Music Row magnate Tandy Rice died at Centennial Hospital on Monday (Aug. 3) afternoon. He was 76 years old.
The statesman-like Music City personality managed and/or booked such country-music greats as Porter Wagoner, Dolly Parton, Jim Ed Brown, The Kendalls, Tom T. Hall, Helen Cornelius, Jeannie C. Riley, and more.
Born Tandy Clinton Rice Jr. in 1938, he was a native of Franklin, TN. Unlike most of his peers, he was a patrician. His father was a prominent physician, and the future entrepreneur grew up privileged and indulged. He attended The Citadel and Vanderbilt.
Minnie Pearl (Sarah Ophelia Colley Cannon) was a distant cousin. She encouraged him to enter the music business. Tandy Rice began his career as a publicist, representing Waylon Jennings, Chet Atkins, Kitty Wells and Hank Williams Jr., among others. He hit his stride as a salesman for Show Biz, Inc., which distributed syndicated country television shows to stations throughout the nation. After three years there, he bought the company’s booking agency, Top Billing, Inc. He developed Top Billing into a Nashville powerhouse. At its peak, the firm booked and/or managed 18 major artists. There, Tandy Rice famously managed Mississippi fertilizer salesman Jerry Clower, who became a recording artist, a Grand Ole Opry member, a top convention speaker, a commercial pitchman, an author, a radio host and a TV star. Similarly, he transformed Billy Carter into a national media celebrity who out-earned his brother, President Jimmy Carter.
Always impeccably groomed and socially polished, Tandy Rice was a master salesman, using his folksy humor, honeyed Southern drawl, evangelistic enthusiasm and skill as a raconteur to charm everyone who met him. He became nearly as well known as the artists he represented. Rice was profiled in Newsweek, The Washington Post, People, Playboy, The New York Times and other national publications. Rice was a judge for the 1983 Miss America Pageant, which crowned Vanessa Williams. He also judged it in 1996, as well as several lesser such competitions.
“Tandy was not only one of the greatest agents in the business, but he was also one of the greatest people I’ve ever known. I loved him dearly as a friend. He will live in the heart of this town forever; and forever he will certainly live in mine,” says Dolly Parton.
At home in Music City, he became the host of the top-rated WLAC radio talk show Good Morning Nashville, as well as NewsChannel 5’s Morningline TV program. For 15 years, he hosted the United Cerebral Palsy Telethon on WKRN-TV. He served on the board of the CMA for more than a decade and was its president in 1981. He became an adjunct professor at Belmont University’s Mike Curb School of Music Business. In 2007, he was announced as the Dean of George Jones University.
In 2010, he survived prostate cancer. The following year, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the International Entertainment Buyers Association (IEBA). In 2014, Tandy Rice became the inaugural inductee into the National Association of Talent Directors (NATD) Hall of Fame.
In addition to his Music Row activities, Rice was prominent in several Nashville civic organizations and charities. His organizations included the Boy Scouts, The Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, The Nashville Rotary Club and Battle Ground Academy.
He is survived by daughters Cynthia Rice Simonet and Marjorie Rice Mason, six grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
Visitation was held Friday, Aug. 7, 5:30 p.m – 8:30 p.m. at Fourth Avenue Church of Christ located at 117 4th Avenue North in Franklin, TN. The memorial service was scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 8 at 11:00 a.m. at Fourth Avenue Church of Christ. Memorial Donations may be made to: The Rice Family Middle-Tennessee Scholarship Fund at The Citadel, 171 Moultrie Street, Charleston, SC 29409, or GraceWorks Ministries, 104 Southeast Pkwy, Franklin, TN 37064. Condolences may be offered online at www.tennesseanfuneralhome.com.
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