James White, Owner of Austin’s Broken Spoke Honky Tonk, Dies

James White, founder and owner of Austin’s popular honky-tonk the Broken Spoke, died Sunday (Jan. 24), according to a Facebook post made by the company. He was 81.

God bless you James White ❤️ This man is a legend and Austin, Texas and country music is better because of him. He’s up…

Posted by Broken Spoke on Sunday, January 24, 2021

White founded the Broken Spoke in 1964 in South Lamar, a neighborhood in south Austin, Texas. George Strait, Willie Nelson, Bob Wills, Kris Kristofferson, Garth Brooks, The Chicks, Midland, and many others frequented the Broken Spoke; with Nelson including scenes at the venue in his 1980 movie Honeysuckle Rose. Strait featured a photo of the Broken Spoke for the cover of his 2019 album, Honky Tonk Time Machine.

In 2016, White starred in Honky-Tonk Heaven: Legend of the Broken Spoke, a documentary about the iconic venue. The Broken Spoke was inducted into the Texas Western Swing Hall of Fame in 2010.

No memorial details have been revealed at press time.

Singer-Songwriter Randy Parton, Brother of Dolly, Passes

Randy Parton (far left) with family. Photo: Courtesy dollyparton.com

Singer-songwriter, actor and businessman Randy Parton passed away today (Jan. 21) after a battle with cancer. He was 67.

Randy’s sister, country music icon Dolly Parton, announced her brother’s death via social media. “The family and I are grieving his loss but we know he is in a better place than we are at this time. We are a family of faith and we believe that he is safe with God and that he is joined by members of the family that have gone on before and have welcomed him with joy and open arms,” Parton said.

My brother Randy has lost his battle with cancer. The family and I are grieving his loss but we know he is in a better…

Posted by Dolly Parton on Thursday, January 21, 2021

According to Dolly’s post, Randy sang and played guitar and bass in her band for many years. He served as Dolly’s duet partner on “Old Flames Can’t Hold A Candle To You,” and on “You Are My Christmas,” a duet with her, and Randy’s daughter Heidi, on Dolly’s latest Christmas album.

Born Randel Huston Parton on Dec. 15, 1953, Randy was one of twelve children born to Avie Lee Caroline and Robert Lee Parton Sr. in Sevierville, Tennessee.

Randy’s first singles came in 1981 with “Hold Me Like You Never Had Me,” “Shot Full of Love,” and “Don’t Cry Baby.” He also released the singles “Oh, No” and “A Stranger in Her Bed” in the early ’80s.

In 1982 he was the first artist to record the song “Roll On (Eighteen Wheeler),” Alabama made it a hit in 1984. Also in 1984, he sang a song for the Rhinestone soundtrack; a movie that Dolly starred in. Randy has hosted a show at Dolly’s Dollywood theme park in East Tennessee since 1986.

Dolly, Randy Parton

Randy is survived by his wife Deb, his daughter Heidi, son Sabyn, and grandsons Huston and Trent.

Dolly’s publicist tells MusicRow, those wishing to honor Randy may donate to the Imagination Library in honor of both Randy and his Father Lee Parton.

The Steel Woods Founder Jason ‘Rowdy’ Cope Passes Away

Pictured: Rowdy (far right) with The Steel Woods. Photo: Courtesy All Eyes Media

Jason Cope, affectionately known as ‘Rowdy‘ and founder of Southern rock band The Steel Woods, has passed away at 42.

Cope became familiar to fans performing onstage with Jamey Johnson for nearly a decade, and was an in-demand session guitarist, playing on albums by Lindi Ortega and the Secret Sisters, among others. The North Carolina native played on Johnson’s albums That Lonesome Song and The Guitar Song, co-wrote The Guitar Song track “Can’t Cash My Checks,” and worked with artists like Brent Cobb as well. Cope co-founded the Steel Woods with Wes Bayliss in 2016 and the group released their debut project, Straw in the Wind, in 2017, followed by 2019’s Old News. 

