Thursday, September 3, 2009

"An Intimate Evening" . . .with Rhonda

No, dear reader, get your mind outta the gutter. I wasn't having a torrid affair last evening! No, indeed, the specific Rhonda and I were in a crowded theater, well lit. And anyway, the intimacy wasn't between the two of us. . . .

Confused? Want to know more? Here it is:

I attended the live broadcast of a show on WSM-AM 650, called "An Intimate Evening with Eddie Stubbs" His guest this time for the monthly show was bluegrass singer and instrumentalist Rhonda Vincent. I first heard of Rhonda about twelve years ago, on "Front Porch Fellowship", a show presenting bluegrass gospel recordings on Solid Gospel 105. At once I considered that "that lady can SING!" After a few years I heard her singing a general bluegrass song on "The Air Castle of the South". I was a tad bit disappointed, since up to that moment I'd considered that Rhonda sang only bluegrass gospel songs. However, since then I've learned that most bluegrass artists and bands -- from "the Father" Bill Monroe onward -- sing a mix of gospel and so-called secular. Also, I heard Rhonda several times guesting on the Grand Ole Opry show -- singing general bluegrass or gospel.

Then I moved to San Antonio for six and a half years. Just in the going there I feared I was leaving all bluegrass behind. Not true! There IS bluegrass to be had in the Lone Star State. But the genre is not as common as here in the Mid-South. And as I wrote to the host of "Front Porch Fellowship" upon my return a year ago, there wasn't much "Rhonda Vincent for the listening pleasure!"

Thus, upon my move here last year it was great pleasure to again hear her guesting on the Opry, frequently! Then twice earlier this summer I missed opportunities to experience live in person this woman whose talents I so admired over the airwaves. So when I was given free admission to the 2 September edition of "An Intimate Evening with Eddie Stubbs" I was almost beside myself with excitement! Once I clocked out from work at mid-day yesterday my focus was on the Ford Theater of the Country Music Hall of Fame and getting myself ready to be there. Yes, that means I donned a suit and tie, not for a date with Rhonda but rather to show my esteem for her talent.

But hold on a minute! The MTA bus that should have picked me up on Murfreesboro Road and then dropped me off at the corner of Fifth Ave. and Demonbreun outside the Hall of Fame just before seven (showtime) never came by. I wasn't about to wait an hour for the next bus, so I started hoofing it. Fortunately, after over a mile of walking along Murfreesboro I caught an unexpected in-bound bus of another route at a cross street. So I only missed about the first half hour of the two hours of "An Intimate Evening".

Now, if there was any other "downer" to this dream coming true it was that Rhonda didn't perform live for us. Most of the show is simply Eddie interviewing his Guest. At occasional commercial and news breaks the Guest will sign autographs and pose for photos, and the return to on-air will feature one of the Guest's recorded songs. But no live singing or picking.

However, the extended dialog is absolutely delightful. Eddie seems to know how to bring out the personal -- yes, intimate -- from the artist without nosy probing or stepping out of line. You come away from the show, whether there in the studio or listening on the airwaves at home, with a strong feeling that you know the Guest as a down-home person, like your next-door neighbor.

And Rhonda? She shared with us much about her background of being born in a musical family that would tour and perform widely from their home in Missouri. Indeed, brother Darrin is now the second half of the name Dailey & Vincent. Plus she spoke some about life on the road, and incidents in the tour bus. But what caught my attention the most were her frequent expressions of gratitude to her fans and her delight in mingling with us at outdoor festivals and other concerts.

After the show ended I went down to the floor or stage, to get my picture taken with both Rhonda and Eddie. This was another reason I dressed up; Eddie always wears a suit and tie, and Rhonda was fetching in fancy white pants and a maroon-ish blouse with huge pleated cuffs that flared out from her lower arms. I managed to let her know that this "Intimate Evening" was a dream come true for yours truly -- real after some 12 years! I also wished her the best on recording an upcoming all-gospel album which had been mentioned during the interview.

After all, my first experience of Rhonda Vincent was a couple of years of hearing her bluegrass gospel recordings on "Front Porch Fellowship". So, Rhonda, take that Good News and sing it to the world!

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