Legendary Guitarist's Biography Underway; Friends Asked To Participate

Reidsville, NC August, 2003 -- From his home in North Carolina this week, flat-picking guitar legend Tony Rice announced that he has chosen the writers of his official biography.

Rice also asked for participation from the bluegrass community, which he hopes will provide candid material for the project.

"My biographers are going to call on a lot of folks for comments and anecdotes," he said. "I hope my friends will do all they can to cooperate. They should feel free to be honest! More than anything, I want this book to be real."

In a career that spans five decades, Rice's work includes recordings, tours and appearances with a long list of musical luminaries, including Alison Krauss, Jerry Garcia, Emmylou Harris, David Grisman, Stephane Grappelli, Ricky Skaggs, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Bela Fleck, Jerry Douglas, and Doc Watson. His accolades include one Grammy and two nominations, and numerous awards from the International Bluegrass Music Association and the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music in America.

His professional history is marked with significant musical milestones, yet the guitarist has lived a life filled with turmoil. Like many other musicians, he has struggled with temptation and excess. He lost his father to a house fire, his home to a flood, and his extraordinary voice to a medical condition called muscle tension dysphonia.

In spite of a rocky road, Rice's discography includes some of the most beloved music of the bluegrass genre. He recorded The Old Home Place, the legendary Rounder 0044, as a member of J.D. Crowe and the New South. He teamed up with Ricky Skaggs for The Essential Old-Time Country Duets. His own solo outings include extraordinary projects like Manzanita and Cold On The Shoulder. Rice's recordings also include The Pizza Tapes with David Grisman and Jerry Garcia, stolen by a delivery boy from a kitchen counter, and released some seven years later.

"I'm 52 years old, but sometimes I feel like I've lived 102 years!" Rice said. "There's a lot of ground to cover."

Two writers will collaborate on the epic project. Tim Stafford, a Grammy winner for his work with Alison Krauss + Union Station, now handles lead guitar for award-winning bluegrass band Blue Highway. Stafford began groundwork on the biography several years ago as a tribute to Rice, who inspired his own musicianship. "Life and work got in the way, and I had to set the book aside for a while," he said. "When Caroline approached me about a collaboration, I was inspired to jump right back into it."

Bluegrass columnist and journalist Caroline Wright wrote a long feature about Rice for the July/August 2002 issue of Listener, a now-defunct audiophile magazine. "A Day In The Life Of The World's Best Guitarist" included exclusive photos, testimonials from musicians like Gordon Lightfoot, Bela Fleck, and Dan Fogelberg, and fascinating details of Rice's life. (The article is archived on Wright's website at www.wrightforyou.com.)

In similar fashion, the book will include details from a road trip Rice made in July on which Wright rode shotgun, took notes and taped their conversations. Rice has avoided flying for several years, and puts about 50,000 miles a year on his black Mustang convertible, driving to shows and festivals all over the country. "It was a remarkable experience," Wright commented. "I'm really looking forward to weaving pieces of it into the biography."

Rice will send a letter of introduction to people on his biographers' long list of potential interview subjects. In the letter, he will invite his friends to be candid with memories and anecdotes.

"Most people never get a chance to tell their stories firsthand," he said. "With a little help from my friends, I'm happy for the opportunity to tell mine."

Wright and Stafford may be contacted at ricebiography@hotmail.com.

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