The band announced Cope’s death on social media with the statement: “We are writing this still in a state of shock and kindly ask for your prayers for the family, friends and band at this time. We take comfort in knowing he is in a better place now and his passion for music and art will live forever in the work he has left behind. RIP Rowdy, you will be forever and greatly missed.”

 

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Country Entertainer Hugh X. Lewis Dies At Age 90

Hugh X. Lewis

Singer-songwriter Hugh X. Lewis, who created country hits in the 1960s and starred on national TV, has passed away at age 90.

Lewis charted 15 titles on the country charts in 1964-79. He wrote successes for himself as well as for a dozen other Nashville stars. He was prominent as the host of a syndicated television series, had his own Nashville nightclub and was featured in several country music movies.

Born Hubert Bradley Lewis, he worked in Kentucky coal mines while beginning his country music career. During the late 1950s, he won a new-talent competition at WLW in Cincinnati, appeared on a local weekly TV show in Johnson City, Teneessee, and worked at the Saturday Night Jamboree radio show in Huntington, West Virginia on WSAZ.

By the early 1960s, he was appearing on the Tennessee Barn Dance in Knoxville and on Kentucky’s Renfro Valley Barn Dance. Hugh X. Lewis moved to Nashville in 1963 and was signed as a staff songwriter by Cedarwood Music.

In 1964, he hit pay dirt as the writer of the No. 1 Stonewall Jackson hit “B.J. the D.J.” Jackson subsequently recorded a half dozen more Lewis tunes, including “Angry Words” (No. 16, 1968) and “Ship in the Bottle” (No. 19, 1969).

Carl Smith took the songwriter’s “Take My Ring Off Your Finger” into the top-20 in 1964. Carl Butler & Pearl succeeded with the Lewis tune “Just Thought I’d Let You Know” the following year.

Kitty Wells, Ray Pillow, Mac Wiseman, Jimmy C. Newman, George Morgan, Charley Pride, Jimmy Dickens, Lynn Anderson and Jim Ed Brown also recorded songs written or co-written by Hugh X. Lewis. Del Reeves & Bobby Goldsboro sang a duet on his song “I Just Wasted the Rest.”

Success as a songwriter led to a recording contract with Kapp Records. Lewis never scored a top-20 hit as a singer, but his smooth baritone was notable on a string of country singles. He wrote or co-wrote nine of his 15 charted songs.

“What I Need Most” (1965), “Out Where the Ocean Meets the Sky” (Mel Tillis/Fred Burch, 1965), “I’d Better Call the Law on Me” (1966), “You’re So Cold (I’m Turning Blue)” (Harlan Howard/Tony Senn, 1967) and “Evolution and the Bible” (1968) were top-40 entries. “All Heaven Broke Loose” was a top-20 hit in Canada in 1969.

His major-label LPs were The Hugh X. Lewis Album (1965), Just Before Dawn (1965), My Kind of Country (1966), Just a Prayer Away (1967) and Country Fever (1968).

Beginning in 1968, he hosted Hugh X. Lewis Country Club, a syndicated weekly TV show. By 1971, it was being aired in 31 markets. He opened his own nightclub in Printer’s Alley in 1972 and produced the remaining episodes of the show from there.

Lewis was also featured in the country B-movies Forty Acre Feud (1966), Gold Guitar (1967) and Cotton Pickin’ Chicken Pickers (1967).

Hugh X. Lewis retired in 1984, but returned to the music business in 1998. He began emphasizing gospel music with the albums God, Home & Country and Stand Up and Be Counted. In 2005, he appeared in the Christian children’s film Summer of Courage. He also became a performing poet, reciting inspirational verse on various radio programs and in churches.

Since 2017 he has been hosting a weekly gospel radio show called The Christian Country Store on WSGS and WKIC in Hazard, Kentucky. He has also had daily features on the Gospel Radio Network.

Lewis is Kentucky Colonel, became a member of the Atlanta Country Music Hall of Fame and was honored in the Walkway of Stars at the original Country Music Hall of Fame. He passed away on Dec. 29, and his death was announced Sunday (Jan. 17).

