Discovering Tony Rice by Bill Amatneek

Bill Amatneek, bassist on the first David Grisman Quintet album and a four decade bass and banjo pro on the west coast, has written a new biography of Tony Rice, called Discovering Tony Rice. It is scheduled to be released in February of 2024 by Vineyards Press.

Rice, of course, served as a revolutionary hero in bluegrass music, redefining the role of the guitar played in this style. He holds a distinction shared with Earl Scruggs, that nearly everyone currently playing bluegrass guitar, all over the world, employs a technique based on his playing. As his career developed, he helped initialize new acoustic music with David Grisman, a blend of jazz and swing with bluegrass roots, and then returned to grass to cement the contemporary style alongside J.D. Crowe and Doyle Lawson.

Until his voice deteriorated due to muscular dystonia in the early 1990s, Rice was considered the definitive bluegrass vocalist of his generation. Two decades later a series of arthritic conditions likewise ended his guitar playing career. After being inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of fame in 2015, he died on Christmas day in 2020.

Bill describes his book as an “oral biography,” based on a number of interviews he conducted with several of Tony’s family members and artist peers. It includes remembrances and reflections from Ron Rice, Sam Bush, Béla Fleck, Mark Schatz, Peter Rowan, Jerry Douglas, Harry Sparks, and Frank Poindexter.

It also features nearly three dozen photos, color and B&W, some of them never before published.

Discovering Tony Rice is sure to a valuable contribution to the sparse catalog of information available about this undoubted bluegrass hero, an unusually private man who provided few details about himself during his life.

Vineyards Press is also the publisher of Amatneek’s previous books, Acoustic Stories and Heart of a Man.

Pre-orders for Discovering Tony Rice are enabled now online, in either paperback or hard cover editions.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.