Like everyone else, I was nothing less than stunned on Friday afternoon to learn that Troy Gentry had been killed in a helicopter accident in New Jersey. He was only 50, and left behind a wife and two children.
If it weren’t for a couple guys named Brooks and Dunn, Troy and his partner Eddie Montgomery, of course better known as Montgomery-Gentry, would’ve been easily the biggest country duo of the early 2000s. And as it was, they still won their share of awards, sold out plenty of shows, and earned a platinum record or two. They also had five number one singles and several more in the top ten.
But the best thing about Montgomery-Gentry were … Montgomery and Gentry. The two of them.
Pat and I were lucky enough to interview them several times, and we looked forward to it every single time because they always made it so easy. Some artists are good at being nice. Eddie and Troy? They actually were. And funny, and crazy, and you never knew what they were gonna say, like the time Troy told me during a live interview (with no time delay) that I “didn’t know sh*t about cars” after I got a couple of car models confused. He was laughing when he said it and the gleam in his eye was blinding. The station didn’t receive a single complaint, because everyone who heard it was laughing too.
One of our favorite memories in radio, period, came from the two of them, at Country in The Park 2002. After their set, they were on their bus backstage and saw two women struggling to carry a heavy, awkward-sized cooler to their car. Hot, sweaty, tired from their performance, they nonetheless jumped off the bus, opened the backstage fence gate, took the handles of that cooler and walked it the rest of the way to their vehicle. It was a small gesture of kindness, only took a couple minutes. Yet, we’ve NEVER seen another artist do anything quite like that.
Another story from that day that we just learned was they invited a bunch of firefighters onto their bus before the show. One of the firefighters called to remind us how hot it was that day, and he said Eddie looked out the bus door, saw them and said “You guys look hot, come on in and cool down!” So, they climbed aboard Montgomery-Gentry’s air conditioned bus where they hung out with the boys for an hour or so and were cooled down with a few glasses of good old Kentucky Bourbon on the rocks.
I don’t mean in anyway to suggest we knew Troy well. We didn’t. Not at all. We only have our brief interactions with him and Eddie to go by. But sometimes, that can be enough. You can sense when an artist (or anyone, for that matter) is just sort of turning on the charm because they have to. With Eddie and Troy, we never got that sense, ever. And we’ve heard that from colleagues too.
From the first time we met them at the radio station when they were visiting to promote their first single “Hillbilly Shoes” to the last time, at our 2011 Christmas Concert, they always seemed genuinely glad to see us, glad to be here (wherever it was) and glad to do what they did for a living.
Troy’s love of life, people and profession is reflected in the comments that poured out on social media over the weekend, too; none of which was put any better than by Little Big Town, who said
Our condolences go out to Troy’s family, and of course to Eddie, as well–who already had enough tragedy in his life after battling prostate cancer and then losing his 19 year old son Hunter in 2015. We hope the years to come are easier on him.
T-Roy, your spirit, love and joy WILL be missed by all of us in the country community. Thank you for the smiles you gave us and the memories your music leaves us with.