On Thursday morning (Sept. 14), the seats at the Grand Ole Opry House were full, the music was heartfelt, and the applause was generous. But it was not your typical Opry show.
This show was a celebration of Troy Gentry’s life. A way for his family, friends and fans to come together to share stories and songs to say goodbye to the country singer who died in a helicopter crash on Sept. 8 at the age of 50. He is survived by his wife, Angie and his daughters, Taylor and Kaylee.
Radio personality Storme Warren hosted the service and opened with a confession. “My name’s Storme Warren, and I’m a Troy Gentry fan,” he said. Warren went on to reflect on Gentry’s infectious energy and the friendship he cherished.
And then he listed the five things he learned from Gentry.
1) Never stop taking risks and having fun.
2) It’s OK to act like a kid all the time.
3) Treat every human being with respect and kindness.
4) Love, protect and adore your family at all costs.
5) Trust in God and know you don’t have to be scared of anything.
“We lost a good one,” he said, “but he’s here with us forever.”
One of Gentry’s family friends, Eddie Lunn, echoed Warren’s sentiments. “I was blessed by Troy, and by God,” Lunn said about the time he met Gentry at the Puffy Muffin — a breakfast bakery in Brentwood. He talked about the continued breakfast meetings and the Christian conversations they’d shared. “We are all wired to love God and love others. He had the love others part down. God gifted him with a beautiful voice. His smile had a way of changing your day. God just loved him. Simply because he was Troy,” Lunn said.
Rafael Calderon, another one of Gentry’s best friends, eulogized him through the stories they shared and the memories Gentry left behind. “Do not cry because I am gone. Smile because I lived,” Calderon thought Gentry would be saying. “And boy, did he live.”
Dr. Michael L. Glenn, the senior pastor at Brentwood Baptist Church, talked about the day he got the call that no friend or pastor ever wants to get. “The phone rang, and I let it go to voicemail,” Glenn said about seeing an unknown number on his screen. “Then Eddie called me. ‘It’s Troy. There was a helicopter accident. He didn’t make it.’ We started walking this journey nobody wanted to walk,” Glenn shared.
Because Gentry’s band — country duo Montgomery Gentry — was a part of the Nashville scene since their debut album was released in 1999, the music from Gentry’s friends played a major role in the service. It started with another country duo Halfway 2 Hazard and their cover of the somber ballad, “My Old Kentucky Home, Good Night.” After that, a recording of Big Daddy Weave’s 2012 Christian song “Redeemed” played.
Then when Trace Adkins came out to the front of the stage to perform the centuries-old folk song “Wayfaring Stranger,” he took his black cowboy hat off, bowed his head and said, “Anytime I ever shared this stage with Troy, it was a privilege. And today’s no different. I’m privileged to be here to pay my respects to a good man.”
Singer/actor Cody Ray Slaughter, who first met Gentry at an Elvis festival when he was 22, was there to sing one of Gentry’s favorite songs, Elvis Presley’s 1970 “Kentucky Rain.”
Charlie Daniels, who had extended the 2009 invitation to join the Opry to Montgomery Gentry, took the stage without his hat or his fiddle and sang the Christian hymn “How Great Thou Art” after telling the crowd how grateful he was to have known Gentry. “The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away. I just thank you Lord for letting us have Troy, before you took him back,” Daniels said.
Near the end of the service, Vince Gill came out to share his wish for Gentry, and for his band mate Eddie Montgomery.
“I’m out here to honor a friend, and we’re all here because we feel like family. We came to be friends through the Opry family. I don’t know where Eddie is, but I hope you’ll lean on this family. Come out there and let this family love you,” Gill said. And the camera filming the service turned to find Montgomery in the crowd, surrounded with love from his artist friends sitting by him.
Gill performed his own 1994 ballad “Whenever You Come Around,” admitting that he was grateful he wasn’t asked to sing his “Go Rest High on That Mountain,” the go-to song at so many funerals in Nashville.
Glenn said a final prayer before Montgomery Gentry’s “Better Me” closed the service.
The Opry service was open to the public, and there was a private, family internment afterwards. Gentry’s family asks that donations be made to T.J. Martell Foundation or The American Red Cross for hurricane relief.