Luke Combs Responds to Death of Tony Rice, Offers Video Suggestion in Testament to Legend

by Quentin Blount

Country music star Luke Combs paid his respects by posting a tribute to Tony Rice after the bluegrass singer passed away on Christmas Day.

Rice died at his home in Reidsville, North Carolina sometime on the morning of Friday, December 25. The singer was 69 years old.

Combs took to Twitter to respond to the passing of Tony Rice. He posted a video of Rice singing “Church Street Blues,” encouraging his fans and followers to listen in.

“Gonna be watching a lot of this today. You should too,” Luke Combs posted on Twitter. “Rest In Peace Tony Rice. Heaven just gained one hell of a picker.”

Tony Rice, Bluegrass Hall of Famer

Rice grew up in Los Angeles prior to becoming a legend in the Bluegrass genre. According to Taste of Country, it was his father Herb Rice who introduced his sons to the L.A. bluegrass and country scene. Bands such as the Kentucky Colonels were a major influence on Rice’s musical ambitions.

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

Furthermore, in the 1980s and ’90s, Rice co-founded and took part in the Bluegrass Album Band. He also stayed busy by playing in the Tony Rice Unit, recording several albums with other musicians, and embarking on a number of solo projects. His song “Church Street Blues” that Luke Combs recommended his fans listen to is from one of Rice’s solo albums by the same name.

By the end of his performing career, Rice had quite a long list of accomplishments. Among them, he 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 in life, muscle-tension dysphonia struck Rice — a vocal cord ailment leaving him unable to perform. And as if that wasn’t enough, Rice also had tennis elbow. That injury prevented him from playing the guitar without suffering significant pain. His final public performance came in 2013 during his Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame induction.

Luke Combs and Kenny Chesney Pay Tribute to Tony Rice

In addition to Luke Combs, other country stars have posted tributes to the late bluegrass star. Kenny Chesney was one of them to do so. He posted an emotional message in honor of Rice following his death.

“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.”

Country music singer-songwriter Travis Tritt also paid his respects to the late Rice. He posted to Twitter saying, “I’m very saddened to hear that guitar player Tony Rice passed away on Christmas Day. Tony was the best acoustic flat-picker ever in my opinion. I used to sit for hours and try to copy his licks, but never succeeded. RIP #tonyrice”