Still Inside: The Tony Rice Story - Tim Stafford & Caroline Wright - Introduction by Ricky SkaggsSTILL INSIDE: THE TONY RICE STORY

Word of Mouth Press 9780578051130.
Hardcover, 315 pp., photos, $24.99.
(Word of Mouth Press, 406 Shelby St., Kingsport, TN 37660, www.wordofmouthpress.us.)

Simply put, this is the most thorough, fascinating biography of a musician I have ever read. Authors Tim Stafford and Caroline Wright have written a rich, informative, entertaining account of the life and music of Tony Rice, the most influential and widely—if not wildly—imitated guitarist in bluegrass history. The structure of the book is unique. Each chapter includes an introduction to an era of Tony’s life, a firstperson narrative created from interviews of Tony covering those years, along with brief quotes from musicians, friends, and fans. The last are not gratuitous, but lend another angle in illuminating a very complex personality. I found myself skipping around and reading different sections out of order, but this worked well. The sections are clearly presented and the more than a hundred photographs capture some important moments in Tony’s life and bluegrass history. I found the last two chapters especially interesting: one on Tony’s life offstage and another on the famous 1935 D28 guitar once owned by Clarence White. The book includes a complete timeline of Tony’s life and career, an exhaustive discography, and a thorough bibliography. They could easily have titled the book The Complete Tony Rice.

There is so much here that stays with you, but especially Tony’s own words. What comes across is an open, honest person who cares about connecting with others musically and personally. That came as a surprise since, in the past, Tony has had an aura of mystery and sometimes seclusion. Several myths are dispelled here, but what is mostly illustrated is the spiritual relationship Tony has with music. It manifests itself in a degree of attention to detail that is mindboggling. But besides the exquisite tone, timing, and touch, there is passion that drives the technique.

Nothing is swept under the rug here. His failures as well as his successes are discussed. This book is one of the few biographies of a musician that gets at the heart of where life and art intersect. Stafford and Wright have left their egos at the door and present Tony in his own terms. A wonderful book and essential reading for anyone interested in the life of a complex, influential musician. CVS