Hugh X. Lewis is survived by Anna Mae Lewis, his wife of 69 years, by daughter Saundra Taylor (Harry), two grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. A memorial celebration of his life will take place at a later time.

A&R Executive Larry Willoughby Dies

Larry Willoughby

Loving husband, father, grandfather, singer-songwriter and former Vice President of A&R at Capitol Records, Larry Willoughby, died at the age of 70 after battling Alzheimer’s and having contracted COVID-19.

Larry was born on Feb 24th, 1950 in Houston, TX. He married his highschool sweetheart, Janet Howard Willoughby in 1969. After a few years as a firefighter, they moved to Nashville, with a passion and dream of being in the music industry and that they did. Last year they celebrated 50 years of marriage.

Larry is the former Vice President of A&R for Capitol Records Nashville, where he helped shape the careers of many country stars, among them Keith Urban, Trace Adkins, Eric Church, Dierks Bentley and Luke Bryan.

 

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He got his big break in the music business when he earned a spot in country singer-songwriter Guy Clark’s band. Under Clark’s guidance, Willoughby honed his own songwriting and performing skills. Soon after, he landed a recording contract with Atlantic Records.

His debut album, Building Bridges, rose to No 47 on the Billboard charts in 1984. The title track from the album reached No. 55 as a single—but 12 years later took him to new heights. In 2006, Brooks & Dunn turned “Building Bridges” into a Grammy-nominated, Top 5 single. It featured guest vocals from Vince Gill and Sheryl Crow and was nominated for Musical Event of the Year at the CMA Awards and Best Country Collaboration With Vocals at The Grammys.

Willoughby spent several years on tour after the release of his Building Bridges album, then found himself drawn to the business side of country music. He signed on as tour manager for country stars Rodney Crowell, his cousin and so-called brother, and Rosanne Cash before moving in the direction of artist development. After a stint as director of membership with ASCAP, he was recognized for his talent for listening, pitching and placement of songs by renowned producer, Tony Brown and hired as Director of A&R at MCA/Universal Records. During Willoughby’s tenure, MCA became known as the “Golden” label recognized as the industry leader throughout the 90’s with major successes of recording artists, George Strait, Reba McEntire, Vince Gill, Wynonna, Trisha Yearwood, and The Mavericks.

Even with his move to Capitol as VP of A&R, he kept a hand in songwriting. His songs have been recorded by such artists as Waylon Jennings, Rodney Crowell, Eddy Raven, Big House, the Amazing Rhythm Aces, Nicolette Larson and the Oak Ridge Boys.

Larry is survived by wife, Janet; two sons, Kobalt Nashvile’s Jesse Willoughby (Bonnie) and Cody (Laurin), and two granddaughters, Livia and Lailee Willoughby.

If desired, family and friends may make memorial contributions to an incredible non-profit Alzheimer’s Care and Event center in Memphis, Tennessee, Page Robbins.

Warner Music Nashville’s Tom Starr Passes

Tom Starr. Photo: Courtesy Warner Music Nashville

Warner Music Group Nashville’s Tom Starr has died following a battle with cancer.

Starr was a part of the WAR promotion team, joining in 2014. He was Regional Mgr. of Radio & Streaming when he passed. With the Warner team, Starr helped work singles for Dan + Shay, Chris Janson, Ashley McBryde, Zac Brown Band, Frankie Ballard, and more.

Pictured: Tom Starr with Gator Harrison, Tennille Harrison, Kelly Janson, Chris Janson, John Esposito, and Rod Phillips at a Country Radio Seminar celebration in 2018. Photo: Alan Poizner/Peyton Hoge

Prior to joining Warner, Starr worked in pop world music, including stops at Interscope, EMI/Capitol, Jive, MCA and Elektra Records.

Dan + Shay’s Dan Smyers posted a heartfelt tribute to Starr on his Facebook page, with a photo of a backstage photo from the early days in their career.

 

man, this one hurts. we’re so grateful to have had Tom Starr with us through the majority of our career (including our…

Posted by Dan Smyers on Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Memorial arrangements have not yet been announced.

