By Randy McNutt
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Musician and Hamilton native Denzil "Dumpy" Rice wrote a hit song for Elvis Presley and performed across the world, yet he was always modest and approachable.
He played piano and guitar at thousands of recording sessions and in live performances. His distinctive style helped earn a rocking reputation for Cincinnati in the days before homogenized sounds.
Mr. Rice, 64, died Sept. 10 at Redington-Fairview Hospital in Skowhegan, Maine. The cause of death was not immediately available.
He had been living in Norridgewock, Maine, since 1995. He will be remembered for his contributions to the Cincinnati Sound - that amalgamation of blues, country and rock of the 1960s and 1970s.
Mr. Rice played them individually and collectively.
"There is no doubt in my mind that he was the greatest honky-tonk piano player that ever was," said guitarist Eddie Drake of Hamilton. "This is like losing a brother."
Mr. Rice played piano with guitarist Lonnie Mack and other local musicians in roadhouses. With Drake, Rice played in a 1970s studio rhythm band in Cincinnati that did everything from rock to gospel.
He also wrote hundreds of country songs. His most famous, "There's A Honky Tonk Angel (Who'll Take Me Back In)," was a hit in the 1970s by Conway Twitty (for whom Mr. Rice played piano in the early 1960s) and Elvis Presley.
Singer Bill Watkins of Colerain Township said Mr. Rice "had a knack for taking an ordinary song and making it bright."
Survivors include three sons, all of Hamilton: Bryan, Kevin and Timothy; a daughter, Cindy Rice of Hamilton; a brother, Ralph Rice of Alpharetta, Ga.; a sister, Marvine Calhoun, of Hamilton.
Visitation will be 12:30-2 p.m. Friday at Brown-Dawson Funeral Home, 1350 Millville Ave., Hamilton. The service will follow at the funeral home.
Burial will be at Greenwood Cemetery in Hamilton.
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