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Rhonda Vincent: the all American bluegrass girl

By Jeffrey B. Remz, June 2006

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"Their harmonies are the number one thing," says Vincent, explaining her love of the Osbornes. "I just love their harmonies, their instrumental arrangements, everything about them. If I had a favorite CD I'm going to pull out, it's going to be the Osborne Brothers...When you hear him sing, you know it's him."

Vincent has recorded with Parton in the past, but that wasn't necessarily the original plan. "We did the 'Heartbreaker's Alibi.' When we tried the male harmonies, it's like 'this needs a female'. It's not a trio. It's definitely a duet, and we started thinking about how there are so many male (duets). It's a rare thing for two females to do a bluegrass song...We said who better than Dolly? What a great thing to do a duet with her and to have it on a traditional bluegrass song, which to me was unique."

People may be seeing more of Dolly also as she agreed to participate in a video for the song, which Vincent hopes will be seen by the country crowd. "It's bluegrass," says Vincent. "It's not more radio friendly...I think people will embrace this even though it's called bluegrass and has banjo...You don't have to put labels on it. You have to go 'this song makes me feel good, and I like that'.""I'm excited this is going to expose bluegrass to a whole new audience," says Vincent.

Writing three songs solo is a new experience for Vincent, who is used to writing with others. "I had written with (bluegrass journalist and songwriter) Terry Herd on most of my previous albums. I didn't really consider myself a songwriter. I'm somebody who on occasion when inspired to (writes). The professional songwriters are the ones who write 9 to 5...Then we wrote the (IBMA) Song of the Year with 'Kentucky Borderline.' I think that gave me the confidence."

As for songwriting with others, Vincent says, "It depends on the mood and how it works. I'm on such limited time, and it's difficult for me to sit down with a songwriter. Once we won song of the year...I was inundated with songwriters...I mean Nashville professional songwriters (saying) I invite you to come and write with us on a certain day in Nashville. I can't write like that. I don't have time to sit in a room. I'm so busy and I'm on the road so much that it's impossible for me to do that."

"I write by necessity. I have a project. I need songs for this project."

Vincent, a quick talking, engaging straight shooter, said love of bluegrass was not up for discussion back home in Missouri. "No choice," says Vincent emphatically. "My mom always said she took us off the bottle and put us on bluegrass. The other thing my brothers and I always say we had to play or we didn't eat...Music was such an influence in our household. My dad would pick me up from school every day. We would play until dinner. After dinner, friends would come over, and we would play until bedtime. It was a very constant (part) in our life. It was truly on the job training. It was a rigorous schedule."

By the age of five, the young Rhonda had television and radio shows to look forward to, not to mention kindergarten. "When I was in elementary school, the teacher had put me by somebody...who could not sing on pitch - (my father) asked to move me away from him because he didn't want him to ruin my singing...That was our livelihood. That was a lot of his motivation. The Vincent family is traced back 5 generations of playing, meaning his first recording on vinyl, an old 78 when he was 16. Some things that you do is just because your family did it, and this is what your family does, and you think this is normal."

The Sally Show hit the regional festival circuit when Rhonda was very young, playing mainly on weekends. At six, Vincent received a snare drum from her father, a smart move financially because a few years later while playing a country music show, anyone who didn't play an instrument didn't get paid. By eight, Vincent learned how to play mandolin. She even released her first single that same year, "Mule Skinner Blues." Vincent still plays the song, which appeared on her 2005 live set, "Ragin' Live."

At 14, the band hit Branson during the week and festivals on weekends, something that lasted about four years. Was Vincent jealous of other kids who did not have a regimented life? "I think when I got to be a teenager, and I got to see other teens going out. I wanted to go skating, and it was a rare occasion when I got to do that. I played softball. I played one game with the team, and the ball hit my fingers on the bat. (My father) pulled me from the game, and I never played again."

"When I got to be in high school, we were touring pretty rigorously, pretty much year-round. I would get my lessons done...I'd get my lessons in advance."

Vincent did her homework before hitting the road. "I didn't want to drag my homework along...If I hadn't gotten good grades, they probably wouldn't allow me to do that."

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