1970s Country Hit Maker Misty Morgan Passes

Misty Morgan and Jack Blanchard in 1974. Photo: Courtesy Robert K. Oermann

Misty Morgan, 75, who once topped the country charts in a duo with Jack Blanchard, died of cancer in Florida on New Year’s Day.

Her languid, behind-the-beat alto vocal and inventive keyboard playing characterized the zany novelty “Tennessee Bird Walk.” The song hit the peak of the country charts in 1970. With husband Blanchard, she also scored a top-10 hit with its follow-up, “Humphrey the Camel.”

She was born Mary Donahue in Buffalo, New York in 1945. The family moved to southern Ohio when she was young, and she began her career playing keyboards in pop groups around Cincinnati. She then ventured further afield as a lounge singer and piano-bar entertainer. Morgan performed as “Jacqueline Hyde” and “Maryann Mail” before adopting her permanent stage name.

She met songwriter/comedian Jack Blanchard in Florida in 1963. They married in 1967. They performed pop, jazz, rock, Dixieland or anything else it took to make a living. Morgan hooked up various electronic devices to her keyboard, so the duo never needed other band members. Blanchard’s distinctive, “velvet saw” low voice and story-telling lyrics made their move into country music a natural transition.

Jack Blanchard & Misty Morgan staged their debut on the country charts with “Big Black Bird (Spirit of Our Love)” in 1969. “Tennessee Bird Walk” catapulted them to fame the following year. It hit No. 1 and was nominated for a Grammy Award as Best Country Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group (they lost to Johnny Cash & June Carter).

“Humphrey the Camel” continued in the novelty vein, as did such subsequent top-40 singles as “Fire Hydrant #79” (1971) and “The Legendary Chicken Fairy” (1972). But there was more to Jack Blanchard & Misty Morgan than wacky comic songs. Blanchard’s off-center songwriting could range from bizarre novelty daffiness to deeply felt social commentary. “Bethlehem Steel” was about a discouraged, homesick factory worker. “There Must Be More to Life (Than Growing Old)” and “Poor Jody” ruminated on aging. “Changin’ Times” lamented the commercialization of modern life.

The compelling “Somewhere in Virginia in the Rain” told the story of a working-class pair’s breakup and reconciliation. It rose to No. 15 in 1972, becoming the couple’s third biggest hit.

Jack Blanchard and Misty Morgan placed 15 titles on the country charts in 1969-1976. Blanchard wrote all of them, except for the team’s version of The Fortunes’ 1965 pop hit “You’ve Got Your Troubles (I’ve Got Mine).” Seven of their singles were top-40 successes. Two albums made the charts, Birds of a Feather (1970) and Two Sides of Jack & Misty (1972)

Their sound, arranged by Morgan, was completely unique for country music of that time. It had a quirky, “stoned” vibe, something like Sonny & Cher lost in a poppyfield in South Carolina. His soulful groaning rasp cut across her dreamy croon while underneath pulsed a steady shuffle beat dotted with harmonica, steel and guitar bubbles of sound.

The twosome called their creations “Jack and Misty Productions,” so Morgan can be credited as country’s trailblazing female record producer. When “Tennessee Bird Walk” became a smash, Misty Morgan became the first woman to co-produce a No. 1 hit. The single’s wah-wah guitar effect was the first time this sound was heard on a country record.

Jack Blanchard & Misty Morgan were absent from the country charts following 1980, but the team continued to entertain theme-park tourists in Orlando’s nightclubs. They also continued to record. Among their subsequent collections were Sweet Memories (1987), Back in Harmony (1995), Back From the Dead (2000), A Little Out of Sync (2001), Weird Scenes Inside the Birdhouse (2007) and Just One More Song (2012).

In performance, they later formed a jazz trio—Morgan on piano backed by a hired drummer and Blanchard on bass. The gigs got smaller in recent years, but she maintained her positivity and dedication to her craft.

Misty Morgan recorded with Jack Blanchard for the Mercury/Wayside, Mega, Chalice, Epic, United Artists, Playback, Stadust and Omni labels, as well as their own Velvet Saw imprint.

