When Rhonda Vincent was inducted as an official member of the Grand Ole Opry last Saturday (Feb. 6) she made Grand Ole Opry history – she had the longest time between her invitation in February 2020 and her actual induction.
Jeannie Seely offered the invitation to Vincent and an induction ceremony was planned for March 24, 2020. COVID-19 hit the U.S. and the pandemic spread around the world. The Grand Ole Opry didn’t miss a performance, but artists performed without an audience, and all agreed it just wouldn’t be right to induct the multi-award-winning bluegrass vocalist without an audience.
“The Opry told me it’s never happened before, that long of a span between invite and induction,” Vincent said.
Dierks Bentley officially welcomed Vincent to the Opry family. “I’ll never forget the night that our mutual friend Marty Stuart made me an official member of the Opry and I’m so pleased to get to do the same for you tonight. Rhonda, you are now an official member of the Grand Ole Opry! I know you will carry the Opry banner proudly wherever you go.”
Rhonda responded, “It’s been 343 days, seven hours, three minutes and five seconds,” as she shared how many days it had been since the Opry invitation came last year. “This is a night I will never forget and will cherish the rest of my life. I am proof that dreams really do come true.”
When asked what it was like to be the newest Opry member, Vincent admitted that it has not really become reality for her. She did say she received advice from different artists who had stood before her on the stage, accepting their membership into the Opry.
“Most people said be sure and breath and take a deep breath and soak in every moment and every second of the evening, which I did,” Vincent said. “I think I was most nervous that I would get so emotional about the induction and I knew I had to sing after it happened. I kept thinking, ‘Oh man, what if I can’t sing.’ After your induction you want your performance to be great.”
Vincent did say that Bentley helped a lot in keeping her calm. “Dierks was so calming and he put a calming spirit over the ceremony and the evening,” she said. “I had a calmness that came over me. We had people come from everywhere who were as excited, even more than me, because we waited so long for this. You get a great feeling when you are surrounded by people who are excited for you.”
Vincent explained that the Opry makes the decision about who will invite you and who will induct you as a member of the Opry. Because it is such a great occasion anytime someone is invited or inducted, the Opry chooses not to have the same person do both. “It was a total surprise to have Dierks be the one who was inducting me,” Vincent said. As for their duet on the Merle Haggard epic hit “Mama Tried,” the newly inducted Opry member says Bentley texted her that they should do a song together and suggested that one. “We had never sang together, so I thought he was going to sing it and I would do harmony, but he said, ‘No, you sing it’.”
Vincent took the first verse and Bentley moved up to sing the second one. “I was really surprised how it turned out because when you’ve never sung with someone before, you never know how it’s going to go.” Vincent also sang “When The Grass Grows Over Me” and “Kentucky Borderline” after her induction.
Incoming Opry members get to choose their special cake for the after party, and Vincent chose a gluten free vanilla cake. “It was really neat because they made cupcakes that were individually wrapped to be within COVID guidelines,” Vincent said. “They have already called me to see when I can be on the Opry again, so I sent them the dates that I am available. Hopefully, I’ll get to be on more now that I’m a member. They don’t have to worry, I’ll perform any time they will have me.”
“It’s great to have the supremely talented and very patient Rhonda Vincent as an official Opry member,” said Dan Rogers, Vice President and Executive Producer, Grand Ole Opry. “She brings with her countless fans, industry respect, and heartfelt passion for keeping the Opry vibrant and entertaining for generations to come. We look forward to Rhonda spending the rest of her career with us as part of the Opry family.”
The songstress is the second person to become a member of the Grand Ole Opry this year. Lady A was invited by Darius Rucker on January 21 during the filming of the NBC special, Grand Ole Opry: 95 Years of Country Music. Hillary Scott, Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood were inducted that same night, making them have perhaps the shortest period of time between invitation and induction into the Opry family. The NBC special will air February 14.
While Vincent was waiting to become an official member of the Opry, she has been working on a new album, as yet untitled, that she is very excited about. Like her Opry induction, this project has taken a long time to come to fruition.
“The project was supposed to be released March 24 a year ago,” Vincent explained. “I don’t think I’ve ever worked on an album so extensively as this one. I have been able to perfect it, make tiny changes, just really work on the project to get it exactly what I want it to be. I feel like it will be a career album for me. I love the songs and I had my band play on it.”
Vincent said that for the most part the album will have brand new songs that have never been recorded before. She said Mike Dekle wrote a song titled “Music Is What I See,” which may be the title of the album. It is about a blind man who takes the listener visually through all these things – there are titles of songs you have hard before, all different kinds of lyrics from other songs — but in the end “Music is what I see.” She adds, “There is a line in it, ‘God is great and God is good to me,’ that is favorite line and is me right now.
She also did “Unchained Melody” bluegrass style and believes this may be the first time that song has ever been sang that way. Other songs on the project were written by Jeannie Seely, Porter Wagoner and Webb Pierce. She also has a gospel song, “The Record Book,” with guest artists The Isaacs. The album should be released soon, perhaps in a few weeks.