Tony Rice fund update

Tony RiceSince we posted about the Tony Rice Foundation last Friday, we have had a number of questions from readers about this effort to raise money to help the legendary guitarist through a rough time.

Several folks have thanked or congratulated us on this venture, but it is important to point out that while Bluegrass Today is involved in helping publicize this campaign, it is actually being run by Jeff and Terry Pinkham, close friends of Tony’s from way back.

[Read more about the Tony Rice Foundation at Bluegrass Today.]

It was started last week after the Pinkham’s learned from Tony directly that his financial situation was precarious, owing to the fact that arthritis has kept him from performing much of the past two years. With royalty income also declining from his older recordings, not being able to work had taken a toll on simply meeting his living expenses.

Other folks had asked about the legal structure of The Tony Rice Foundation, whether it was a tax exempt organization, and whether donations were tax deductible. The answer is that it is not. In fact it is not even a foundation in the legal sense of the word. The fundraising is being done using PayPal, with all receipts (less PayPal fees) being directly deposited into Tony’s bank account.

No tax deduction is available to donors. We spoke with a pair of attorneys who both indicated that tax laws do not allow for deductible/exempt organizations that exist to benefit a single individual. But I’m sure that that won’t prevent anyone from contributing to Tony’s support.

We also received questions about how well the campaign was going, and we’re delighted to report that the Pinkhams have received close to $17,000 since last Thursday when they launched on Facebook. Terry told me on Tuesday that Tony had received $11,000 of it to that point, and that he was overcome by the level of support. He sent her a text when he checked his bank balance saying…

“I felt like I was 8 years old and got a lionel electric train set for Christmas. Right now I am speechless. I’m blown away… I’m just blown away.”

Terry said they have received donations from all over the world, including Norway, France and Germany so far, ranging from $10 to $2000.

But let’s not let this initial success diminish the interest in keeping it going. For my part, I’d like to see the total reach $50,000 by the end of the year, and that is a realistic goal. We all have extra expenses this time of year, but could add the cost of one more gift to our shopping list, and make it a donation to this legendary artist who has given so much to our musical community.

Jeff and Terry have another terrific suggestion, what they are calling the “Ten for Tony” program. They are encouraging folks to consider a recurring $10/month donation, which is very simple to do using the PayPal interface. Jeff said that if 400 people do so, there will be enough ongoing income to help Tony keep the lights on and beans on the table while he seeks proper medical treatment for his arthritis, and attempts to recover his voice, which he revealed during his induction into the IBMA Hall of Fame was possible with concerted effort.

I’ve done so, and encourage everyone to use the PayPal button below to either make the most generous one time donation your situation allows, or sign up as a Ten for Tony subscriber right away.


We’ll continue to update on the success of the Tony Rice Foundation going forward.

[Read more about the Tony Rice Foundation at Bluegrass Today.]

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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.


    Thanks for getting the word out, Mr. Lawless. If there is anything else that can be done, let us know!

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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.

    • Chris

      Ronnie –

      I normally wouldn’t become involved in another persons post. However, I’m making an exception this time. It’s very difficult to assess an individuals financial situation without being that individuals accountant, or close personal friend. You have made allegations about Mr. Rice’s past and present financial situation/decisions (preparing for retirement) without having anything to substantiate your allegations. He may have prepared adequately for retirement. However, perhaps the death of two sons within a 10 year period may have had a negative effect on retirement savings. Or, perhaps the medical condition which caused Mr. Rice to lose his voice may have cost more that what his insurance would cover. Evidently, you didn’t take the time to learn anything about Mr. Rice prior to articulating your opinion of his circumstances. You came across with unsubstantiated conjecture.

      To address your comment about “paying a price for living his dream”. Mr. Rice has enjoyed a successful career in music. More successful than most, but not as successful as some. Is it not true that “paying a price for living his dream” applies to anyone who has ever had a dream and started a company. If you are currently employed in the private sector, it is highly likely that you are working for someone that had a dream and followed it. Bob Taylor (Taylor Guitars)or Bill Gates ring a bell, … how about Steve Jobs?

