This bluegrass story of coincidence and kismet comes from the Queen of Bluegrass herself, Rhonda Vincent, about how she came to finally meet one of her idols, the great Merle Haggard.
On Tuesday, January 27, 2015, Rhonda Vincent & The Rage performed two sold out shows in Naples, Florida. We were expecting to travel after the show to Key West, Florida and record in Jimmy Buffett’s Recording Studio. After the show, we discovered it is illegal to park a bus of any kind in Key West, Florida. I called the campgrounds, and they were sold out of spaces till March, so our trip was cancelled. I began browsing Facebook, as I do each night before going to sleep. I noticed a friend had checked-in to see Merle Haggard, so I quickly looked up Merle’s schedule, and found he was performing on Wednesday in The Villages, Florida.
I found the web site to buy tickets at The Savannah Center, and saw it was sold out. I turned out the lights and laid down to go to sleep, then sat back up, remembering that Merle’s driver Ray came to a show in Bakersfield, California. I quickly sent a text to Ray, and told him we were in Florida, Merle’s show was sold out, we couldn’t get tickets, and that we would give anything to open a show for Merle Haggard. He quickly texted back and simply said, “I will ask.”
The next morning I woke up to a phone call that said they would love to have us open the show for Merle. I couldn’t believe my ears. I had sang on five songs with Merle Haggard and George Jones on their duet album Kickin’ Out The Footlights Again, but somehow my path had never crossed the Mighty Merle.
At 7:30 p.m. on January 28, 2015, on our free day, we ended up with the experience of a lifetime, and opened the show for Merle Haggard. We played two songs from our Grammy Nominated project, Only Me, then sang our acapella gospel song, His Promised Land, and ended with a medley instrumental featuring the entire band. Merle and his entire entourage and crew showed us an incredible hospitality that is unmatched. Merle watched our sound check, and the entire band watched our performance. It was a dream come true that we will never forget.
I was thrilled to have a chance to visit with he and his wife aboard their tour bus, then later he posed for photos with the band and I. We told him about Hunter’s wedding present to his wife, being a pot-bellied pig, and how she had named it Merle Hoggard. The Hag even signed a photo of the piggy that will be framed.
Merle writes songs every day, and my new dream is to record a song with him; and hopefully one he’s recently written.
Our journey now takes us to Miami, FL where we will sail aboard the Country’s Family Reunion / Larry’s Country Diner Cruise. We will return to Nashville on Sunday 2/8/15 to view The Grammy’s from The Listening Room and also perform Sunday night at the National SPBGMA Awards.
The fun continues!!