Bluegrass legend Tony Rice has died aged 69

Steve Martin, Jason Isbell and more have paid tribute to "the king of the flatpicked flattop guitar"

Bluegrass guitarist Tony Rice, regarded as one of the all-time greats of the genre, has died aged 69.

The musician passed suddenly on December 25, according to his former label Rounder Records. Rice was widely celebrated for his skill as a flatpicker, a fast-paced style of guitar playing, as well as his highly influential style which was itself indebted to jazz.

Rice, who grew up in California before moving to Kentucky, released his first album ‘Guitar’ in 1973, later writing and recording as a band with the Tony Rice Unit and the Bluegrass Album Band.

His collaborations over the years ranged from The Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia to guitarist Norman Blake and mandolin player David Grisman.

Rice was diagnosed with dysphonia in 1994, which prevented him from singing for most of the rest of his life. The musician made his last ever public guitar performance at the 2013 International Bluegrass Music Association’s Hall of Fame.

Tributes have poured in from a number of major names who were inspired by Rice’s playing, including Steve Martin and Jason Isbell.

“Aw, Tony Rice,” Martin wrote in reaction to the news, also tweeting to share one of his favourite Rice performances. “A name I’ve known my whole life. A great musician.”

Isbell called him “the king of the flatpicked flattop guitar,” adding: “His influence cannot possibly be overstated. If you aren’t familiar with his music, please look it up. I don’t know if a person can make anything more beautiful. #RIPTonyRice”

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