Rhonda Vincent was expecting to celebrate one of the biggest milestones of her life Tuesday night (March 24). The 8-time IBMA Female Vocalist of the Year had planned to walk out on the stage at the WSM Grand Ole Opry to be officially inducted as its newest member, but then the Covid-19 pandemic struck. The long-running radio show continues to air, but safety concerns prompted managers to temporarily stop crowds from attending. Vincent’s big night is on hold, but still, she will soon be a card-carrying Opry member.
“People think that since the Opry induction date was cancelled that I don’t get to be a member,” Vincent told Bluegrass Today. “That’s not the case. [Grand Ole Opry Vice President/Executive Producer] Dan Rogers sent me the nicest letter and said do not worry; when we get back up and running, we’re going to do a big blow out. It’s going to be an incredible ceremony. He said we need your address because we’re going to send you your Grand Ole Opry membership card,” adds Vincent, gasping. “When I get that, I’ll officially be … an Opry member!”
Grand Ole Opry member Jeannie Seely surprised Vincent with an invite to join country music’s prestigious club on February 28. On her Facebook page, you can see a picture of Vincent’s stunned response, leaning back with arms stretched wide and looking heavenward.
“It is still hard for me to believe because I was so shocked,” says Vincent. “I had come to peace that I probably would never be an Opry member. I was just thrilled that we got to play the Opry as often as we could.”
“I now get to call them my Opry family, and they are friends. It still amazes me to get an email from Bobby Osborne, and he says, ‘How’s my little All-American Bluegrass Girl? That melts my heart.”
Vincent first performed on the Opry stage with her family’s band, The Sally Mountain Show, on the same night a promising country entertainer was making his debut.
“I was wondering, ‘Why are these girls screaming over this guy’? I remember thinking they would have had to set this up. We’ve never heard of this guy. And it was Garth Brooks!” she remembers, laughing.
Then, in April of 1985, Vincent made her first appearance on the Opry without her family. She had been hired to work for Opry legend Jim Ed Brown, the host of The Nashville Network’s television show, You Can Be a Star, where Vincent had performed and won the competition.
“Our first night is on the Opry. He’s the host of the show. We do the first song. We’re standing there waiting, and he turns to me and he said, ‘You’re going to do the next song. What are you going to do? I remember my knees were just knocking just like you see the rubber knees on TV cartoons.”
“I was so elated my first time in Nashville [by myself] pretty much. I had been in the shelter of my family all of my life, performing with them as a family unit, not going out and seeing the world and performing with other people.”
While her Opry induction has been postponed, Vincent is on hiatus at her Missouri home taking a safety break from performing during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We’re [The Rage band members] encouraging each other. We’re like a second family to each other. It would not benefit us, I think, to be frenetic or stressing. God says don’t worry about anything even though that’s hard to do sometimes. We’re just remaining faithful.”
“It’s really been a peaceful and a calm time. I’ve been sleeping in and catching up on rest. I have a large project that I wasn’t really going to have time to work on, so we’re making the most of it.”
In the interim Vincent is putting part of her creative energy into online media. On Sunday (March 22), she conducted a Sunday Morning Sing Along on Facebook for folks who are encouraged to stay home from church. The previous Sunday she performed a Facebook Live “car song” that reached record setting numbers for her with 987,248 reaches, and 581,000 views. Her page reach for the week was 1.5 million.
“It is wonderful to know that such a crisis can bring so many together.”
During this down time, Vincent has chosen to remain optimistic.
“Right now I’m looking over the water. I’ve got a lot of things I need to do. When our touring does start back I’m probably going to be gone. I told the guys. Get ready because everything is moving back til the end of the year. We might even do a Christmas tour.”
“We just know that God always provides. We live at the lake now. My husband said, ‘Listen, we’re never going to go without food. We’ll just go catch a fish’.”