"Well I got me a Martin guitar, and I carry an old tote sack. I hocked it about two hundred times, but I always get it back."
- from 'Freeborn Man' as sung by Tony Rice
Tony Rice (1951 – ) is “the” man, period! Both his solos and rhythm are always inventive, dazzling, and for me couldn’t be better. He always “pulls” fabulous tone out of any guitar that he plays, but most notably out of his legendary 1935 Martin D-28 which he calls “The Antique” which he purchased in 1975. This guitar is also legendary because of having once been owned by flatpicking innovator Clarence White throughout the 1960’s.
Nine-year-old Tony first got to play the already highly modified 1935 D-28 when sixteen-year-old Clarence White of the bluegrass group “The Country Boys” (later the Kentucky Colonels and The Byrds) let him play the old guitar while both of them were working on a Friday night bluegrass-themed tv show. Inspired by Clarence’s ahead-of-its-time playing, Tony went on to forge his own superlative style of both lead and rhythm. During the mid-1970’s he helped define the genre-blending sound of Dawg music while playing for three years with the original David Grisman Quintet. Tony was also a phenomenal lead vocalist and went on to cut many of the classic modern-era bluegrass recordings with J.D. Crowe and the New South, and later with the Bluegrass Album Band.
Sadly, Tony began losing his voice in the early 90’s and sang publicly for the last time in 1994. Being unable to sing did not stop Tony as he continued performing instrumentally letting his amazing guitar skills be his voice.
- Old Train from Manzanita, 1979
- Jerusalem Ridge from Church Street Blues, 1983
My 1946 Martin D-28 – There is nothing like playing an old D-28. This particular guitar spent much of its early life working hard in a professional bluegrass band. Pre-war Martin D-28s are considered to be some of the finest guitars ever made. While this guitar is considered a post-war guitar, like Tony’s guitar it still has the attractive herringbone trim going around its top edge which would disappear the following year due to a materials shortage. Even though the finish is very worn and dirty, a guitar like this should under no circumstances be refinished. To me, there is nothing more beautiful than an untouched and well-played Martin D-28 or D-18.