Rhonda Vincent Wins Four SPBGMA Awards

Rhonda Vincent swept the 28th annual Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America awards, scooping up trophies for entertainer, album (The Storm Still Rages), contemporary female vocalist and overall bluegrass band of the year. The presentations were made Sunday (Feb. 3) at the Sheraton Music City Hotel in Nashville.

Performing during the four-hour program were Rock County, the James King Band, IIIrd Tyme Out , Rarely Heard, Mountain Heart , the Lewis Family and Vincent, who, with her band, The Rage, closed the show.

Ronnie Reno, son of bluegrass great Don Reno and leader of the new band, The Reno Tradition, hosted the ceremonies. He told the crowd that concert promoters meeting at the SPBGMA convention, which started Thursday (Jan. 31), had settled on a slogan they hope will be used widely to promote bluegrass. It is “Bluegrass Music: America’s Homecoming.”

Prior to the regular awards presentations, SPBGMA inducted Bill Yates into its Preservation Hall of Greats. The Virginia native played in some of the most influential bands in bluegrass history, including Jimmy Martin ’s Sunny Mountain Boys, Bill Monroe ’s Blue Grass Boys and, for 20 years, the Country Gentlemen .

Yates thanked “all my wives” and Country Gentlemen founder Charlie Waller. He also had some kind words for the notoriously temperamental Martin. He said that when he was recovering from a recent painful operation and “pressing the button for more morphine,” Martin called him and sang “Shake Hands With Mother Again.” On two later occasions, Martin sent his ailing former sideman roses.

Having won the SPBGMA’s bluegrass radio station of the year honor the allowable maximum of five times and no longer eligible to compete in that category, Nashville’s WSM-AM (650), the home of the Grand Ole Opry, was given the special Masters Gold award.

Accepting the trophy, WSM DJ Eddie Stubbs said, “We like to think we’re the station where bluegrass music was born.” Later, after winning the top bluegrass DJ award for the third time, Stubbs remarked, “I love bluegrass music with all my heart. I spent 18 years on the road playing it.” He is a former member of the Johnson Mountain Boys.

Here is the complete list of winners:
Entertainer of the year — Rhonda Vincent
Entertaining group — Rarely Herd
Bluegrass band (overall) — Rhonda Vincent & The Rage
Instrumental group — Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder
Vocal group — IIIrd Tyme Out
Album — The Storm Still Rages, Rhonda Vincent & The Rage (Rounder Records)
Song — “Empty Old Mailbox” (recorded by Don Rigsby)
Songwriter — Tom T. Hall and Dixie Hall
Gospel group (overall) — Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver
Gospel group (traditional) — Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver
Gospel group (contemporary) — Mountain Heart
Male vocalist (traditional) — Dan Tyminski
Male vocalist (contemporary) — Charlie Waller
Female vocalist (traditional) — Lynn Morris
Female vocalist (contemporary) — Rhonda Vincent
Banjo performer — Sammy Shelor
Mandolin performer — Wayne Benson
Fiddle performer — Jason Carter
Guitar performer — John Chapman
Dobro performer — Gene Wooten (awarded posthumously)
Bass fiddle performer — Mike Bub
DJ — Eddie Stubbs, WSM-AM, Nashville
Radio station — WVCP-FM (88.5) (Gallatin, Tenn.)
Club newsletter — Pow’r Pickin’, the Colorado Bluegrass Music Society

Playing to a crowd that knew their music, all the acts turned in smooth-to-stunning performances. Vincent, Mountain Heart and the Lewis Family sparked noticeably strong applause. Little Roy Lewis was a comic dervish, spinning from banjo to guitar, mandolin, autoharp and standup bass within the span of a single song, all the while jabbering the most outlandish tales and jokes.

A cappella gospel numbers seem to be catching on in bluegrass. IIIrd Tyme Out, Rarely Herd and Mountain Heart all sang them.

Vincent perked up more than a few ears when she announced she was dedicating a song to Osama bin Laden, “if he’s still around.” The song? “You Don’t Love God If You Don’t Love Your Neighbor.”

The Performances:

Rock County: “Harvest of My Heart,” “My Sweet Love Ain’t Around”

The James King Band: “The Old Swinging Bridge,” “Thirty Years of Farming”

IIIrd Tyme Out: “Think of What You’ve Done,” “Out of Sight, Out of Mind,” “How Great Thou Art” (a cappella), “We’ll Soon Be Done With Troubles and Trials” (a cappella), “Tilley Cove,” “John & Mary

Rarely Herd: “Gone But Not Forgotten,” “I, John, Saw” (a cappella), “Holy, Holy, Holy” (a cappella)

Mountain Heart: “You Still Call Me Baby,” “Real Time,” “The Gospel Train” (a cappella), “Mountain Man,” “Lee Highway Blues”

The Lewis Family: “Going Up,” “Enjoyed, Not Endured,” “In the Garden,” “Good-Time Get-Together,” “If It’s God-Made (It’s Got to Be Good),” “A Rose in a Bible,” Little Roy’s banjo medley (“Theme from Bonanza,” “Cripple Creek,” “Theme from The Beverly Hillbillies,” “Foggy Mountain Breakdown”)

Rhonda Vincent & The Rage: “Cry of the Whippoorwill,” “Pretending I Don’t Care,” “Trains Are the Only Way to Fly” (featuring Audie Blaylock), “When The Angels Sing,” “Is the Grass Any Bluer,” “Pike County Breakdown,” “You Don’t Love God If You Don’t Love Your Neighbor,” “Hit Parade of Love”

Edward Morris is a veteran of country music journalism. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a frequent contributor to CMT.com.