      I believe it is somewhat hypocritical of you to complain about educational debt and perpetual credit debt, as well as no one caring about your plight. Did you not make the decision to assume educational debt in pursuing your educational and vocational goals? Essentially, Mr. Rice made a similar decision in 1970. There were no guarantees for Mr. Rice, there are no guarantees for your success as well.
      I have been self employed for 28 years. I knew from the beginning that there was no guarantee of success or fortune. As with anyone, whether self employed or working in the private sector, there are no guarantees in this life regarding the security of your future(health, financial security or vocational.) All you can do is make an attempt to do the best you can do, trying to make the right decisions along the way.
      It’s truly a blessing that Mr. Rice, over the past 43 years, has made a substantial contribution in his field. He has touched hundreds of thousands of people with his music. Some of these folks have elected to assist he and his family through a tough period in their lives. I applaud that.

      Linne Black – you were right on in your post.

  • Linne Black

    I am about to submit a donation to Tony Rice, but tell me first…should I go ahead and send it to you instead? You, who are are a “success” and still a “youthful and productive” portion of society? You, who still have time to make the money and store it away for your retirement or hard times? Every situation is different, and I know that Tony Rice didn’t plan on his arthritis taking over so fast the way it did. Like many of us, he probably thought he had more time to sock some bucks away for retirement..but,maybe his bills were high in taking care of his family and other obligations.Maybe he didn’t actually make as much money as we all think he would have..who knows? But it it is what it is, Ronnie. Now, a well-known beloved bluegrass master is unable to play the very music that afforded him a living. In the music business, you either produce or you step away from the mic and get off the stage! That’s what he’s had to do. Lucky are still young and still able to work. Take care of yourself with your thriving abilities, and let us try to help this great, aging musician the best way we can, and without you selfishly begrudging every dollar that drops into the bucket! You’d see what a good feeling it is to help if you’d pledge a few bucks yourself, if only you would do it. Just get over your youthful, productive, successful self, Ronnie…

  • Alan Tompkins

    Great update John, and thanks to you and Jeff and Terry Pinkham for your kind hearts and efforts.

  • Gary Thompson

    I think Tony is the greatest guitar player in bluegrass history and one of the most versatile acoustic players in the world.
    I would however like to know what actually happened to him
    to cause a donation fund?

    • ynotecir

      This note is for Gary Thompson who posted above, and he raised a good question – what actually happened to Mr. Rice to cause more donations to be deposited into a bank account? I enjoy Tony Rice and admire his talent, but I also admire Gordon Lightfoot and Allison Krauss and a whole lot of other performers. And I pay well whenever I have enough extra money to buy tickets to any of their concerts. That is how they make their money, from the fans buying tickets, right? How do we know if this money for Mr. Rice is truly necessary – from us? It may be for “beans” on the table. But the first way, and a good way for Mr. Rice to raise funds: Mr. Rice owns the valuable Clarence White guitar which is valued at a high six figures at least. According to his fans, Mr. Rice owns expensive vehicles, a home, and assuming he has furnishings and collections of which all have value, these are things that are used as investments in case you ever do get in a bind and have to sell personal belongings to have money for medical bills and other expenses. He receives royalties, but nothing is disclosed to the public about how much; and I assume, with arthritis for over 2 years, he may even qualify for Social Security Disability checks every month. You see, I am 67 years old, and I have to work full-time, I have been taking care of myself for over 25 years, and I have crippling arthritis in my hands and fingers. I also have a serious thyroid condition. Like Mr. Rice, my job also requires me to type on a computer all day. And because of my age, I don’t let my co-workers know that I have arthritis in my fingers or I could lose my job – it’s hard for old people to hold jobs nowadays. I do not own a home like Mr. Rice does, and I am paying for a car to drive back and forth to work only, I cannot afford to buy dog food or pay veterinarian bills, so I can’t even own a pet. I don’t have expensive cars that can be sold if I needed extra money. I pay taxes which are deducted from my wages. I need medical financial help, and so do thousands of other people, and we all have not had a foundation or special deposits being funded at the bank. We may have to sell some personal belongings sometimes to raise money to pay bills. I purchased Mr. Rice’s book, Still Inside, and this is not the first request for financial assistance for Mr. Rice. I wish him very well, and will continue to contribute to his work by purchasing tickets to his concerts; and I hope he will be able to record and sing again since he has his voice back. The guitar is his ticket out of debt and to pay for medicals.

