The reigning “Queen of Bluegrass Music,” Rhonda Vincent, is giving Augusta-area fans a unique and rare Christmas gift this year.
She has agreed to perform a Christmas-theme show when in the past Vincent has maintained an iron-clad policy of being off the road between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.
But when the scheduled Willis Clan family performing group based in Nashville, Tenn., was cancelled, Vincent stepped up to the plate and agreed to perform for the Morris Museum of Art’s Budweiser True Music Southern Soul & Song Series because of her long friendship with museum Executive Director Kevin Grogan.
Her show will be at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 16, at the Imperial Theatre. Tickets are $28, $23 and $15 and can be bought online at imperiatheatre.com, at the box office at 745 Broad St. or reserved by calling (706) 722-8341.
“She simply doesn’t take dates between Thanksgiving week and New Year’s,” Grogan said. “That’s always family time for her. But she and the band voted to take this one after I told her husband and manager, Herb Sandiker, about the Willis Clan’s cancellation.
“So this amounts to a great big favor from an old friend, and needless to say I’m deeply appreciative. So I’m thinking that the least I can do in return is to provide her with a full house.”
Vincent has been in the area many times over the past decade for the Morris’ series and the annual bluegrass festival hosted at Elijah Clark State Park near Lincolnton, Ga., by Little Roy Lewis and Lizzy Long.
This time, she returns on the heels of the recent release of her new CD, All The Rage – Volume One, which is accompanied by a DVD of a concert filmed at Bethel University in McKenzie, Tenn.
She performed at the show with her world-class band, The Rage, which includes Hunter Berry on fiddle; Brent Burke, resophonic guitar; Mickey Harris, bass; Aaron McDaris, banjo; and Josh Williams, guitar.
While they were making the Augusta stop, Vincent and The Rage also planned a Christmas show on Dec. 17 in Raleigh, N.C., and will be at Jekyll Island, Ga., on New Year’s Eve for the 41st annual New Year’s Bluegrass Festival.
“My band members and I really are excited about getting to do Christmas music in Augusta and Raleigh,” Vincent said by phone. “We are even considering revising our policy to do more Christmas shows in the future and then take off personal time in January.”
Vincent has been nominated for a Grammy Award multiple times.
Her duet God Is There, recorded with Lizzy Long for her Blueberry Pie CD, in 2015 won a Dove Award for Bluegrass Song of the Year at the 46th GMA Gospel Music Association ceremony.
Ironically, Long and Vincent never have sung the duet together publicly; not even when Vincent performed last May at Lewis and Long’s bluegrass festival.
“I keep waiting for her to ask me,” Vincent said. “I love the song (composed by Joel Lindsey and Wayne Haun).”
Her many other awards include receiving the Female Vocalist of the Year award from the International Bluegrass Music Association multiple times and winning its Entertainer of the Year award in 2001.
The month of November alone found Vincent and her band performing in Indiana, Ohio, Virginia, Tennessee, Pennsylvania and Maryland.
She has been using free time at those stops to do some Christmas shopping.
Among the many Christmas cards she loves to receive usually annually is one from British-born lyricist Bernie Taupin, known for his classic songs co-composed with Elton John. Vincent notes, “He’s a huge bluegrass music fan.”
And, she said, Christmas always brings back many memories of growing up with her family, which also includes her brother, Darrin Vincent, one-half of the bluegrass duo Dailey & Vincent.
Rhonda began playing drums with her family’s Sally Mountain Show band at the age of five. She began playing the mandolin at eight and the fiddle at 10.
Vincent was the first child born to Carolyn and Johnny Vincent.
Her growing up years were unusual in that, when she was two, her father was severely injured in a car accident that left him paralyzed from the neck down.
“He wasn’t expected to live,” Vincent said during the phone conversation, “and he lay untouched in a hospital for a week. His parents said, ‘We’re getting him out of here,’ and took him to a hospital in Columbia, Mo., where they took a bone out of his hip and put it in his neck.”
Vincent said the then-virtually unprecedented operation resulted in her father eventually regaining some mobility first with motorized scooters and then walking with a cane.
The music star said, oddly enough, her siblings (Darrin and Brian) didn’t regard their father to be handicapped.
“Dad was very independent,” Vincent recalled. “If you went over to help him, he would say, ‘Take your hands off me,’ but he would let someone hold their arm out for support.
“He picked us up at school each day, but he still kept us at arms’ length. But he always wanted to do things with us including playing music.
“He never wanted us to spend the night with somebody, because he always wanted to be with us.”
Vincent’s father, who died in 2014, in 1986 developed 63 acres near Queen City, Mo., into Sally Mountain Park with his family band for 28 years hosting an annual major bluegrass music festival.
Today, his children continue performing the music that he loved and making music history themselves.