Jamie Dailey became the latest musician to receive the Blue Blaze award for keeping the embers of bluegrass glowing for future generations.
“It means a lot to me,” Dailey said. “I was over here in Smithville every year about the time I was five or six years old. I might have been a little older, but I was over here competing. Back at the time members of Rhonda Vincent’s band now including Josh Williams [who has since left the band] and Mickey Harris were competing with Michael Cleveland and Andy Leftwich. There was a bunch of us here competing together, so to get this award takes me back to my childhood memories of being here playing until 3 or 4 in the morning under the shade tree. Although I lost more than I won, it was fun.”
Presented with the first Blue Blaze award in 2014, Darrin Vincent was celebrated by the state of Tennessee July 3 with the unveiling of his Tennessee Music Pathways marker on the public square. His musical partner, Dailey, introduced Vincent for the presentation. He told the crowd that until the two teamed up, Vincent stayed in the background as a sideman for others.
“Darrin has never been comfortable being in the spotlight,” Dailey told the audience. “He had always supported the star in front of him, but now he was front and center, singing lead, and he was helping talk during the show, and the audience was seeing something from him they had never seen before. It was a different life for him. Today, little buddy, we all stand behind you. Today is your day, and we love you.”
“Can I take this home?” Vincent joked, seeing the large marker on stage. Actually, Vincent and Dailey, who was similarly honored in his hometown of Gainesboro, TN, each received a smaller version of the marker to take home.
“I want to say thank you to the state of Tennessee for recognizing me,” Vincent said, choking up. “I don’t deserve it, and I’m so thankful to be here forever.”
Vincent, who has called Smithville his hometown the last 26 years, has taken his family to the Smithville Jamboree almost every year.
“I just enjoy being around the old time music and watching people compete,” Vincent told Bluegrass Today. He recalls several years ago when he was a member of Ricky Skaggs’ Kentucky Thunder band when he was watching part of the musical competitions on the local PBS station.
“I saw Andy Leftwich and Cody Kilby both competing for mandolin player in the mandolin competition. I actually got in touch with Andy, and not too long after that, Ricky hired him as a fiddle player for Kentucky Thunder. A year or so after that, he hired Colby Kilby for his guitar player.”
Following the awards presentation, Dailey and Vincent were joined by their former band member Jeff Parker, Terry Baucom, an original member of Doyle Lawson & Quick Silver, and Leftwich, for a mini-concert.
“It’s so weird to be back on this stage, Jamie,” Leftwich said during a break from the performance. “We’ve played all over the world, and I’m nervous as a cat. I’m shaking like a leaf.”
“It was 25 years ago today that I was here. Man, it’s so cool to be back on these grounds. The same emotions and excitement and nervousness overwhelmed me honestly. I was six years old, and I had only been playing the fiddle for 2 or 3 months, and my dad and I came out here and played two songs in the fiddle contest. All I remember is the spotlight and silhouettes of heads. I came in last place, I think,” he recalls, laughing.
The fiddle prodigy’s dad introduced him to Dick Crawford, who taught Leftwich some songs, and a few years later Leftwich won against his mentor in the Grand Champion Fiddle contest. Then, Leftwich kicked off one of the songs Crawford taught him, Cumberland Mountain Breakdown.”
While Vincent never competed in the Smithville Jamboree, he did play informally.
“A few years back James Dunn had brought his bass down there and was playing bass with some of his friends, and I actually joined in on one of the shade tree jam sessions over there,” Vincent remembers. “I played with him for a couple of songs and enjoyed being around the people. A couple of years ago Ivy [Phillips], the fiddler player who is with Pam Tillis now, I believe, and Hillary Klug that danced on the board and played fiddle. All kinds of talented people come through this. It’s refreshing to see the younger folks that’s really talented coming up behind all of us.”