Rhonda Vincent told us that she's been singing Christmas songs since this summer to get ready for her latest holiday album. The longstanding "Queen of Bluegrass" brings Christmas cheer to Fort Smith at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 9 at the ArcBest Performing Arts Center.
The eight-time Grammy nominee -- who won best bluegrass album in 2017 -- called into the What's Up! podcast for a quick chat about the holidays, getting married on Christmas Eve, her plans for 2024 and her upcoming Christmas show. She also shares her latest Christmas single, "Mary, Did You Know?"
Q. Since you grew up in a family band and you're a fifth generation musician yourself, have you carried that tradition over with your family? Do any of your family members join you on stage these days?
A. My oldest daughter Sally used to travel with me, but she is making her own legacy and making history as she's the very first female lead in the United States Navy Band Country Current. She joined them, I guess, right at one year ago. And she loves it.
The tradition continues to the sixth generation now that I have two grandsons from my youngest daughter, Tencel. And Sally, who's in the Navy Band, is with child -- my first granddaughter in February. So hopefully, those grandchildren carry on the tradition of music...
Q. How do your own Christmas traditions influence your Christmas show?
A. I grew up in church -- always singing at the Christmas program. My dream was [that] I always wanted to be the angel because all of the Christmas angels got to wear the white robes and the golden halos. But my family was always there, singing the special music. I would always sing "Beautiful Star of Bethlehem." And so when I said I wanted to be an angel, they said, "Well, you can't. You have to be over here in the music section singing with your family." [laughs] So we kind of carry that tradition on.
I get to play Mary, when we do a living portrayal of the Nativity ... it's a section that we do in our Christmas show that incorporates songs and costumes and a manger with baby Jesus. I love that we get to do that ...
Q. And they still don't let you be an angel?
A. They still haven't let me be an angel! I'm still working on that! I should have worked that in. I guess maybe we should do a skit or something in the show where I get to be the Christmas angel. Maybe someday. Maybe it's not meant to be! Depends on who you talk to.
Q. I know that Santa comes in for your shows. What else happens at the show?
A. Well, we do traditional bluegrass -- Christmas songs in the style of bluegrass. It won't be just Christmas songs. I have some husbands that come along with their wives. And they're like, "Please, can we can we have something besides Christmas?" So we do some of our more popular [songs] and maybe some new -- who knows what we'll do? We'll do some straight ahead bluegrass songs.
In addition to the living Nativity, we do a "Celebrity 12 Days of Christmas" because a few years ago, I recorded one of the most expensive songs of my lifetime. When I did the 12 days of Christmas, the 12 was the Oak Ridge Boys and 11 was Willie Nelson singing "11 Pipers Piping," 10 was Charlie Daniels, 9 was Billy Anderson, 8 was Dolly Parton singing "Eight maids a milkin', and seven was Ronnie Milsap, six -- Gene Watson, four Larry Gatlin, and then Three French Hens: Jeannie Seely, Laurie Morgan, Pam Tillis, and Emi Sunshine, etc. ...
We do a a modified version, and I'll just say that some of the celebrities show up for our "12 Days of Christmas" in the show. There's something for everyone.
Q. What do you think of this new generation of musicians who are taking the sounds from this genre that you've worked so long to preserve?
A. It's always exciting to see the creativity. You have the traditional bluegrass and, to me, everybody should always learn that: Start at Bill Monroe and Flatt and Scruggs, Jimmy Martin, The Osborne Brothers -- Jim and Jesse; Dr. Ralph Stanley. Start there and learn the basics, kind of like playing basketball -- learn to dribble first. It's exciting that you see what new things that they can come up with. It's really amazing even now, years later, they're still coming up with new songs and new approaches. I think there's room for everyone.
WHEN -- 7:30 p.m. Dec. 9
WHERE -- ArcBest Performing Arts Center in Fort Smith
COST -- $29 & up
INFO -- fortsmithconventioncenter.org/events
Listen to Rhonda Vincent's Christmas single, "Mary, Did You Know?" and the full podcast at nwaonline.com/1203vincent/.