During their career, they issued 15 albums and more than 40 singles. Blanchard spoke of his wife and musical partner’s passing on social media last week. Misty Morgan was taken to the hospital on Christmas Day and was diagnosed with advanced cancer. She died a week later, Jan. 1, 2021, with her husband by her side.

A GoFundMe site has been established to raise funds to pay for Misty Morgan’s funeral expenses.

Country Music Singer-Songwriter Ed Bruce Dies

Ed Bruce

Country singer-songwriter Ed Bruce died Friday (Jan. 8) in Clarksville, Tennessee, of natural causes. He was 81.

In 1957, at the age of 17, he went to see Jack Clement, a recording engineer for Sun Records. Bruce caught the attention of Sun owner Sam Phillips, for whom he wrote and recorded “Rock Boppin’ Baby” (as “Edwin Bruce”). In 1962, he wrote “Save Your Kisses” for pop star Tommy Roe and in 1963 he reached No. 109 on the Billboard “Bubbling Under” chart with his own recording of “See the Big Man Cry” (Wand 140), both published by Bill Justis at Tuneville Music. Charlie Louvin recorded “See the Big Man Cry” (Capitol 5369) in 1965; Louvin’s version reached No. 7 on the Billboard “Country Singles” chart. During his career, many songs that Bruce wrote and recorded were more successful when re-recorded by others.

In the early 1960s, Bruce recorded for RCA and some smaller labels like Wand/Scepter, singing rockabilly music, as well as more pop-oriented material such as “See the Big Man Cry.” In 1966, he returned to RCA and recorded “Puzzles,” “The Price I Pay To Stay” and “Lonesome Is Me”. He still did not achieve great charting action. He made money doing voice-overs for television and radio commercials. He scored his first charted single with “Walker’s Woods” in 1967, and also charted with his version of The Monkees’ “Last Train to Clarksville.” Both of these singles were minor hits. In 1969, Bruce signed with Monument Records, where he continued to have minor successes with “Everybody Wants To Get To Heaven” and “Song For Jenny.”

Meanwhile, he continued to write songs like “The Man That Turned My Mama On,” which was a major hit for Tanya Tucker in 1974, and “Restless” for Crystal Gayle the same year. He signed with United Artists Records in 1973 and released several singles, but only one single in 1974 became a minor hit. He finally made the upper regions of the charts when he made the Top 20 with his version of “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys,” a song he co-wrote in 1976.

Two more Top 40 hits followed for Bruce in 1976, and in 1977, he signed with Epic Records where he would score minor hits. In 1978, “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys” was recorded by Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings. It became a major hit and continued the upward swing in Bruce’s career. In 1979, Tanya Tucker took Bruce’s 1977 song “Texas (When I Die)” into the country Top 5.

In 1980, Bruce signed with MCA Records, where he would score his biggest successes. His early hits with MCA included “Diane,” “The Last Cowboy Song,” “When You Fall In Love (Everything’s A Waltz),” “Evil Angel,” and “Love’s Found You And Me.” His biggest hit, “You’re The Best Break This Old Heart Ever Had” went to No. 1 on the country chart in 1982. This also was Bruce’s first Top 10 as a singer after 15 years. He had other hit songs that made the Top 10 like “Ever, Never Lovin’ You,” “My First Taste of Texas,” and “After All.”

In 1984, he returned to RCA Records and scored a No. 3 hit with “You Turn Me On Like A Radio” in 1985. His last Top 10 single was “Nights” in 1986 and his last Top 40 single (and last chart single to date) was “Quietly Crazy” in 1987.

During this time, Bruce began to act and do commercials. One of his biggest acting roles was as the second lead on the television revival of 1957’s Maverick, called Bret Maverick. Starring James Garner as a legendary western gambler, the series ran on NBC-TV during the 1981-82 season, but was unexpectedly canceled. Bruce played the surly town lawman who found himself reluctantly co-owning a saloon with Maverick, with whom he seemed to maintain a surreally adversarial relationship more or less throughout the entire season. Bruce also sang and wrote the theme song to the show, while Garner himself sang the same song over the end titles at the show’s close.

