auto accident while loading gear after a concert in Palmdale, CA. He bought White’s guitar, a Martin herringbone D-28 with an enlarged sound hole (the fretboard hung out over it), that gave it a unique tone. I wonder who will play it now?

[Update Sunday evening]

I was introduced to the music of Tony Rice in 1978 by a friend when I was living in Tucson (a philosophy major at the U of A, who was a great guitarist, who later went to work on AI at Los Alamos), but who while he loved the bluegrass (he loved Doc Watson, and did a hell of a version of Tennessee Stud), never got the jazz. I got the jazz.

Tony knew, in standard tuning, where every note was on the keyfretboard, and how to combine them for jazz chords, which is a hell of a lot harder to do on six strings than eighty eight.

[Update Thursday afternoon]

An elegy from Chris Eldridge.