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Tony Rice

Tony Rice
February 14, 2014, 08:34:59 AM
His dad, Herbert Hoover Rice, was an amateur musician and expert welder. His work took the family to California, where he co-founded the Golden State Boys, in which his oldest son, Larry, played mandolin. Larry helped get Tony hired at age 20 by the banjo great J. D. Crowe to play with the New South at the Holiday Inn in Lexington, Ky. The gig was a destination for bluegrass fans, fabled among musicians for its rigorous schedule: five nights a week, four sets a night.

Just as the pace was exhausting him, Rice heard a recording by David Grisman, a mandolinist from Greenwich Village. Grisman’s progressive sound lured Rice to San Francisco. “The music laid out in front of me was like nothing I’d ever seen,” Rice said. “At first I wasn’t even sure I could learn it. The only thing that saved me was that I always loved the sound of acoustic, small-group, modern jazz.”

Rice co-founded the David Grisman Quintet in 1975, and they toured Japan. But when Grisman suggested the Quintet leave America to tour with the French violinist Stéphane Grappelli, Rice balked. Grisman lined up a replacement. “Musically, my heart was not in it,” Rice said. He had his own band in mind, as well as “The Bluegrass Album,” a 1980 project that has spawned six volumes.