After the 1986 album entitled Night Things and a 1988 self-titled follow-up, Bruce made a conscious decision to cut back on his music to focus on his acting career, appearing in several made-for-TV films. He hosted two shows in the late 1980s, Truckin’ USA and American Sports Cavalcade. Bruce has also appeared in several theatrical releases, including Fire Down Below with Steven Seagal.

Bruce wrote “One,” recorded by George Jones and Tammy Wynette, off their 1995 album of the same name.

He was honored with the Arkansas Country Music Award for Lifetime Achievement on June 3, 2018 at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

Funeral arrangements were not announced at press time.

Grammy Winning Singer-Songwriter Jamie O’Hara Passes

Jamie O’Hara

Grammy Award winning singer-songwriter Jamie O’Hara has died at age 70. He courageously battled cancer and sadly succumbed on Jan. 7, with his wife, Lola White O’Hara, by his side.

O’Hara won the Grammy Award for Best Country Song for “Grandpa (Tell Me ‘Bout the Good Old Days),” a 1986 hit for The Judds. He was also noted as half of the performing and recording duo The O’Kanes alongside Kieran Kane. The O’Kanes had six consecutive top 10 hits in 1986-88, all of which were co-written by O’Hara and Kane.

James Paul O’Hara was born and raised in Toledo, Ohio. He was an all-American high-school football star who was offered a tryout by the Detroit Tigers right out of high school, which he turned down to play football at Indiana University. A knee injury ended his football career. During his recovery, he took up the guitar and started writing songs.

Despite family and friends’ disapproval, he moved to Nashville at age 26. Within a year, he was signed as a staff songwriter by the industry giant Sony-ATV (then called Tree International Publishing).

He initially tasted success as a songwriter in 1980-87 with cuts by John Conlee, T.G. Sheppard, Conway Twitty, Johnny Lee, Michael Johnson and other stars of the era. In 1981, Ronnie McDowell scored back-to-back smash hits with O’Hara’s “Wandering Eyes” and “Older Women.” The 1986 Judds hit “Grandpa (Tell Me Bout the Good Old Days) earned Grammys for the duo’s performance as well as for O’Hara’s songwriting.

Jamie O’Hara next formed The O’Kanes with fellow songwriter Kieran Kane. The duo debuted on the charts with the 1986 top 10 hit “Oh Darlin.'” The O’Kanes scored a No. 1 hit in 1987 with “Can’t Stop My Heart From Loving You.” This was followed by the 1987-88 top 10 successes “Daddies Need to Grow Up Too,” “Just Lovin’ You,” “One True Love” and “Blue Love.”

The duo issued three LPs – The OKanes (1987), Tired of Runnin’ (1988) and Imagine That (1990) – before amicably parting ways.

Don Williams had scored a top 10 hit in 1988 with O’Hara’s co-written “Desperately,” and Tammy Wynette succeeded with “Talkin’ To Myself Again” in 1987. So O’Hara returned to writing for others. Trisha Yearwood, The Chicks, Randy Travis, Emmylou Harris, Mark Collie and Michael Martin Murphey were among those who recorded his songs in the early 1990s. Tanya Tucker popularized his farm-crisis song, “Bidding America Goodbye.”

The songwriter returned to recording with the 1994 solo CD Rise Above It. His second solo CD was 2001’s Beautiful Obsession, and in 2012 he followed it with Dream Hymns. The first of these contained his notable Vietnam War elegy “50,000 Names.”

O’Hara’s songwriting success continued with “You’ve Got to Talk to Me,” a major hit for Lee Ann Womack in 1997. George Jones (2000’s “The Cold Hard Truth”) and Wynonna (1997’s “When Love Starts Talkin’”) also maintained O’Hara’s songwriting prominence.

Linda Ronstadt, Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris included his “When We’re Gone Long Gone” on their 1999 Trio II collection. In 2001, Gary Allan had a No. 1 hit with “Man To Man,” and he also recorded several other O’Hara compositions.