  • Emory Shover

    I would rather my donation go to Tony Rice than Obamacare. At least Tony has given me much more than I can ever repay. I have met Mr. Rice and he is a fine gentleman. Those who question his “planning for the future” need not donate. As a matter of fact, why post at all?

  • Oscar Hills

    There seem to be quite a few who share Ronnie’s views. I personally do not, and here are a couple of reasons why:

    But, most importantly:

    I am indebted to Tony Rice for giving me a world in which that little piece of music (and many others of his) exists. No amount of money will repay him for that, but I will happily do continue to my best.

  • Old Mando

    I’d like to suggest Mr. Rice suck it up and deal with his financial problems like an adult instead of asking the rest of us to do it. I certainly appreciate his contributions to the music but where does the soliciting begin and end? And, how much is enough? What is really scary is this the start of a trend when other high profile bluegrass entertainers decide they too deserve a helping hand? While well-intended, Mr. Lawless let emotion drive his thinking when choosing to write this article. At this point he has done us and the music a disservice. Mr. Rice should have been thinking about selling assets to generate cash like most of us in similar circumstances do after reality sets in. Cars, the house, instruments (including the guitar) should all be on the table. My sense is Mr. Rice was feeling sorry for himself, received poor and and opportunistic advice from family and friends and finally made the bad decision to ask others to bail him out. As an admirer, I would have thought he was better than that but here we are having the conversation. We are by no measurement wealthy but next weekend my wife and I will make our annual giving decisions to help those truly in need. That is where our dollars will go.

    • ynotecir

      I agree with you Old Mando. This is a shame and disgrace on any entertainer’s part; even if it was, say, friends of his doing this. Mr. Rice is the one going to the bank taking money from the innocent fans who don’t even really know what the money is being used for. You are correct in saying that Mr. Rice should sell his own assets first before lowering himself to take money from people who are giving thinking Mr. Rice is starving. I don’t think he’s starving. Beans on the table is not Mr. Rice’s lifestyle either. I wish this had not happened, because he has asked for money several times from his vulnerable fans. I have senior citizens, living alone, near me, and I donate to them all year, and especially now. But they did not ask anyone for money, and they have medical bills they cannot pay; but they had to sell their personal assets to have money to live on. If one has invested in a guitar, then so be it, sell it to the Hall of Fame to put in their exhibits – Mr. Rice keeps it in a vault anyway. What good is that doing him with that instrument in a vault when he needs money? Where did his dollars go?

  • lee kotick

    I find it disheartening, especially at this holiday time of the year, that anyone, especially people who profess to be BG fans, voice such acrimony about the Tony Rice Foundation, and suggest that Tony sell off his belongings including his 1935 D-28.

    All I can say is “There but for the Grace of God, go you or I. I believe a well-known folk song had lyrics that went, “There but for fortune go you or I.” Old American Indian saying, Walk a mile in my moccasins.”

    Obviously these people do not know Tony or his integrity. Shame on you for your disparaging remarks about this American treasure and iconic musician.

