Vincent family performs twice daily as The Sally Mountain Show
at its annual bluegrass gathering, held each June near Queen
City. Pictured, left to right: Johnny, Rhonda and Carolyn Vincent,
long-time friend, Lloyd Allen, and Darrin Vincent. Standing
at the edge of the stage on the far right, Rage band member
Hunter Berry joins in on fiddle.
grass lane from the ticket gate to the pavilion is lined with more
than 200 RVs on either side. People of all ages gather by the campers
and wave and holler “Hi there” or “How’ya
doin’?” as pedestrians pass by. You quickly realize that
everyone becomes fast friends here.
For bluegrass fans
like Joe Everly of Maryland, the Sally Mountain Park Bluegrass Festival
is an event he and his wife, Kathy, will drive quite a distance to
attend — 951
miles one way to be exact. “But they’re short miles,” the
fiddle player says, then laughs.
one of the most relaxed bluegrass festivals we’ve ever attended,” says
Joe, who came to the festival for the first time last year. “It feels
homey. And that’s why we’re coming back again this year.”
get a true feel for the five-day festival held in Queen City each July,
Joe recommends bringing your motor home and staying on the grounds
so you don’t
miss a single performance, jam session or workshop.
Musicians, young and old, share tricks and learn from each other
during workshops dedicated to each of the primary instruments of
festival marks the 21st year for the north-central Missouri music
celebration. It started as the dream of Johnny and Carolyn Vincent.
Long-time bluegrass fans might know their names from their many years
performing as part of The Sally Mountain Trio on radio or TV — or
maybe you’ve heard
a tune or two by one of their children, Rhonda Vincent, Missouri’s
own award-winning bluegrass queen.
In the ’60s,
the Vincents had a TV show on KTVO in Ottumwa, Iowa, called The Sally
Mountain Show. It showcased Johnny, Carolyn, their then 6-year-old
daughter Rhonda, and friends like Lloyd Allen, who’s still
part of The Sally Mountain Trio. The band adopted the name from a
hill near Queen City that locals named after old-time fiddle player
Sally Mosby. Mosby is believed to have written the popular fiddle
tune “Sally Goodin.”
Rhonda, the oldest
of the Vincent’s
three children, recalls how she learned to play the mandolin for
a show the family performed each week in Marceline.
|An early Vincent family publicity photo shows Carolyn, Rhonda
and Johnny with young Darrin standing in front by the bass.
who ran the show decided that if you just sang, you didn’t
get paid,” she says. “So Dad handed me a mandolin and
a mandolin. Here’s G, C and D chord. Next week, you’re
playing this instrument for two and a half hours.’ So there
I was, playing my three chords, but I was getting paid.”
says she used to come home from school and play music with her
dad and grandpa until supper, then play from supper until bedtime.
She didn’t play
any sports because her dad didn’t want her breaking a finger.
always says she took us off the bottle and put us on bluegrass,” says
Rhonda. “I think music runs in the Vincent family blood.
Everyone plays something.”
Johnny, a fifth-generation
bluegrass player, was part of the Lazy River Boys radio show
in the ’50s with his dad and uncle. He’s a self-taught
guitar, bass and banjo player. Carolyn
learned to play the bass after she married into the family.
middle son, Darrin, “plays about anything
with strings” according to his mom. He currently
performs with Ricky Skaggs’ Kentucky
Thunder band. Youngest son, Brian, an accountant, plays
guitar and mandolin.
While the three
kids are all married and live outside their native Missouri, the
siblings return home to help Dad and Mom with the festival. Rhonda,
a seven-time International Bluegrass Music Association female vocalist
of the year, makes sure her schedule always leads back
home for the annual music gathering.
Rhonda Vincent, seven-time International Bluegrass Music Association
female vocalist of the year and triple Grammy nominee, always comes
home to help with the family-run festival. She teaches a mandolin
workshop one morning during the five-day event.
“I had to
miss it one year when we were asked to play at a Fourth of
July celebration for ABC’s Peter Jennings,” Rhonda
says. “From that
point on I said, ‘My schedule will be made around
this festival.’” She
hasn’t missed another since.