Tim McGraw, Sara Evans, Joey & Rory, The Oak Ridge Boys, Pam Tillis and Josh Turner were among those who have recorded O’Hara songs in recent years. He also has a number of bluegrass-music successes.

During his songwriting career, Jamie O’Hara provided songs to dozens of stars. The list includes Janie Fricke, Mel McDaniel, Brady Seals, Shelby Lynne, Mandy Barnett, Kathy Mattea, Larry Stewart, Dave & Sugar, Tom Wopat and Stacy Dean Campbell, among many others.

There are no plans for a public memorial at this time. In lieu of flowers, donations are being accepted in Jamie O’Hara’s name to Bonaparte’s Retreat, Doctors Without Borders, MusiCares, and SmileTrain.

Bluegrass Icon Tony Rice Dies

Tony Rice

Tony Rice, a pillar in bluegrass and country music, died on Christmas morning (Dec. 25, 2020) at his home in Reidsville, North Carolina. He died while making his coffee, according to a statement from longtime friend and collaborator Ricky Skaggs. Rice was 69.

Rice won a Grammy with the band New South for Best Country Instrumental Performance in 1983 for “Fireball.” He was inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame in 2013, and won various IBMA awards throughout his career.

Rice was born in Danville, Virginia but grew up in Los Angeles, California. His father, Herb Rice, introduced him to bluegrass, and he and his brothers learned the fundamentals of bluegrass and country music from L.A. musicians like the Kentucky Colonels, led by Roland and Clarence White.

Rice moved to Louisville, Kentucky in 1970, and started playing with the Bluegrass Alliance, and shortly thereafter, J.D. Crowe’s New South. Ricky Skaggs joined New South in 1974, and the band recorded J. D. Crowe & the New South. Also known as Rounder 0044, the album became Rounder Records’ top-seller up to that time.

After meeting mandolinist David Grisman, Rice left the New South and moved to California to join Grisman’s all-instrumental group, the David Grisman Quintet, where he was able to experiment more with jazz music. While in the group, Rice started to learn chord theory, learned to read charts, and began to expand his musical palate beyond bluegrass. The David Grisman Quintet’s 1977 debut recording is considered a landmark of acoustic string band music.

Rice left Grisman’s group in 1979 to pursue more experimental music, that he called “spacegrass,” with his Tony Rice Unit, including members Jimmy Gaudreau (mandolin), Wyatt Rice (guitar), Ronnie Simpkins (bass), and Rickie Simpkins (fiddle). He recorded Acoustics, a jazz-inspired album, and then Manzanita, a bluegrass and folk album.

During the 1980s, he recorded Skaggs & Rice, an album of bluegrass duets with Ricky Skaggs. He, J.D. Crowe, Bobby Hicks, Doyle Lawson and Todd Phillips formed the Bluegrass Album Band and recorded from 1980 to 1996. Also during this time, Rice recorded with guitar legend Norman Blake; recorded a project titled The Rice Brothers with his brothers Larry, Wyatt, and Ron; and released other critically acclaimed albums.

In 1994 he was diagnosed with a disorder known as muscle tension dysphonia and as a result was forced to stop singing in concert. He was diagnosed in 2014 with lateral epicondylitis (“tennis elbow”), which made guitar playing painful. Rice’s last performance playing guitar live was his induction into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame in 2013.

Rice’s authorized biography, Still Inside: The Tony Rice Story, was published in 2010, and was written by Tim Stafford and Hawaii-based journalist Caroline Wright.

Rice was a monumental influence on many bluegrass and country musicians. Many bluegrass stalwarts, including Ricky Skaggs, Doyle Lawson, Sam Bush, Rhonda Vincent, and Béla Fleck; as well as mainstream country artist Luke Combs, Carly Pearce, and Lee Ann Womack, mourned his loss on social media.

Rice is survived by his wife Pam and their daughter India, as well as his brothers Wyatt and Ronnie. He is preceded in death by his brother Larry Rice. No details on funeral arrangements have yet been announced at press time.