Happy Birthday Rhonda – and a special gift from The Rage!

Today is the birthday off the Queen of Bluegrass, the one and only Rhonda Vincent. Please join us in wishing her a happy one!

Over the course of this past weekend, her touring band, The Rage, presented her with a very special gift which fulfilled a wish of many years, since she was a girl in fact.

But since he was the brains behind this operation, let’s have Mickey Harris, long-time bass player with The Rage, relate the story.

What do you give the Queen of Bluegrass that she doesn’t already have? She has been blessed with a music career that has lasted many decades. Starting out with her family, The Sally Mountain Show, leading up to her own group, Rhonda Vincent and the Rage, she has gained countless fans and made many friends in bluegrass and country music all along the way. Rhonda has been blessed with many awards in bluegrass music from SPBGMA and IBMA, and this year she was honored by being asked to become the next Grand Ole Opry member. That will be hard to top!

I have been working with Rhonda since 2000 and full time since 2002. We have had lots of conversations about many things over the years, especially instruments. The one thing I always knew she would like to have, but had always eluded her, was a mandolin like the first one she ever had as a little girl. It was a Gibson A2 Florentine (better known as the Jethro Burns model). She has shown us pictures of it throughout the years. Hers was a cherry burst finish, which is hard to find, so I made it my mission to find one. I talked to the band and other team members about going in together, and we all agreed it would be a great gift to honor her and commemorate her induction into the Grand Ole Opry.

I started searching for one via the internet, but all of the A2 cherry burst ones that I found had been sold. I came across a dark tobacco finish model in Stockton, MO, at Village Music, that fellow musician, Larry Smith, runs. I had an idea of buying the instrument and changing the color of the top to match Rhonda’s original mandolin since the back of it was already done in the correct finish. I contacted Dave Harvey at Gibson and asked if could he do it and explained why. We both were apprehensive about changing the color because we love vintage instruments, and luckily we came up with another solution.

Dave just so happened to have the exact mandolin I was looking for. He had owned this mandolin for a while and was willing to trade. He told me that he wouldn’t do this for anyone else but Rhonda. He was happy that it would go to her, and would mean so much. I checked with Larry, whom I bought it from, about the trade, and he said it was fine with him and to do whatever would make Rhonda happy. With Larry’s blessing, we made the trade. By the way, this instrument Dave had once belonged to jazz mandolinist, Don Stiernberg. Many fans will remember him. He actually played onstage alongside Jethro Burns through the years.

David set the mandolin up, and it plays and sounds great. It’s ready for many more years of playing!

This endeavor wouldn’t have been possible without the help of Larry Smith at Village Music in Stockton, MO, and Dave Harvey at Gibson. We greatly appreciate their help!

We, The Rage, and our teammates have been blessed to have a great boss lady for many years. She gives so much to us, and to her fans! Presenting her this mandolin is just a token of our appreciation to her, and to honor her Grand Ole Opry membership. 

On a side note, we decided to give the mandolin to her at her birthday celebration in Eldon, MO, at a recent show. We weren’t sure when we would get back to the Opry stage, but we have faith that it won’t be too long.

Here’s a video of the presentation taken by Lori King.

Needless to say, Rhonda was completely surprised, and shared a bit about how much she loved her first instrument.

“I recently found a photo of my first mandolin. A cherry red starburst Gibson Florentine. I started playing at 8 years old, recorded my first solo recording at 9 years old, and played mandolin. I don’t know if it was the color, the circle in the middle, or the fact that we had seen a photo of Bobby Osborne playing a mandolin of this style — but that mandolin was special to me. My Dad sold it, or traded it for an F-style once I progressed in my playing. He always found a way to spark our interest or keep us inspired, either by trading an instrument, taking us to a show, or a new album.

I started on a search for find a Gibson Florentine like mine, but didn’t find any for sale. What a wonderful birthday surprise when they presented me with what looks like the very mandolin I used to play. Even the weather crackle on the finish looks the same. I later heard about the adventure that made it possible. Thank you to everyone in making this a very special birthday. I love you and appreciate you all!!”

Nice job Mickey, et al, and a very Happy Birthday to the Queen!

Special thanks to Kenzie Leigh Photography for the wonderful images.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.