This is the first of a two-part interview with Missouri native and musician Rhonda Vincent, a six-time Grammy nominee and one of the most well-known performers in the bluegrass genre.
Rhonda Vincent wasn’t born with a mandolin in her hands, but she’s been a musician since childhood.
Growing up in tiny Greentop, Mo., (located north of Kirksville), Vincent’s family was well known in music circles, serving as the hosts and stars of The Sally Mountain Show, a local TV and radio program featuring Rhonda and several family members.
She was a whopping 5 years old at the time.
“My Dad would pick me up from school each day and we would sing and play until dinner,” Vincent says. “After dinner, friends would come over and we would play ‘til bedtime. It was on-the-job training and a complete way of life. I thought everyone else was at their house doing the same thing. It’s that way of life that evolved into a career.”
And what a career it is.
Known the world over as “The Queen of Bluegrass” – a nickname earned 14 years ago following a Wall Street Journal article – Vincent has become one of the most recognized and honored musicians in the genre.
She’s performed and made music videos with the likes of Dolly Parton and is no stranger to The Grand Ole Opry stage – yes, that Grand Ole Opry.
If you look at the photos on her Facebookpage, pictures of Vincent with musicians such as Willie Nelson and Martina McBride are intermingled with photos of family, close personal friends and fans she meets on her travels.
But at the end of the day, she’s still a girl from Greentop, Mo., a town she and about 450 others call home.
“Every time I get back to my home in Missouri, it’s like hitting reset,” Vincent says. “No matter where I’ve been or what I’ve been through, it’s the relaxing feel of Missouri I love most.”
Relaxing isn’t something she gets to do often, as her busy tour schedule keeps her on the road much of the year. Check her website, RhondaVincent.com for up-to-date information on her schedule and tour dates.
In an interview from the road, she chats about a variety of topics, from the bluegrass genre to barbecue to her favorite Missouri venues.
VisitMO: Let’s get the tough stuff out of the way first. Where’s the best place to eat barbecue in Missouri?
Rhonda: My favorite place to eat, period, is Lambert’s. I try never to pass that location in Ozark without stopping. The onion rings at AJ’s in Macon also are a favorite. Barbecue is something I can eat pretty much anywhere. (Editor’s note: Even queens seem hesitant to weigh in on the Missouri barbecue debate.)
VisitMO: Did you pick bluegrass as a genre or did bluegrass pick you?
Rhonda: I believe my father found it was a music style where he could take his entire family and perform, versus playing country music and performing in a night club. Though we performed regionally, the major step for our family band was when we won the band contest at what was, at the time, the biggest, most popular bluegrass festival in Missouri – held at a park in Knob Knoster. Our first time there, I remember seeing and meeting Bill Monroe, (my Dad took me backstage and he took a photo with me). There was every popular band from that era: Ralph Stanley, Jim & Jesse, and even Vince Gill performing with a group called the Bluegrass Alliance.
VisitMO: You've played venues across Missouri, from the State Fair in Sedalia to Silver Dollar City in Branson, to a variety of more intimate venues in between. What do you like about performing in your home state? Additionally, is there any one venue in Missouri that you feel really suits your style/live show?
Rhonda:I've performed at Silver Dollar City since I was a little girl. It is home to me. We perform there at least once a year for several days during the Bluegrass & BBQ Festival. It's become a homecoming, seeing friends we may only see at that festival. It's always fun coming to Missouri to perform. I think there's calmness as soon as we cross the Mississippi River and see the Arch. That same feeling you get when you walk into the house from a long trip. I love playing in my home state and seeing our many friends and family.
VisitMO: When you do get down time, what are some of your favorite Missouri destinations?
Rhonda: Silver Dollar City. It’s a family affair with something for everyone. We love attending a baseball game in St. Louis – we are big Cardinals fans. When the kids were little, their favorite place was the Magic House in St. Louis. My daughter recently recommended it to a family of the crew with Florida Georgia Line (the headliners of the 2014 Missouri State Fair). They loved it, too. I love visiting Wildwood Springs Lodge in Steelville and the Mark Twain Museum in Hannibal. And one of our favorite vacation spots is the Lake of the Ozarks. My husband loves to fish and I love to sit in the sun. It’s the perfect combination when we want to get away.
In the second part of the interview with Rhonda Vincent, she gives us insights on her friendship with Dolly Parton, other Missouri musicians she admires and the differences between country and bluegrass.
A great way to see Rhonda perform in person is to visit the 29th Annual Bluegrass Festival at Sally Mountain Park in Queen City, Mo., from July 1-5, 2015. Rhonda performs with her family, The Sally Mountain Show, and with her band, the Rage, during the five-day event.