The Santa Cruz Tony Rice Model:  A Prodigious Guitar with an Iconic Inspiration

The Santa Cruz Tony Rice Model: A Prodigious Guitar with an Iconic Inspiration

Daniel Odle

The Tony Rice model from Santa Cruz Guitar Company is a guitar built on the passion of a professional by a true custom guitar shop.  Here’s some history on the honorable Tony Rice, his influence on bluegrass music and the incredible instrument he keeps by his side.


I was not surprised to find out Tony Rice spent his early years in Los Angeles, California.  While his Father is responsible for the initial introduction, Tony had a whole team of siblings learning the fundamentals of bluegrass music through their teenage years.  1970 brought upon the beginning of Rice’s music career as he moved to Louisville, Kentucky and became a member of the Bluegrass Alliance and soon after, The New South.  As luck or fate would have it, The New South become known as one of the best and most influential bluegrass bands in existence as Tony recorded J. D. Crowe & The New South.  As his reputation grew, so did his desire to move onward and upward.


After meeting mandolinist David Grisman, Rice joined a quartet (appropriately named the David Grisman Quartet) where he began to broaden his music theory.  From bluegrass to jazz, from charts to improvisation, Tony became the amazing artist we know today and recorded a landmark album with the group in 1977.


The 80’s were a time of collaboration for Rice. Tony formed the Bluegrass Album Band, recorded a duet album alongside Ricky Skaggs and played with a number of big names from Jerry Garcia to Alison Krauss. The partnership that brought upon this article, however, began in 1977 when Rice was handed his first Santa Cruz guitar.  It’s very dressed up in terms of trim and double-binding and Brazilian Rosewood,” explains Rice. “Each guitar that they have built for me has been like a slow evolutionary process of guitar making for Richard Hoover. They’ve all been successful. Each one that’s been made for me, I play on it for a while and then I’ll think some little change that I want to experiment with. A different bracing pattern or braces slid slightly forward, wood thickness, neck shape – All these little changes that I like to think of as improvements, but they’re always experimental. This particular instrument here I have enjoyed playing more than I have any other instrument that I’ve had in my hands, period...for many many years. There’s something magical about this. It’s been a very good relationship with [Santa Cruz Guitar Company] and I guess I can let the instrument speak for itself in the way it sounds and the way it notes and plays. Cosmetically, its certainly not what anybody would consider an eye sore. It’s a very beautiful instrument.”


The instrument he’s so envious of is, of course, the Santa Cruz Guitar Company Tony Rice Special.  For over 30 years, Tony Rice and Richard Hoover have worked together to reach the current edition of this finely crafted guitar.  While some features may seem to be clear preferences of the artist and others a nod to the traditional styling of a bluegrass guitar, the bones of this guitar are built to create the perfect tone, volume and sustain, like any guitar you'll find hanging on the wall at SCGC.  You won’t see a neck full of inlays, a top covered in stickers or a mother of pearl inlaid signature on the headstock of Tony’s guitar, but one of the best parts of this custom model is that just about anything you want this guitar to have, SCGC will make it happen.  Listen to what’s customize-able with this guitar!


Starting with the top wood, this guitar comes standard with a Spruce top, either Adirondack or European. You can completely change the look of this guitar and opt for the Redwood or Hawaiian Koa top if you prefer. With the model pictured (Santa Cruz Tony Rice Signature Custom) the body is made of the beautiful Indian Rosewood, but is also available in the great Brazilian Rosewood or Flamed Maple variety as well. For Heartbreaker’s in stock model you’ll find a long list of features: A zipper back stripe, Ivoroid binding, Herringbone purfling and rosette, scalloped bracing, ebony overlay, V neck, tortoise dalmatian print pickguard and nickel Waverlys. Brendan ordered this signature model with upgraded Aged Adirondack bracing and hot hide glue finishing off this truly custom guitar. Ordering this guitar custom, you’re able to choose from – get a load of this – 3 different neck wood choices, your own custom neck shape, 3 bracings, 10 different binding materials, 3 bridges, 3 fingerboards, 6 overlay options, 8 different finishes, choice of tail wedge, 1929 specs option, right or left handed, with or without a cutaway, 6 or 12 string, 7 tuner choices, with or without electronic pickups installed and 35 different inlay options. Try telling Hoover he doesn’t run a custom shop.


Heartbreaker Guitars can help you find the perfect combination for you as they are a proud Santa Cruz Guitar Company dealer in the heart of Las Vegas, Nevada.  Buying your first (or second or third) SCGC guitar is made easy with the knowledgeable staff Brendan keeps on hand in his showroom.  You’re welcome to click HERE to visit their entire Santa Cruz Guitars collection or visit them in person! Below I’ve shared a great review and demonstration video by and also Brendan’s interview with Mr. Richard Hoover himself at this years Winter NAMM 2019.



Daniel Odle

Heartbreaker Guitars Contributor



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