Even without the sort of mainstream popularity boost provided by such films as Deliverance (1972) and Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000), bluegrass music thrives enough as a genre to provide its top stars and living legends with deserved adoration and financial stability. For an example of a modern maven with constant fan support and a sustained level of musical excellence, look no further than the Queen of Bluegrass, Rhonda Vincent.
At the young age of 57, Vincent brings over half a century of on-stage experience as a fifth-generation member of a Greentop, Missouri family band. In that span, she's become a peer and friend to Nashville stars from her childhood.
Vincent's recording opened the door for her to appear on a future Seely release.
"She invited me to sing on her project that she's recording," Vincent says. "Originally, Vince Gill was supposed to sing with her on this duet on her project, and Vince tried it and said, 'This is not going to work for me. You need to call Rhonda Vincent.' So, thanks to Vince for recommending me."
It wasn't the only recent Vincent and Parton team-up. The duo earned an International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) award nomination for its version of Elton John and Bernie Taupin's "Please" from the 2018 country covers album Restoration.
Both songs furthered an old friendship between two dreamers with rural roots, deep senses of faith and unwavering allegiances to mountain music.
Like many who've worked at length with Parton, Vincent tells a story that backs up every assumption about a giving spirit that goes beyond publicized acts of kindness.
"In 2005, I had a life-threatening illness, and I didn't even expect to even be talking to you now," Vincent says. "When I got out of the hospital, she was in my living room in Kirksville, Mo. That is beyond anything you can imagine. 'Am I dreaming? Dolly Parton is standing in my living room.' She said that she had to come and see if I was okay for herself. She could've sent a card or a phone call or whatever."
On a much lighter note, Vincent confirmed one of the quirkier additions to her Wikipedia page--She and her husband Herb really won the National Cornbread Cookoff in South Pittsburg, Tenn.'s celebrity division in past years.
"I used to be sponsored by Martha White," she says. "I was sponsored by them for 15 years, and they provided our Martha White Bluegrass Express. We'd always perform at the cornbread festival, but we're not sponsored by them anymore and we haven't been back since. I hope we get to go back some time and I can defend my title. And you know what, that's a recipe that everyone still really loves. It's Rhonda's Ragin' Cornbread. You can probably still find it if you Google that."
To hear Vincent's songs and stories and witness her sometimes overlooked skill as a master mandolin picker, keep an eye on her constantly busy touring schedule.