Freaky (Un)Fiddle Friday – Why You Been Gone So Long: Tony, Wyatt, Sam, Jerry, and all that good stuff.

Ok so maybe I just need to call this Tony Rice Friday instead of Freaky Fiddle Friday, but hey, whatever, it’s good stuff. Here’s a good quality version of “Why You Been Gone So Long,” with a young Super Sammy Bush on Mando and Jerry Douglas on Dobro, both sporting dutiful period correct Appalachian Mud Flaps. And seriously, I swear Wyatt’s had the same haircut his entire life, I think he popped out with that on his head, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it right? Good version of this tune.

Fish Scales at Floyd Fest

It’s been a slow week here at the Fiddle and Creel. Rivers are blown out and we’ve busy doing a bunch of none Bluegrass or fly fishing related things. Extra work, t-ball games that sort of thing. So to fill the void in our lives, here’s a good video of Tony and Dawg playing one of our favorites, Fish Scales at Floyd Fest. Jazzy and fishy and bluegrassy, right in the wheel house, or should I say wheel hoss, of course that’s short for wheel horse, not house, but you know what I mean.

Tony’s Personal Santa Cruz For Sale

The mysterious and über cool no-name headstock.

This just posted to the Mandolin Cafe Classifieds, an interesting place to post it, Tony Rice’s personal Santa Cruz Guitar is for sale.

I’m sure the forums and discussion groups like Flatpick-L will be abalze in speculation and rumor about why he is selling. It makes no difference to me.

My only complaint about all the Santa Cruzes I’ve played, and I’ve played more than most folks because I worked for a Santa Cruz dealer way back in the day, is that the fret ends are too sharp. He always left them, even the Brazillian Rosewood Tony Rice Pro models very pointy and when sliding your hand up and down the neck, they always felt too sharp, like they were slicing your fingers off. Bill Collings on the other hand, always had a very pleasing soft-rounded feel to them, when he was actually making guitars himself that is. Anyway details from the ad are quoted below.

We are proud to present Tony Rice’s personal guitar from Santa Cruz, which was in fact used on the Tone Poems record. This was a unique record in that many of the most archetypal instruments were consolidated for historic representation on one record with two of the finest pickers that have ever lived. Along with famous Loar mandolins and Pre-War Martins, Tony chose this particular instrument to represent the very best that modern guitar builders could produce to stand alongside the giants of older instruments.

In the early 70’s, Tony cemented a lifelong musical and personal friendship with mandolinist David Grisman. Dawg had begun to experiment with a deeper form of improvisation than standard Bluegrass fiddle tune chord changes offered. Tony decided to expand his knowledge of music and left the JD Crowe band to complete the now legendary David Grisman Quintet. Tony quickly befriended band mate, fiddle player Darol Anger. Darol was a friend of Richard Hoover and introduced the two. Richard asked if he could design Tony a custom instrument that would benefit his playing and tonal requirements, and there began a lifelong friendship in 1979.

The first design for the Tony Rice Signature model was produced that year, and continues to be offered in the Santa Cruz line today. Tony has constantly been a sounding board for his guitar’s design and a few of his instruments have been sold to the public in those years. This particular instrument was one of Tony’s favorites, nicknamed “Chocolate.” In a personal note that will accompany the guitar, he describes that this “guitar has been used by me more so than any other ‘Cruz’ both in public performance and recording projects.” He goes on to say “Its performance was particularly satisfying to me on the Bluegrass Album Band Volume 6. On that particular recording event, it was used in conjunction with my 1935 Martin D-28, and I defy the listener to distinguish one guitar from the other.” He also states that John Carlini used this Santa Cruz almost exclusively on his album River Suite for Two Guitars.

Tony’s instrument preferences came from years of playing his favorite guitar, Clarence White’s 1935 D-28. When Clarence’s father purchased the guitar from McCabe’s in California, this guitar was almost destroyed. Clarence’s father had the shop replace the fingerboard with a Gretsch fingerboard that had pre-cut fret slots, hence Tony’s preference for the in-between scale of 25 1/4 inches… not as long as a Martin long scale 25.9” and not as short as a Gibson 24 ¾” scale.

“Chocolate” is incredibly comfortable to play. Upon receiving any new Santa Cruz, Tony takes the guitar to his personal technician for a “special neck treatment.” This involves removing all the finish and then working in a special finish that gives the feel of a well worn vintage neck. This treatment is a characteristic of all his guitars. He discusses this on his Homespun DVD set entitled, “The Tony Rice Guitar Method.”

The German Spruce top has aged beautifully, while the neck is flat with very little relief, according to Tony’s low profile set-up requirements. This guitar even uses Tony’s choice of string, D’aquisto Steel strings! The figured Brazilian back and sides provides a growl to the instrument, along with clarity you won’t find on other guitars. Despite being used on numerous recordings, and public performances, it does not have as many dings and scratches that you might associate with a highly used instrument.

From Tony’s own words: “I am parting with this instrument as I have with others made by Dick Hoover because our combined research and development efforts have been very successful in the ongoing efforts to create a superior sounding Dreadnought acoustic guitar. This one being a ‘strong link in the chain.’” We humbly agree with Tony’s words and invite you to own a piece of musical history and heritage!