  • Chris McEntee

    A couple of points should be made. First of all Tony Rice is not asking for charity. Friends of his are trying to help him out and have made the request. Secondly none of you are in a position to comment on the financial planning he may have done. His health has been a problem for a long time and cancelled shows do not pay. Royalties are going away for everyone as the music business changes. Thirdly suggesting that he sell his ’35 D28 is to fail to understand what that guitar means to him. You may as well ask him to cut off his legs. If you don’t understand that you know nothing about artists.
    The bottom line is that if you are unable to have compassion for the man don’t contribute. But if you have such a calculated world view that you begrudge help to someone because your life is hard (many of us have hard times) Maybe you need help more than they do, and I don’t mean financial help.

  • Matt InThe Hat

    I’m looking at all of the negative comments here – comments like ‘sell your house’, ‘sell the guitar’, ‘Mr. Rice should have better prepared’ – and such.

    All I can say in response is that I have heard of another fellow who basically abandoned ‘standard procedure’ in order to add some color, some hope, some beauty to the world. He devoted 110% of his energy and resources to trying to make the world a better place, perhaps sacrificing a stable physical future in favor of a secure spiritual future. We will celebrate his birthday an a scant few days.

    The short of it is: If you are not motivated to help out, then don’t – but you need not justify your inclination to anyone. Your choices simply do not matter to anyone else but you.

    On the other hand – please *do* justify your decision publicly – perhaps others will want to take it into consideration if and when you require assistance.

  • Charles Cornett

    When I was first approached about this effort (a few months back), I had some of the same questions the detractors here have. I was approached by a personal friend of Tony’s, and the effort was described not as a ‘charity drive’. Originally it was presented as something that would stay ‘internal’ to those that derive their living from the bluegrass industry in some way. The concept (described almost as an afterthought in some of the postings) was that a few hundred of us contribute a little bit, every month, for the rest of Tony’s life. As one who has been involved in presenting shows that frequently included Tony Rice for 40 years, it was easy for me. I frequently find myself getting ‘comped’ because of our business interests. I have most of Tony’s recordings both on vinyl and CD, some of which were given to me by him personally. As a paid entertainer, Tony became a de-facto partner in the success or failure of that show. Aside from checks that Tony was written for his performances as part of our business agreement, I would guess that I haven’t personally spent more than $200 directly to Tony. However, I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that each and every festival my family has ever produced (both in bluegrass and other genres) Tony was, in fact, present through the enormity of his influence on the industry. It is a very rare guitar player that can honestly say they are not influenced by Tony in their style. It an even rarer guitar player that sends Tony a royalty check recognizing his contribution to their art.
    My family has produced music festivals for 40 consecutive years. Many of the shows were financial losers. I’ve grown to know a lot of the musicians personally as friends. I know that even our greatest stars in bluegrass could never be described as ‘wealthy’. While I’m sure that some are quite comfortable, the vast majority of our icons live hand to mouth. Tony is no exception I’m sure. It was very easy for me to make a monthly commitment to Tony and his family. I look forward to watching for the eventual disposition of the famous guitar and see what magic it makes next. To have that guitar sold to the highest bidder out of necessity would be obscene. Tony was hand-picked to own it, and I hope he is able to find the ‘next’ innovator who will “create a whole new language on the guitar that the whole world now speaks” as Peter Rowan said.
    I stand amazed at the gall of people who could choose to ignore this need and go unnoticed, but instead choose to make an ass of themselves by showing their ignorance of the man’s contribution.

  • William Walker

    For you people who feel that Tony is not deserving of the support and caring of friend and fellow pickers,just don’t contribute, and keep your mean spirited comments to your self.
    He did not ask for help, his friends setup this fund to help in his time of need.
    It make me sick that you who feel the need to kick a really good man when he has down, you should be ashamed of your selves.

    • Ken Meyle

      Well Said!!

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  • Ray

    Tony Rice is one of the most generous people you will ever meet. Many times in my life his music was there to help lift me out of a dark place. God Bless him and all that have helped out.