The first time Rhonda Vincent picked up a mandolin, it was out of necessity. She was 8 years old, singing with her family's bluegrass group at a show in Marceline, Missouri.
"The guy running the show decided that whoever didn't play an instrument didn't get paid," she said. "My dad shoved a mandolin in my hands and said, 'Here's [the chords] G, C and D, and by the way, you are going to have to play it two hours a night.'"
She laughed at the memory.
Rhonda Vincent will perform at the third annual Southern Cove Bluegrass Festival.
"We all got $10, and you know, I still haven't seen that $10. I better take that up with my dad."
Years later, Vincent is now known as "the new queen of bluegrass," as crowned by the Wall Street Journal, and has played venues across the United States and around the world.
Vincent and her band, the Rage, will be one of the acts performing this Saturday and Sunday at the third annual Southern Cove Bluegrass Festival, held at the Southern Cove Power Reunion Grounds, 145 Cave Road in New Enterprise. Music begins at 11 a.m. each day.
If you go
What: Third annual Southern Cove Bluegrass Festival
When: Saturday and Sunday, beginning at 11 a.m. each day.
Where: The Southern Cove Power Reunion Grounds, 145 Cave Road, New Enterprise
Tickets: $18 advanced, $20 at the gate for Saturday; $25 advanced, $30 at the gate for Sunday; $40 advanced, $45 at the gate for both days; $10 for kids ages 5 to 12 ; kids under 5 are free. Call 766-2676 for tickets. Camping is available for $10 a night or $15 for the weekend.
For more information: Visit www.southerncovebluegrass.com.
Vincent, who has a home in Greentop, Mo., will headline Sunday's show. Other acts performing on Sunday include Little Roy and Lizzy. Bluegrass legends Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver will play on Saturday, along with Bill Emerson and Sweet Dixie, Mountain Therapy and Big Country Bluegrass. Lonesome Highway and Blue Shades will perform on both days of the festival.
Vincent grew up in a bluegrass family, and by her own admission, it was a "very intense" musical experience.
"It can be traced back five generations," she said. "When I was 5, we had a television show and a radio show. My mother always said she took us off the bottle and put us on bluegrass.
"My dad and grandpa would sing after dinner, every night at my grandparents' house. Everybody, even neighbors, would be there. It was like having a party. I always thought everybody else was doing the same thing."
Despite its constant presence in her life, bluegrass is still "exciting" to Vincent.
"My friend saw every moment, and she always thought I would grow to hate it, but I love it," she said. "It's just this way of life, and I share that passion with my band."
Throughout her career, Vincent has been nominated for five Grammys and has won myriad awards from both the International Bluegrass Music Association and the Society for Preservation of Bluegrass Music in America.
"[Winning those awards] is a confirmation," she said. "[Bluegrass] is something that we love so much, and we appreciate [the honors] very much. They like what we are doing, so let's do it some more."
One of her greatest joys in the music business is "being able to sing with your heroes," Vincent said. She has performed with many well-known singers, from Alan Jackson to George Jones to Faith Hill, but one collaborator stands out above the rest.
"In 1992, back when we had answering machines, I came home and my light was blinking," she said. "I got this message, and it says, [Vincent switches to a high-pitched Southern drawl] 'Hi, this is Dolly Parton. I'd love for you to come to Nashville.' I actually thought it was a joke at first, but I made the trip the next morning. It's a dream I thought would never come true.
"[Parton] has become a dear friend. She's an incredible singer and songwriter and business woman, but most of all, she is an incredible, caring person."
A life-threatening illness in 2005 revealed to Vincent just how caring Parton was.
"When I got out of the hospital, Dolly Parton was standing in my living room," Vincent said. "She said she just had to see I was OK for herself. That's a true testament to what a great woman she is."
Vincent's newest album, "Sunday Morning Singin'," entirely comprised of gospel music, was just released on Tuesday.
Tina Walter, the Southern Cove Bluegrass Festival's promoter, is excited that Vincent is performing this weekend.
"She's a phenomenal entertainer," Walter said. "We had her at our first festival, and the crowd just loved her. People really love her, and people really want to see her. She appeals to all age groups."
Overall, Walter anticipates a great time at this weekend's festival.
"It's clean, family entertainment," Walter said. "You don't have to fear that your kids will be corrupted. Good, clean entertainment is hard to come by anymore.
"It's a whole day of entertainment; you pay one price for the entire day, and you get to see national touring acts. It's a pretty good deal for a whole day."
Mirror staff writer Cory Dobrowolsky can be reached at 946-7428.