For more photos visit:
Artisan Guitars

Price: $55,000

Brushes with greatness.

Throughout our lives, we all have our little brushes with greatness. Whether its while you’re looking at the ground, not watching where you’re going at the baseball card show and you happen to literally run into Paul O’neill with nothing more to say than “uh, excuse me sir”. Or maybe it was walking the course at Muirfield Village during a practice round of the memorial with Payne Stewart listening to him wax eloquent about  swing mechanics. Or maybe you were driving down the alley behind Newport music hall and Allen Woody happened to be unloading his things from the tour bus and you managed to steel a few minutes of his time to ask him if he’ll be “rocking out” tonight because you can’t wait.

Well as a band, Big Red and the Wagoneers had one of our brushes with greatness when Tyler Williams used to sit in with us at Byrne’s pub. He was just a young pup back then, but you could tell he had the fire for the Bluegrass, and was bound for glory. Now he has moved on to his own brushes with greatness, which I assume will only continue. And actually they are probably less like “brushes with greatness” and more like “actually hanging out, playing and singing a whole lot with greatness”. As for me I’ll see you in jam circle. Thanks for the link T-Bone!

Freakin Freaky Fiddle Friday

Well, its that time of the week again, Freakin Freaky Fiddle Friday, where we go diggin around in the vast intertubes and dig out some weird fiddle stuff. This week brings us an interesting line up, featuring the late great Vassar Clements, a truly unique voice of fiddle virtuosity, and this version of Kissimmee Kid lives up to everything we’ve seen from Vassar over the years. It also features
Tony Rice on guitar, Mark O’Connor on mandolin? Jerry Douglas on dobro John Hartford on banjo Glenn Worf on bass. Wow now that is a weird line up. Someone must have gotten sick and canceled at the last minute for Mark to be playing mandolin, but who cares, this tunes it sweet.

Tony Rice Workshop in Roanoke VA


Tony Rice performing at our beloved Merlefest.


Just announced today, the Ultimate Guitar Strummit, in Roanoke Virginia featuring workshops by Tony and Wyatt Rice as well as Josh Williams, and John Miller. Sounds like a good time. I do think saying Tony has never participated in a workshop environment this intense is a bit of a stretch, but whatever it takes I suppose. He has done workshops like this at Jorma’s Fur Peace Ranch right down the road from Fiddle and Creel World Headquarters. But you know, everybody’s gotta be the biggest and the best or first and the mostest, right? Big Mon wouldn’t have it any other way, competition brings out the best in us. Anyway it looks like a good event.

Check the map of trout streams around Roanoke below. Looks promising. I say leave Tuesday morning, fish Tuesday afternoon and all day Wednesday, hit guitar the Strummit on Thursday and Friday, and get home on Sunday. Who is in? Thats a heck of a way to beat the February blues right?

And for good mesure here is s clip of Bill Monroe playing an old time fiddle Tune entitled Roanoke! Bobby Hicks and Charlie Cline on Fiddle, priceless.

Tony Rice Live – Early Morning Rain

This is some classic footage of the Rice Unit playing an excellent Fall-like tune. This friday is the Pheasant opener here in Ohio, and it looks like they are calling for rain and snow. I still don’t know if I can get that day off yet, but I’m working on it. If not then Saturday will have to do.

In a testament to how the fashion world just recycles the same things over and over again, the shirt Tony is wearing would be quite fashionable right now. In fact there is probably some over-priced boutique in Manhattan selling that exact shirt right now for like $300. The more things change the more they stay the same. Maybe he was just WAY ahead of time, or perhaps timeless, or maybe both.

Who cares… how they heck can he play those guitar licks so’ flawlessly is what I want to want to know. Tone, fluidity, grace, punch, execution, crisp enunciation, its all there. Like a perfectly placed upstream presentation of a #14 Adams to a rhythmically rising rainbow, perfection.

And it looks like Vassar on fiddle, RIP – we miss him.

Church Street Blues

Some friends of mine were playing last night at Byrne’s Pub, the greatest Irish Pub I’ve ever been to. I didn’t get to go, but I would like to have.

The fall has crept up on us and now the nights are cool and dry. The days are still warm, but the leaves are falling from the poplar trees like it was the middle of October. Still we sweat in the hot sun and shiver in the cool evening breeze. Nothing says lonesome fall like a solo guitar.

So I thought some good pickin was in order, so without further adieu, here is the legendary Tony Rice playing one of my favorites, Church Street Blues.

New Tony Rice Biography due out soon…

I know what I’ll be reading in April.

The long rumored  Tony Rice biography is due out on April 12th and will be available at Merlefest, too bad I’m not going this year. Details are available on the official website here. It sounds really good. However, I’m not sure what kind of writer Tim Stafford is but it sounds like it could suffer from a case of the schizoids. With each chapter having an intro by Tony then additions by the author, and other supporting details following that? I don’t know,that could end up being a whole heap of jumble, but I hope deep down it works. This one will be one for the ages. He is a true master, and I hope this does him and his enormous contribution to music justice.