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Rhonda Vincent remains one step ahead

By John Lupton, May 2003

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Vincent says the song is based on a true story, but it's "not something I can talk about."

"I always search for something that has a different type of content," Vincent says. "So much of bluegrass has songs about a cabin on a hill. I want a song that says something. It affects people...The song is everything. If you can have a message in it...I didn't even think that this is not typical bluegrass. I just wanted to present it because it's different."

Another aspect of the album that's different is Vincent has an increasing share in writing the songs.

On Vincent's return to bluegrass, "Back Home Again," she wrote exactly 1 of the 12 songs, and most of the 1 ("Little Angels") was written by a Canadian woman.

"I never even started to write as a teen," Vincent says. "Then I had children. I didn't write any (songs)."

Vincent eventually turned her attention to writing, many with the help of Terry Herd, a well-known bluegrass journalist.

The two met when Vincent was gathering songs for "The Storm Still Rages," her album from 2001. "I was making the commute back and forth to Nashville (from Missouri), and I was desperate to find a leadoff song. I started 'Cry of the Whippoorwill' in the car," but was unable to complete it.

She soon found herself doing a show in Texas in late 2000/early 2001.

"Terry just happened to be at a show that we were at (playing)," she says. "He was hanging out backstage, and I said, 'are you a songwriter?" I was stuck, and I talked with a couple of songwriters, and we didn't have time to finish the song. He said, 'I'm not a songwriter,' but he said, 'I'll be happy to look at it.'"

"He came back the next morning with five verses to the song. I said, 'that's too long, Terry.'" But the song ended up on the disc.

Vincent upped the ante on "One Step Ahead," by having a hand in writing 5 songs, all with Herd.

"He's a wonderful guy to write with," says Vincent. "It's hard to connect with some (writers). You're basically throwing your guts on the table when you're writing a song. He would give me a line. He got to know (if) that was stupid because I would laugh. He might be offended if someone else would do that. He would say, 'okay, that's a hokey line.' I would say, 'No. That doesn't work.'"

Getting together isn't exactly so easy to do because of Vincent's schedule. "He puts up with such a hard schedule of mine," says Vincent. "Recently, after the project was done, he flew over to Switzerland and wrote on the plane over and the way back. He realizes my schedule is so busy these days."

One could easily argue that most of Vincent's life has been one based on a busy schedule.

Music has been a part of her life since she was a tyke. But music was not exactly a new endeavor for the family. According to Vincent, music has been in the family more than five generations. Her father, Johnny, recorded his first record with his family at about the age of 11.

"Of course all the family played music," says Johnny Vincent in a phone interview from his Greentop, Mo. home. "That was our entertainment."

"She started singing when we were driving in the car," says Vincent. "She was singing happy birthday or something. She blended right in. She had the talent to start with when she was three years old. She could hardly talk. It was amazing to me."

In 1967, at the ripe old age of 5, she joined her grandfather, parents, an aunt and uncle and two cousins to appear as the Sally Mountain Show on KTVO television in Kirksville, Mo. singing "How Far Is Heaven."

"We had to make a living," Johnny Vincent says. "I just started the band up. She fit right in. She was five. Cut the mustard and fit right in. She just kept getting better and better."

"We were playing down at a country music show in Missouri. It was the Frontier Jamboree in Marceline."

"We started in with my dad, my wife, Caroline, myself and Rhonda. She would come to sing. 'Muleskinner Blues' I think. She'd get as much response as anybody on the show. I'd ask Buster (Doss, the owner) when are you going to start paying her?"

He said no pay if she didn't play an instrument.

"They said when she plays an instrument, she'll get paid," Johnny Vincent recalls. Next stop was a music store.

"She went chopping the mandolin and from then on, that was it," says the elder Vincent.

Rhonda Vincent developed her musical talents within the The Sally Family Show, which played Branson in the summer for about three months, hitting festivals on weekends and the state fair in August for about 10 days running.

"That got old," Johnny Vincent says. "I don't ever want to go to a fair no more."

For awhile, the Sally Family Show, which also released a slew of albums mainly on their own, played in Missouri and later expanded to Oklahoma.

"Normally, we'd feature her because she was the best singer," says Johnny Vincent. "She got more response actually after awhile, after she developed a bit. She could always hear harmony. She could always hear the harmony part and jump in on the harmony."

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