Rhonda Vincent and The Rage heading to Wittenberg

Band expected to bring bluegrass energy
By: 

Peter Lindblad Special to the Leader


CONTRIBUTED PHOTO Rhonda Vincent and The Rage will perform at 4 p.m. Sunday at Wittenberg-Birnamwood High School.

Editor’s Note: This story appears in the April issue of Out & About in Wisconsin. Excerpts are reprinted with permission. The band’s concert is the last of a series of shows this year by Rob Wyman of Rubber Sole Productions.

There would be no rain delay for The Sally Mountain Show, not with Rhonda Vincent’s dad, Johnny Vincent, in charge.

Years ago, the family band was employed to perform their entertaining brand of bluegrass by Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri. One particular day Rhonda Vincent remembers, the weather outside was awful.

“We played there five days a week, Monday through Friday – five-hour shows a day,” said Rhonda, considered by many to be the “Queen of Bluegrass.” “We punched a time clock at 8 a.m. and punched out at 6.”

She and her brother, Darren, now a member of the Grammy-winning bluegrass duo Dailey & Vincent, thought they’d wait it out until the downpour subsided.

“There’s no one out there,” she said. “There are just empty chairs. My brother Darren and I are like, ‘OK, why don’t we just sit here and wait for the rain to go away?’ And my dad said, ‘No, they are paying us to play. We’re going to play.’”

And so, they did, according to Vincent, even though she believed nobody was paying them any attention.

“The next week, my dad gets a call and it’s from Hal Durham, and he was the general manager of the Grand Ole Opry,” Vincent recounted. “He said, ‘Mr. Vincent, I’d like to invite your family to come perform on the Opry. And he’s like, ‘Wow, this is really exciting.’”

Johnny Vincent figured it was another country-music luminary who’d recommended them to Durham, but it wasn’t.

“And my dad said, ‘Well, how did you know about my family?’” she said. “[Durham] said, ‘Well, last week, while your family was playing in the rain,’ he said, ‘my family was around the corner listening.’ And I learned you always do your best no matter what, because you don’t know who’s listening. You never know who’s listening.”

That life lesson has stuck with Vincent through the bad times and the good. Rhonda Vincent and her band, The Rage, will bring their fiery, high-octane bluegrass energy to Wisconsin on Sunday at Wittenberg-Birnamwood High School.

The band, featuring top-notch fiddle player Hunter Berry, dobro specialist Brent Burke, multi-instrumentalists Mickey Harris and Josh Williams and banjo expert Aaron McDaris, is firing on all cylinders these days. In 2018, they won their first Grammy Award, as their release “All the Rage: In Concert Volume One”took home Best Bluegrass Album.

A virtuoso herself, Vincent plays multiple instruments and sings. She took up the mandolin at age 8, began guitar lessons at 10 and eventually added fiddle to her arsenal. Every night was show time in the Vincent household, a musical family stretching back many generations.

“I thought everybody was at their house doing the same thing,” said Vincent. “We’d go to school each day. We’d sing until dinner. After dinner, friends came over, and we’d play until bed time. And this is every day … plus, when I was 5, [we had] a radio show. We made our first recording and a television show. So, this is just … it’s a lifestyle. It’s something that I love so very much, and I feel blessed that I get to do something that I love.”

The turn of the century brought a triumphant return to bluegrass, as Vincent released the LP “Back Home Again.” She’s garnered a boatload of International Bluegrass Music Association awards since then.

For Vincent, going back to bluegrass was like putting on a comfortable old pair of jeans. And, it seems as if the genre is undergoing a revival.

One particular project came as a total surprise, as she appeared on a tribute to Elton John and Bernie Taupin with Dolly Parton singing the song “Please.”

“I would have never thought I would be on an Elton John tribute, or singing an Elton John song and they allowed us to take that song and make it exactly what … bluegrass,” said Vincent. “I thought they would take me in the studio, they would do their own musical arrangement and then just have me sing. But no, they said, ‘You make it your own. Make it into a bluegrass song, just as you guys would perform.’ And it became a No. 1 song for us, and I got to meet Elton on his farewell tour last October. And he ran over to me, wrapped his arms around and just squeezed me and just held me and he goes, ‘I’ve never had a No. 1 bluegrass song before. This is so cool.’ I mean, this guy has done everything you can imagine in his musical career, and he’s thrilled about having a No. 1 bluegrass song.”

Vincent also sang with Parton on the soundtrack for “Dumplin’” – a feel-good movie from 2018.

“We never know what’s before us,” Vincent said. “I didn’t anticipate last year, and we’re always open to new opportunities, and like I say, it’s going to be a record year for us touring and performing. I’m actually trying to write songs and get ready for our next studio project, so that’s very exciting, looking at what I think is going to be a hard-driving, straight-ahead bluegrass album, which I haven’t done a studio [album in a while]. … So, I’m really looking forward to getting back in the studio and really doing a concentrated effort in writing the songs and going in with the band.”

AT A GLANCE

WHAT: Rhonda Vincent and The Rage concert

WHEN: 4 p.m. Sunday

WHERE: Auditorium, Wittenberg-Birnamwood High School, 400 W. Grand Ave., Wittenberg

FYI: Tickets are $35-$45 and available at rubbersoulproductions.com.