Fans, Friends And Bluegrass

Fans, Friends And Bluegrass

Rhonda Vincent comes ‘home’ to Silver Dollar City


Coming back to Silver Dollar City is like coming home for bluegrass star Rhonda Vincent — and she means that more literally than most musicians might. Back when she was in her mid-teens, she was performing with her family at the Branson, Mo., theme park, “punching a time clock,” she says, and wearing the 1890s-style dresses seen on so many employees.

“I’m just excited walking in,” she says of being back for the Bluegrass & BBQ Festival in May. “Walking down the hill by the candy store and smelling the candy — and stopping in for a sample. Riding on the train. My daughters grew up at Silver Dollar City, too, so it’s something that spans generations of my family.”

Vincent was raised across the state from Branson in Greentop, Mo., not far from Kirksville. She is the oldest of three children and the only girl, which only made her more determined to do what the boys did — and what the boys did was play music. She was singing gospel with her family by the age of 5, started playing mandolin at 8 and guitar at 10.

“Dad used to pick me up after school, and Grandpa would come over, and we played until after dinner almost every night,” she said in an interview with Ingrams magazine. “There wasn’t a lot going on in Greentop, but it was always hopping at the Vincent house.”

Vincent says she knows other women were challenged by the predominance of men in bluegrass music, but “it wasn’t something I experienced much. I was sheltered by playing with my family into my 30s. My father always taught us, ‘Don’t let anybody say you can’t do something. If you’re good enough to do this job, you will get the opportunity.’

“People do say I’ve broken a lot of barriers for women, and inspired women to play mandolin because I do. But I would always encourage women to do whatever it takes to find a way — even if you have to say, ‘Hey, I’ll play for free for a couple of weeks, and you tell me if I’m good enough.’ Because then they don’t have an excuse.”

Daughters Sally and Tensel grew up with Vincent’s talent and played music together in college, but Sally didn’t like to travel, her mom remembers — until she went with the band on tour as an adult and said they’d never get rid of her after that. Both women married musicians, and they have played at Silver Dollar City, too, as Next Best Thing.

Vincent says she’s still on the road probably 250 days a year, and it’s exactly where she wants to be.

“No matter what level I’m at or where I am, whether it’s playing at the nursing home or Silver Dollar City or the Grand Ole Opry, I just love it so much,” she says with her trademark enthusiasm. “When you come to our show, you’re not just coming to a concert. We sign [autographs] after every show, and we see our fans week after week. And now with Facebook and the internet, we can really stay in touch.”

On this particular Friday, Vincent is waiting for soundcheck somewhere in Ohio and wondering if a particular couple from Iowa would be at the show.

“They’ve been to 200 or more shows — even in Europe,” she marvels. “It’s a great support team. Who doesn’t love friends who are just always there to support you?”

Now in its 14th year, Bluegrass & BBQ will showcase 70 acts over 24 days, from award-winning favorites like Vincent to rising stars, says Silver Dollar City spokesman Dalton Fischer.

“Rhonda performs May 10-12 during the festival’s all-new element, Bluegrass Nights, where the best names in bluegrass will perform in the 4,000-seat Echo Hollow Amphitheatre,” he adds. Plus there will be, “tons of freshly smoked-in-house barbecue at The House of BBQ,” he adds, “located in the park’s largest presentation hall where guests can enjoy bands performing on stage while chowing down on barbecue direct from large outdoor charcoal grills and the park’s custom-made 20-foot smoker.”



Bluegrass & BBQ

WHEN — Through May 27 (closed May 13)

WHERE — Silver Dollar City in Branson, Mo.

COST — $58-$68


Categories: 'Tis the Season