When Troy Gentry died, he left many brothers in music, and they came together to sell out the inaugural C’Ya On The Flipside benefit on Jan. 9 in Nashville.
Blake Shelton and Storme Warren hosted the all-star concert at the Grand Ole Opry House to honor Gentry’s memory and support several causes including the Troy Gentry Foundation, the Opry Trust Fund, T. J. Martell Foundation, Make-A-Wish and the Journey Home project, as well as scholarships and instruments for music education in Kentucky schools.
The lineup represented artists who were impacted by Gentry in life or personally experienced Montgomery Gentry’s rise in music. The inaugural concert featured performances by Shelton, Jimmie Allen, Dierks Bentley, Lee Brice, Ira Dean, Colt Ford, Halfway to Hazard, Chris Janson, Tracy Lawrence, Dustin Lynch, Eddie Montgomery, Craig Morgan, Jon Pardi, Rascal Flatts, Ray Scott, Jeffrey Steele, Neil Thrasher and Darryl Worley.
They were there when Montgomery Gentry ushered in a new outlaw country sound with their 1999 debut “Hillbilly Shoes.” Behind the scenes, they all witnessed Gentry survive cancer twice. His death in a helicopter crash on Sept. 8, 2017, left a void in the country music community that will never be filled.
Montgomery Gentry would often go see Rascal Flatts’ Gary LeVox, Jay DeMarcus and Joe Don Rooney perform at Nashville’s now-defunct honky-tonk the Fiddle & Steel before they landed their first record deal.
“He never forgot where he came from, and he was always true to himself,” LeVox told CMT.com on the concert’s red carpet. “He never sold out. He always did what he believed in. Eddie and Troy, they lived every second of every song they sang when they talk about honky-tonks, fights, blue lights, getting drunk and all that stuff. They lived that. Toward the end of his life, he had changed his life around and was really working on his faith. He was such a man of character. Him and Eddie both.”
Gentry took time to connect with Allen in 2008 while working out at a gym where Allen was on staff.
“I was a huge Montgomery Gentry fan,” Allen recalled. “I freaked out a little bit. I met him, he gave me his number that day, and we stayed friends for years. He gave me so much advice not only about the business, but about being a man and working hard to provide for your family and never quit. He was a great guy to have in your corner.”
Shelton remembered Gentry as being the life of the party always.
“I don’t know that I ever saw him without a smile on his face and a cup in his hand,” Shelton said onstage. “He loved life, and he was one of my heroes.
“Eddie and Troy completely broke the mold of what was happening at radio at the time that ‘Hillbilly Shoes’ came out. Country music was all down the middle. It was all very positive and uplifting. For that song to come out and for everybody to realize, ‘Oh, yeah. There used to be outlaws in country music. They could drink, and they could have fun. They could be crazy. It changed the landscape of country music and thank God.”
Worley remembered him for being a playful spirit who liked to joke around with his brothers in music.
“When we were first getting to know one another,” Worley recalled, “there was that alpha-male thing between us, and there was a little bit of tension. It was weird because I didn’t know him at all. I thought, ‘Is he messing with me?’ But he turned out to be kind of a mentor to me because we’ve all been through a lot. You can’t go through this and not go through a lot of stuff.”
Montgomery Gentry music was the soundtrack to Lynch’s early musical life when he performed the duo’s material night after night in a cover band.
“I grew up with Troy hearing Montgomery Gentry on the radio,” Lynch said. “That’s how I knew him as a fan first. I was trying to figure out how to see them live, and then being in cover bands, we covered most of their catalog. To get the call to be part of this, it’s an honor.”
CMT Hot 20 Countdown will give a behind-the-scenes look at the star-studded night on an all-new episode airing Saturday and Sunday (Jan. 19-20) at 9 a.m. ET.