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Rhonda Vincent: the all American bluegrass girl

By Jeffrey B. Remz, June 2006

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Vincent attended college, for awhile anyway. But problems arose second semester with declining grades "because we were on the road so much. I was trying to balance college classes like that. I was on the road for two years."

Vincent later had the chance to go to Nashville to record a demo tape. "If I do, I know I'm going to have to drop out of college at this point," she recalls. She went to Music City. "I thought man I'm on my way to a country music career because I had recorded in Nashville." Change was in the air for Vincent. She left college and ended up marrying her husband, Herb, who now helps manage her, in December 1983.

Vincent continued with the family band concept for awhile. While still with the band, Vincent appeared on TNN's talent search program, "You Can Be a Star," in 1985. She landed a job with the Grand Ole Opry's Jim Ed Brown. While still releasing bluegrass albums, Vincent veered towards country. She eventually recorded several albums for Rebel, a major league bluegrass label.

And then she went country, signing with the long defunct Giant Records. Vincent released "Written in the Stars" in 1993 and "Trouble Free" three years later. She released three singles, some videos, but her budding country career never went anywhere.Vincent expresses mixed feelings about the experience, especially regarding her involvement with the family band. "This is a decision that I regret that I did. (Management) kept telling me, are you truly dedicated to a solo career? They looked at it as a contradiction. My thinking if this solo career isn't making a living, then why should I give up my family, but I wanted to make a go of country music. They told me 'you need to stop touring with your family so people will take you seriously as a solo artist'. That's when I stopped touring as a family."

Vincent says she felt she needed to make a statement to the Nashville music machine, "I want you to know that I'm totally committed to this."

"I was na´ve. It was my first experience in Nashville learning about agency management. I'm on a major label, got a video coming out."

How did her family take it? "Not very well. I'm the livelihood for my family."

"There was just disappointment. In my father's mind, (he thought) I would always be playing in his family. I broke a family tradition that had continued onto that point."

"I'm sure it was a great shock to him and a great disappointment."

"You have to find that niche and what works for you," says Vincent of her Nashville experience. "Had I came out when Randy Travis out and Alan Jackson, my style of music was set in that time period. Ricky Skaggs, George Strait...that's the style of music that I play. That's about the time Shania came out...I could have been on any major label, and that's not what I'm about. I don't think I would have ever sung anything that would have ever been in that style of music."

"That was assembly line production. I had very little to do - I helped pick the songs, but they picked the musicians. It's all just fitting the mold. You're basically the chick singer."

Despite obvious disappointment, Vincent says, "I look at that as my four or five years of musical college. I could not have gone to any university and received that education. That gave me a leg up when I did start in bluegrass."

"There was already a fan base in country music, and there was obviously a fan base in bluegrass...and I was able to merge those two bases into what we have now."

But Vincent took a break before figuring out where her musical future lay. "I can't tell you how confused I was." As the title of her 2000 album said, Vincent was "Back Home Again." Would fans accept her since she had gone country?

"I heard that a lot - are you country? Are you bluegrass? What are you? Who are you? That's something I had to figure out for myself. I knew I was back into bluegrass, but it wasn't just a matter of just saying that. I knew it was going to take a certain amount of time to prove that...I never was offended by that are you country or are you bluegrass or what are you?"

"I just felt every time I did an album and went on a show, you let the music speak for myself. You tell me - are my country or are my bluegrass? You let me know what it is."

Vincent has not done too badly for herself over the years, picking up six straight International Bluegrass Music Association female singer of the year awards, song of the year in 2004 for "Kentucky Borderline" and entertainer of the year in 2001.During her run, Vincent has become one of the key players on the bluegrass circuit, but she also is a changed woman. That's apparent when looking at the cover of "All American Bluegrass Girl" - Vincent went blonde.

"Blondes have more fun," Vincent jokes. "Before a couple of years ago, I had never ever colored my hair...I never considered doing that. I asked my hairdresser. He goes, 'Hey, I'd like to try this'. It kept getting lighter and lighter. I could see such a difference. People treated me differently. My husband hates it...He hates me with blonde hair. He wants me to have dark hair. The first year that I bleached it blonde, for Christmas, I surprised him, and I colored it back dark."

Vincent indicates she tries to be unique. "I realize people are making a determination on whether to come a show based on my picture on the paper." Vincent recounts meeting a woman at an Ohio show dragged along by her husband, telling Vincent, "I didn't want to come here tonight. I saw your picture in the paper, and it looked really boring...You are nothing like that. You are fun, lots of energy. Your pictures need to say that."

Interesting because in seeing Vincent and talking with her, her name could be given as the definition in a dictionary for "energetic." The all-American bluegrass girl says, "We are doing something different out here."

'To really do in your face hard driving bluegrass, it's a got a hard edge to it...A lot of people might not find that pleasing. I enjoy that."

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