In the ’80s,
when Rhonda’s solo career took off, her parents
decided they were ready to pare down their own travel
schedule a bit. About that time, Johnny bought 63
acres in Queen City, which is served by Tri-County
Electric Cooperative. While at the land one day,
he told Carolyn, “You
know, this would make a beautiful place for a bluegrass
The family enlisted
friends who shared Johnny’s vision
to clear land and got it ready for a gathering.
was an absolute mess,” recalls Rhonda,
shaking her head. “It
was nothing but multiflora rose bushes. But we
got it cleared and ready within a year.”
the gathering attracts more than 1,000 music
fans each day during the five-day event. People
from California to England spend the week jamming
with fellow musicians and listening to great
Kaci Wubbena, a
19-year-old mandolin player from Florida, came with her family to
the festival last year. “I asked my parents if I could have
the trip as a graduation present and they agreed,” says
Kaci, whose family drove nearly 1,100 miles
A self-taught mandolin
player, Kaci says the festival was invaluable.
can be enjoyed all day under a canopy of hickory trees at Sally
Mountain Park near Queen City. Festival-goers can catch from
eight to 10 professional performances each day.
“One of the
best parts are the jam sessions on the campgrounds,” says
the bluegrass fan. “You just walk
up and start playing and that’s
fine with everyone. They don’t
mind teaching you whatever they know.”
everyone attending the festival plays
an instrument. Some are simply bluegrass
fans and make a vacation of the musical gathering.
Others are fans of Rhonda Vincent and her
band, The Rage (Rhonda’s fans are known as “Ragers”).
Whether they play or not, everyone’s
here for one reason: the music.
festival-goers know to bring comfy
lawn chairs. Most people find a spot
on the hickory-covered hillside and
park their chairs, knowing that no
one will take their seats because,
well, it’s just that way at
these events. Everyone respects everyone
festival is July 4-8. Besides a
good variety of talented groups, the shining
star at the festival is Rhonda
Vincent and The Rage. Other than Rhonda and
the family, performers at the venue
change every year.
|A bluegrass fan gathers autographs on his instrument.
The event begins
Wednesday evening with a potluck “getting to know you” dinner.
Mornings offer workshops for
fiddle, mandolin, bass, guitar and banjo players. Classes might
be held by the cook shack or under a shade tree near the stage.
Most workshops are led by Rhonda and her talented Rage band members,
Hunter Berry, Kenny Ingram, Mickey Harris
and Josh Williams. The informal gatherings usually run about an
evenings are filled with professional performances, but
time is always reserved for open stage,
where anyone can take a turn at the
mic. Carolyn says it’s one of the most popular things at
come specifically to play during open stage, hoping they might get
booked for next year’s performance schedule,” she
course, that’s the
way we used to do it, too.
go all the way to Florida
to do a guest spot just to
and The Rage usually play
twice a day at the festival,
audiences also hear all
the Vincent family members when
The Sally Mountain Show
performs each afternoon and evening.
The event is a rare time
when the audience can see
Rhonda, Darrin and Brian
perform with their parents.
|Impromptu jam sessions pop up everywhere on the campgrounds.
Johnny and Carolyn aren’t performing at the gathering, you’ll
find Carolyn in the cook
shack or Johnny at the ticket gate, visiting with festival goers.
Darrin and Brian help with everything from running the sound board
to introducing the acts.
pride in making sure everyone feels at home here,” says
usually found visiting
with Ragers on the
grounds when she’s
not helping the family
out. “Dad always
tells folks, ‘If
I can do anything for
you, you let me know’ and
he means it.”
five-day pass (that
includes all performances
and workshops) is $35,
with camping an additional
$10 per day. Single-day passes
run $10 to $15. The cook shack
offers tasty homemade eats — but you’ll
find no alcohol sold at this family-oriented
Rhonda sums up
the festival this way. “It’s more than just the music,” she
of people who come to this festival that makes it feel like a homecoming
when you’re here. The music just tops
it all off.”
For more details
go to www.sallymountainshow.com or call (660) 949-2345.