Kenny Chesney Shares Heartfelt Memories of Tony Rice after Bluegrass Legend’s Passing

by Jennifer Shea

Country star Kenny Chesney is sharing an emotional tribute to Tony Rice after the bluegrass singer passed away on Friday, Dec. 25. 

Kenny Chesney Remembers Tony Rice

“Tony Rice inspired so many including a kid like me from East Tennessee who was in awe of the way he sang and played Me And My Guitar,” Chesney posted to Twitter on Saturday. “I’ll never forget seeing him sing that at the IBMA Bluegrass Festival in Owensboro, Ky. It’s printed in my brain forever! Rest In Peace Tony Rice.”

Tony Rice, Bluegrass Hall of Famer

Rice was a bluegrass legend who grew up in Los Angeles. According to Taste of Country, his father Herb Rice introduced his sons to the L.A. bluegrass and country scene. Bands like the Kentucky Colonels were a key influence on Rice’s musical aspirations.

Rice moved to Louisville, Kentucky and took part in the Bluegrass Alliance in the early 1970s. He also joined J.D. Crowe’s New South. He subsequently moved back to California to play in the David Grisman Quintet.

In the 1980s and ’90s, Rice co-founded and took part in the Bluegrass Album Band. He also played in the Tony Rice Unit, recorded several albums with other musicians and embarked on a number of solo projects. 

Over the course of his career, Rice won a Grammy Award for Best Country Instrumental Performance and ten International Bluegrass Music Association Awards. The IBMA named him Instrumental Performer of the Year – Guitar six times. 

Later on, muscle-tension dysphonia struck Rice. It’s a vocal cord ailment that, in Rice’s case, prevented him from singing songs publicly. He also had tennis elbow, which prevented him from playing the guitar without suffering significant pain. Rice’s final public performance took place at his Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame induction in 2013.

He died at his home in Reidsville, North Carolina sometime on Christmas morning. The singer was 69.