Richard Dwight "Rico" Stover (b. 1945, Clinton, Iowa) grew up in California where he attended Roosevelt High School in Fresno and later Fresno State University. He earned a degree in Latin American Ethnomusicology from the University of California at Santa Cruz in 1975. During his many years as a guitarist and investigator, he has lived in Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, Mexico, Paraguay, Puerto Rico and Venezuela.
While in high school he was selected as an exchange student with the American Field Service Program and spent a summer in the Central American nation of Costa Rica. It was there that he discovered the guitar and Latin American culture, two themes that have figured prominently in his life. He began his personal journey with the guitar by learning Costa Rican folk songs with rhythmic chordal accompaniments. Then one day he heard a classical guitarist whose playing deeply interested him. This guitarist, Juan de Dios Trejos, who was in fact a student of the great Agustín Barrios Mangoré (1885-1944). Sr. Trejos advised young Stover to seek out a teacher upon his return to California, which Stover did, thus beginning his study of the classical guitar and love affair with Latin America.
During this time in high school he formed a folk trio modeled after the Kingston Trio and performed in nightclubs and college concerts for several years on the West Coast, gaining considerable experience performing in concert. He continued his study of the classical guitar during these years with Ako Ito in San Francisco (1964-65).
In 1966 he attended the University of Madrid in Spain majoring in Spanish literature. While in Spain he studied guitar with José Tomás at Santiago de Compostela and Jorge Fresno in Madrid. From Spain he journeyed to Argentina where he became truly aware of the scope and quality of the guitar in Latin America after spending a year there.
Stover also worked as a popular guitarist, playing electric guitar in various groups in Reno, Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe (1968-70). His interest in Latin America and the classical guitar intensified during these years when he studied privately with José Rey de la Torre and Manuel Lopez Ramos in California (1970-72).
In 1972 Rico enrolled at the University of California at Santa Cruz where he majored in Latin American ethnomusicology. He also studied at this time with composer Guy Horn. The following year he attended a meeting in Santa Barbara, California that resulted in the creation of the Guitar Foundation of America. In 1974 he carried out extensive research in Central America on the enigmatic figure of Agustín Barrios Mangoré (1885-1944), locating many new musical works by Barrios as well as significant biographical data about the great Paraguayan master’s life.
Stover eventually published the fruits of his research in the first comprehensive edition of Barrios’ music in four volumes (Belwin Mills Publishing Company 1976). It was at this time that Stover met with famed concert guitarist John Williams and collaborated with him in the preparation of Williams’ historic 1978 LP recording for CBS featuring the music of Barrios.
Stover moved to the Big Island of Hawaii in 1982 where he resided for 7 years playing guitar at world-class resorts and hotels on the Kona/Kohala Coast. He returned to California in 1989 and rekindled his interest in Latin American guitar music.
In 1990 he was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to Paraguay to investigate the life and music of Barrios. As a result of an extended research in Paraguay, upon returning to the US in 1992 he wrote the acclaimed biography of Barrios Six Silver Moonbeams--The Life and Times of Agustín Barrios Mangoré published initially by his own company Querico Publications and in a second run by GSP.
In 1995 he began a relationship with Mel Bay Publications, writing and performing the Latin American Guitar Guide, followed by Barrios in Tablature, Volume 1 (1996), Barrios in Tablature, Volume 2 (1997), The Complete Works of Agustín Barrios Mangoré, Volumes 1 and 2 (2003) and The Guitarist”s Guide to Fingernails (2005).
In 2001 he released a CD entitled "Beautiful Music of the Guitar”. In 2002 he released the CD "Rico Stover Plays Barrios”. That same year Rico was awarded a second Fulbright grant to perform, teach and do research on the guitar in Venezuela.
In 2005 Rico revealed a revolutionary new system he had developed for attaching artificial fingernails as featured in the Emergency Nail Kit (www.ricoguitarnails.com) and his book The Guitarist’s Guide to Fingernails (Mel Bay).
In 2010 Stover published in Paraguay a new expanded Spanish language edition of his biography of Barrios Six Silver Moonbeams. This was followed in 2012 with the English language version. Both of these editions were sponsored by the government of Paraguay as well as select donors from the private sector. He also released at this time a CD of music arranged for flute and guitar, On the Barrios Trail, featuring 7 works by Barrios as well as other composers.
Rico Stover resides in the state of Washington and the country of Paraguay, composing, writing, publishing and performing. He has appeared in guitar festivals in the USA, Canada, England, Italy, Mexico, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Honduras, El Salvador and Costa Rica.
As a guitarist, musicologist, composer and writer, Rico performs a variety of singular activities:
-- Concerts of Latin American guitar music
-- A multimedia lecture "The Life and Music of Agustín Barrios Mangoré”
-- A "Fingernail Forum” for guitarists explaining the RICONAIL system
-- Masterclasses focusing on Latin American music
"Rico is a fabulous, powerful, high energy performer. He took the listener on a tour of South American classical music. His playing showed off his considerable skill with different South American styles. He maintained variety with careful selection of pieces that ran the spectrum of classical, flamenco, and folk styles and he took advantage of every dynamic and technical opportunity to thrill the audience. If ya missed this one, too bad. The waves were 25 feet high that night!” Bill Dykes, Washington DC Guitar Society
"…enthralling, engaging, passionate…Stover’s lecture on Barrios was definitely a high point for me…”
Mark Switzer, Soundboard, GFA Merida Festival, 2003