Bluegrass queen Rhonda Vincent has something very important to do before performing Friday, May 3, at the Little Roy & Lizzy Music Festival at Elijah Clark State Park outside Lincolnton, Ga.
She is determined to retain her crown on April 28 as the celebrity cornbread-cooking champion at the 17th annual National Cornbread Festival in South Pittsburg, Tenn. And she has a lot to defend since Martha White Flour is a major tour sponsor of Vincent and her band, The Rage.
Her award-winning recipe for Rhonda’s Raging Cornbread can be found at marthawhite.com.
“It’s one of the widest-attended events with 100,000 people going there,” Vincent said in a phone call last week. “They’re gunning for me this year,” she added. “Some people even got up a Facebook campaign to beat me this year. I did get beaten one year but regained my title.”
She speaks of the competition in friendly tones since proceeds benefit the Marion County Children’s Fund, a nonprofit organization that assists children who are needy or in foster care.
Vincent has been cooking with Martha White Flour since she was a child growing up in Missouri. She and her husband of 30 years come Christmas Eve, Herb Sandker, even formerly owned and operated a popular restaurant in Kirksville, Mo., near where they live.
Instead of Vincent’s cooking, however, it’s her great music that her fans are expecting when she and her band take the stage at 3:45 and 9:15 p.m. May 3, at the Little Roy & Lizzy Music Festival.
Elijah Clark State Park, the festival site, is on the Savannah River, 10 miles east of Lincolnton, Ga., off the Lincolnton-McCormick highway.
Admission on May 3 will be $35 at gate for adults ($30 advance), $15 for children 6 through 13 or free 6 and younger with adult admission. Three-day festival passes also are available.
andandersonbluegrass.com/Little-Roy---Lizzy-Music-Festival.html for festival details.
Besides Vincent, performers this year include:
• Thursday, May 2: Marty Raybon (former lead vocalist of the country star band Shenandoah) & Full Circle; Jeff & Sheri Easter, The Crowe Brothers and The Marksmen.
• Friday, May 3: Darin & Brooke Aldridge, Curtis Blackwell & The Dixie Bluegrass Boys with special guest Oliver Rice; Lonesome Will Mullins & The Virginia Playboys and also the Golden Valley Crusaders.
• Saturday, May 4: Grand Ole Opry star Jimmy C. Newman & Cajun Country; The Hoyles (Reunion Show) and the Tennessee Mafia Jug Band.
The Little Roy (Lewis) & Lizzy (Long) Show will perform all three days.
Vincent is one of the best known performers in bluegrass music today, having won the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year title in 2001 and the Female Vocalist of the Year numerous times.
Her current offering is her first all-gospel CD Sunday Mornin’ Singin’ LIVE!, which she recorded as a combination CD/DVD at a century-old church in Greentop, Mo. The 16-songs CD is out, and the DVD is still in production.
Vincent released it on her new Ingrooves label after parting with Rounder Records.
“The reception to the CD has been wonderful,” Vincent said in her call. “It became a No. 1 album on the Billboard bluegrass music chart. This was a personal project for me. I didn’t dream it ever would be released commercially since Rounder didn’t want me to do an all-gospel record.”
Besides Vincent, band members playing on the CD are Aaron McDaris on acoustic guitar and banjo; Ben Helson on acoustic guitar; Mickey Harris on upright bass fiddle; Brent Burke on resophonic guitar and her son-in-law and CD co-producer Hunter Berry on mandolin and fiddle.
Gospel music legend Bill Gaither wrote the booklet notes.
Music always was a part of Vincent’s life growing up in Missouri. She saw as many star entertainers growing up as she could, including the Augusta-area’s own Terri Gibbs, the first artist to win the Country Music Association’s Horizon Award.
“I went to see her in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, and got her autograph on an album,” Vincent said. “And, oh yes, I still have that album. I’m a big fan of hers.”
As part of her own attempts at musical success, Vincent competed in 1985 on The Nashville Network cable TV series You Can Be A Star, which was sort of an early country version of American Idol.
Winning that competition singing Good Morning Country Rain led her to performing regularly with the show’s host, Grand Ole Opry star Jim Ed Brown.
“I went to work for Jim Ed Brown two weeks after winning the show as part of The Jims, his two-girl backup singers,” Vincent said. “I was with him from April to October in 1985 and then decided to go back to Missouri.”
She tried recording straight country music for a while but in 2000 returned to her bluegrass roots with her album Back Home Again.
Vincent’s extended musical family includes her brother, Darrin, who performs in the popular duo Dailey & Vincent, and her daughters, Sally and Tensel, who have formed their own group Next Best Thing.
The family comes together each July for the Sally Mountain Bluegrass Festival hosted by Rhonda and Darrin Vincent’s parents, Johnny and Carolyn Vincent, since 1986 on 63 acres near Queen City, Mo.
Vincent will tell you that music not only has gotten her through the good times but the bad times as well; especially in 1990 after her infant daughter, Brooke Lea, died when she was only three days old.
The baby, who was born on the unusual date 7/8/90, died in her mother’s arms at their home in Kirksville.
“My husband is the one who really brought me through it,” Vincent said in her call. “My daughters, then 2 and 4, would come up to me and say, ‘Mommy, why are you crying?’
“You just want to roll up in a corner in a ball,” she added. “The next day after the funeral, my husband took all the family out fishing. He said, ‘You’re not going to stop. You’re going to continue to live.’
“He kept pushing me, and we played at our family’s annual Sally Mountain Music Festival the very next weekend.”