Remembering Tony Rice: Performing At 2013 IBMA Bluegrass Music Awards

Influential guitarist Tony Rice died on this date last year. The renowned master of the acoustic guitar was 69 years old. Among the honors bestowed upon Rice was induction into the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Hall Of Fame in 2013.

Rice was inducted into the IBMA Hall Of Fame by Sam Bush and Peter Rowan during the ceremony held on September 26, 2013, at Memorial Auditorium in Raleigh, North Carolina. In addition to giving his own speech, Rice appeared on stage for what became his final public performance.

In the years leading up to his IBMA Hall Of Fame induction, Rice dealt with several health issues that first forced him to stop singing and then ultimately give up performing altogether. As detailed by Bush and Rowan, who both collaborated with the talented guitarist, Rice was an innovator of the acoustic guitar whose sound and style are entrenched within bluegrass music.

In addition to Bush and Rowan, Rice’s credits included performing with David Grisman, Béla Fleck, J.D. Crowe’s New South, Ricky Skaggs, the Bluegrass Album Band and the Bluegrass Alliance, as well as a session with Grisman and Jerry Garcia that was released as The Pizza Tapes.

Rice also maintained a successful solo recording career, releasing his debut album, Guitar in 1973. Rice was also the leader of the Tony Rice Unit whose dynamic lineup comprised many of the most talented and sought-after bluegrass musicians. The 1979 Tony Rice Unit album Manzanita furthered Rice’s prominence within the genre and beyond. Joining Rice on the acclaimed contemporary bluegrass LP were Bush on mandolin and violin, Grisman on mandolin, Skaggs on violin and mandolin, Jerry Douglas on dobro, Todd Phillips on bass and Darol Anger on violin.

“One of Tony’s biggest contributions to the music has been his explosive yet silky-smooth rhythm playing for years,” Rowan said at the IBMA Awards. “It’s been nearly impossible to hear a bluegrass band without hearing a Tony Rice-influenced rhythm guitar sound. That’s no exaggeration to say that. Much like Earl Scruggs did on the five-string banjo. Tony Rice has created a language on his instrument, the guitar one that is spoken around the world.”

Prior to his health issues, Rice was a noted singer as well as an outstanding guitarist, earning praise from Roy Orbison and countless others. While he did not sing at IBMA Awards, Rice did perform and gave an emotional speech delivered with a weakened voice. During his remarks, Rice addressed his friend Alison Krauss, who was herself dealing with vocal issues at the time, and demonstrated that with the right amount of effort, he could still speak with a clear, unaffected voice resembling his younger days.

“I figured, maybe if I keep this up, that one day again, maybe I’ll be able to do what I’ve missed at times for 19 years now, which is, express myself poetically through music,” Rice said. “And if I can keep this momentum going, maybe one of these days I’ll be able to do that.”

Following the induction speeches, Rice performed the Manzanita lead track, “Old Train,” which was written by Herb Pedersen. Several of the contributors to the album joined Rice, as he was accompanied by Bush, Skaggs, Douglas and Philips, as well as Tony’s brother Wyatt Rice on guitar.

Watch Tony Rice’s final public performance at the 2013 IBMA Bluegrass Music Awards and his Hall Of Fame induction speech below: