Time to give back to Tony Rice

Tony Rice at IBMA 2013 - photo by Milo FarineauOne of the things that newly-minted bluegrass fans often mention after their first encounters is the informal and accessible relationship between the artists and their fans. It’s a rare show where the performers don’t make themselves available for a brief chat with all comers, and it’s quite common at festivals to find them walking through the crowds. Many top artists spend twice as long standing at their merch tables conversing with fans as they do on stage.

This creates a family or tribe-like atmosphere. They are one of us, and we are one of them. Surely the fact that so many bluegrass fans are also players of one level or another contributes to this one-ness, but it is always striking to folks from the outside when they first attend a bluegrass show. And it leaves a lasting impression.

Another thing that stands out about the bluegrass world is that we take care of our own. From the IBMA’s Trust Fund to the many benefit shows held around the country every year, bluegrass people are generous and quick with help when one of our tribe needs help. Only the completely anonymous nature of the Trust Fund prevents the general public from knowing how many people are helped each year, and how much is distributed. But it’s plenty, and it helps.

I say all that to say this. We have a member of our community that needs help now, and I haven’t the slightest doubt that we will rally around ungrudgingly and with due haste.

Tony Rice, perhaps the most influential acoustic musician of his generation, is facing hard times. Most everyone reading this will be aware that he lost the ability to sing some years ago, and those who have read his brilliant biography, Still Inside, know that he had expressed little concern, finding a sort of freedom in being able to focus solely on the guitar.

But this past year or so has found arthritis robbing him of that as well, leaving this legendary guitarist unable to ply his trade. Not only is that a painful loss to music lovers world wide, it has stolen from Tony his means to earn a living. At first he attempted to soldier on, playing through pain, but as even that became difficult, he has had to cancel the shows that were booked.

As he told a close friend recently, “I never thought my guitar would ever let me down.”

Arthritis is a cruel illness for musicians and artists of any kind, especially as it can offer good days and bad days, seeing hope continuously unrequited. When you earn your keep with your hands, it can seem like a brutal injustice. For Tony, it has also involved tremendous emotional stress, recognizing the vulnerability in his financial position.

I think we would all hate to see a living legend, a man idolized by millions of musicians around the world, reduced to some sort of menial work to keep food on the table. So what can we do?

Terry and Jeff Pinkham, longtime friends of Rice from Florida, have created the Tony Rice Foundation to accept donations for Tony and Pam’s support during this difficult time. At this point, it is just a Facebook page and a PayPal link, but they are accepting funds now, all of which will be paid directly into Tony’s account.

At IBMA’s World of Bluegrass in September, Tony shocked the music world by speaking in his natural voice, if only for a few minutes, explaining that with great concentration, he could “reconnect” with that voice. His hope is to focus on that in the near term, possibly even recapturing that lovely instrument and returning to singing publicly.

But in the short term, the Rices need our help to keep body and soul together. You can use the donate link below to access the PayPal account, where you can make a one time donation, or sign up to have a small amount deducted each month from either your PayPal or debit/credit card account.


Loose plans are being made to expand this effort, and anyone who may be interested in helping more directly, can contact Terry and Jeff through Facebook, or contact Bluegrass Today by email.

Other ways we can all help…

  • When choosing Christmas gifts for family and friends, consider Tony Rice albums. With so many wonderful recordings in a variety of styles, you’re sure to have several folks on your list who would appreciate one.
  • Do you broadcast bluegrass, acoustic or jazz on the radio? Bring some renewed attention to Tony and his rich career, and request that your listeners join in lifting him up.
  • Maybe you have a guitar picker on your gift list. There are several Tony Rice DVD lessons available from Homespun.
  • Pick up a copy of Still Inside, for yourself or as a gift.

I don’t view this as charity, and I hope you won’t either. It feels more like a gift to have the opportunity to repay a debt we owe this great artist who has shared so much joy with us over a long and fruitful creative life.

Tony Rice, we’ve got your back.

View all Tony Rice Music at iTunes- Click Here.


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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.

  • Rob Lifford

    Thanks for spreading the word, John, it’s an honor to help out in any small way for someone you rightly describe as a living legend.

  • David Clarkson

    Thanks for the excellent article John. Tony already has shown us that he can battle through so many physical adversities by overcoming his recent long bout of illness then showing such incredible tenacity in working to restore his voice as demonstrated back in September. My wonderful wife signed up to donate through this foundation as a “stocking stuffer” in my name and I think that is a perfect Christmas gift for any and every Bluegrass guitarist and fan. This will take no time to bring the legions of fans to Tony’s assistance. It really is an investment not only in a well respected artists future but in our own future as consumers of his wonderful craft. The site will certainly raise the funds to enable the operation and support Tony and Pam through a period or recuperation and if not then surely a benefit or festival that will quickly sell out is in order. Thanks again John for informing us on how to be a part of Tony’s full musical and financial restoration.

  • Wayne Morrison

    Is there a way to buy product directly from Tony vs. third party?

    • lee kotick

      go to TR website run by Christian Marks, Magic Bus

      • Unfortunately, that site is not operational.

        • lee kotick

          let me know what it is you would like to purchase and I will see if I can arrange- meantime, please make a donation- best- lee

      • I should say… merchandise ordering is not currently operational.

  • JamGrass.net

    Mr. Lawson, thanks for the call to action. JamGrass.net will support this effort! 100% of our proceeds received from the Amazon.com Associate Program for the rest of this month will be donated to The Tony Rice Foundation. Check out the article for more information and please pass it along!

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  • JamGrass.net

    Mr. Lawless, hope you don’t mind, we quoted your piece in a press release for the Grateful Web community. Thanks for bringing attention to the foundation. http://www.gratefulweb.com/articles/jamgrassnet-donate-december-proceeds-tony-rice-foundation

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  • Ronnie

    I find it odd how much community outpouring there is for an artist or others who fail to prepare for retirement or fall on hard times. Let someone who has done everything society has told them they need to do to be a success end up in the same boat and they are deadbeats or irresponsible for asking. I don’t mean to distract from Mr. Rice’s situation, which I feel for, but he is paying a price for living his dream instead of doing what he had to do to survive through retirement. I’d love to be out doing what I love and not thinking about the long term, but I don’t. Where is the help for the current youthful and productive portion of society? We are straddled with education debt and perpetual credit debt, and no one cares about our plight.

    • Mr. Mudd

      Look. When you leave this kind of footprint, people notice.
      Don’t give if it doesn’t work into your value structure.
      As for me, it’s simple,
      I’ve had 30 years of good times listening to this guy. That’s enough for me to buy an album, chip in for someone who is down, and not miss a beat doing it.

      Whatever I give, I got my money’s worth.

      Ronnie, If you should write something like Manzanita I might even help you when you’re down. Good luck.

    • Gantt Kushner

      Ronnie – Tony Rice is paying the price for more than his fair share of bad luck. Brittany Spears can probably afford to weather any storm the universe decides to throw at her – how many of her licks have you learned? Or even listened to? Tony Rice helped to write more than a few chapters of Bluegrass Guitar History. If you’re a musician, even a weekend warrior, and you don’t feel the need to help and share this so others can help, then, in my not-always-so-humble opinion, you should be ashamed of yourself. Have a nice, well-planned life. I hope that if you find yourself in need someday, your friends will be more generous than you.

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  • coondog

    Hmmm… I can’t imagine any guitarist who would not enjoy Tony’s number album…I think it was 56897 or some number like that. I am going to send a few out to some of my fellow wannabe’s… Thank you Tony, and I hope all is well with you soon.

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