For country music fans out there, the name “Montgomery Gentry” may ring a few bells; it may even prompt a few precious memories. Eddie Montgomery and Troy Gentry gave the band its name, with the pair having entertained die-hard fans all over the world since they first joined forces in 1999.
And to say that Montgomery Gentry are successful would be an understatement. In excess of 20 of their singles have hit the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, while three of their albums have also gone platinum. Not only that, but in 2000 the pair were honored as the Country Music Association’s Vocal Duo of the Year; they have been since been nominated for the award on a further nine occasions.
However, tragedy would strike the band on September, 8, 2017, when Gentry passed away in a helicopter accident – mere hours before the pair were due to take to the stage in New Jersey. The vehicle had ultimately ended up in a forested area close to an airport in Medford.
And, naturally, Gentry’s death hit his bandmate and his many fans hard. Perhaps most affected, though, was the star’s wife of 18 years, Angie, who understandably found the sudden loss of her spouse to be an unexpected and devastating blow.
Just absorbing the shocking news was a challenge in itself for Angie, who revealed to People in January 2019 that at the time she had only concentrated on “trying to breathe.” But after the traumatic reality had set in, she ultimately came up with a fitting idea to continue her husband’s legacy.
Angie and Gentry had originally wed back in 1999 in Maui, Hawaii. Then, after having enjoyed a period of married life as a couple, the pair grew their family in 2002 with the arrival of daughter Kaylee; her moniker came from her parents blending their own middle names.
And, understandably, Angie wanted to honor her husband’s memory after his passing. In order to do this, moreover, she enlisted a handful of the couple’s dearest friends. “We had to do something because [Gentry] was such a huge persona,” the widow later explained to People. “He just couldn’t go away like that.”
Then it was decided that the group would help lend support to three causes that had been close to Gentry’s heart. The first of these was cancer research – perhaps because Angie had previously battled against the disease. Military family assistance was another; Montgomery Gentry had performed at military outposts in the past. And the third was music education as a means to cultivate the talents of up-and-coming artists.
With these endeavors in mind, then, the Troy Gentry Foundation was born. And the organization has since gone on to raise funds as a means of benefiting its aims. A charity golf tournament in 2018 ultimately earned more than $100,000, in fact.
But Angie and the others had something even bigger in mind: a concert in Gentry’s honor. And it was at this point that the star’s phone book came in very useful indeed, as his widow tapped the contacts available to her in order to land potential performers.
Firstly, Angie asked Blake Shelton if he would perform at the planned tribute. He was a natural choice, too, since the country singer and Voice coach had come up in the music business at roughly the same time to Gentry.
In fact, Shelton and Angie go way back as well. “We were at the same management company back in the very beginning, when [Shelton and Gentry] both had mullets and nobody knew who they were,” she explained during her interview with People. “There was that tall, skinny Blake with that long, crazy hair. There’s Troy, tall and skinny with that crazy-looking hair.”
And, thankfully, Shelton was more than willing to perform at the event. Angie recalled to People, “Blake said, ‘Sure, I’ll do it. What do you need?’” Nor was the star the only person to agree to join in, as Angie added, “Almost everybody said yes.”
But not everyone could make it; Luke Bryan had to give his apologies, for one. Angie later explained, “Bryan was filming American Idol. [And] he goes, ‘Angie, I’ll do anything. I’ll give you whatever you need, but I just can’t be there.’ And he was sick over it.” Sadly, Keith Urban was also unable to attend the show.
Perhaps a better lead, though, came in the shape of Dierks Bentley, as the musician had previously offered his support to Angie after Gentry’s death. Of the letter Bentley had sent, Angie told People, “It just said, ‘I’m here, I’m sorry. He was a great guy. He was my friend. If you need anything, here’s my number.’ And so I called him, and he goes, ‘Sure.’”
Thanks to Angie’s efforts, then, some big names were on board: as well as Bentley and Shelton, Rascal Flatts, Jon Pardi, Lee Brice and Dustin Lynch had all agreed to the gig. Plus, of course, Montgomery would pay tribute to his late bandmate, too.
And, ultimately, the concert was a huge success, raising over $300,000. That was down in no small part to Angie, of course, who had said to People just two days prior to the show, “I get so excited because it’s a great thing we’re doing.”
Even so, that excitement had been tempered when Angie remembered exactly why she was putting on the concert. “Sometimes it kicks you in the face about why it’s happening, and that sets you back a little bit,” she explained. “You want to do great things. You want to keep the legacy and the memory alive, but you hate why you have to do it.”
Nevertheless, that didn’t stop Angie’s ambitions for the Troy Gentry Foundation. For starters, given the success of the tribute show, Gentry’s widow revealed to People that the organization would consider putting on a similar concert every year from then on.
The gig got a mention on the Montgomery Gentry Facebook page, too, in a post that read, “Had a blast last night at the Grand Ole Opry celebrating [Gentry] and raising money for the foundation. Thanks to all of our friends for coming out and rockin’ with us!”
And that post received quite the response, with many commenters showing their love and support. One Facebook user wrote, for example, “There aren’t words to describe how special last night was. So wonderful to see so many people come together and share their love for Troy and all the memories of him. He was definitely felt in the room!”
The evening may have been particularly special for Gentry’s former partner in crime Montgomery, who was still dealing with the loss of his bandmate. Angie had been in touch with the star throughout their toughest times, though; she even went to one of the first shows that Montgomery had embarked upon without Gentry.
But seeing Montgomery up on stage had been difficult, to say the least. “It was hard. Several of us got together and watched the whole thing through tears,” Angie explained to People. “I gave Eddie and the band all of the credit. I mean, it’s hard to get up there when there’s a missing piece. You kept looking, and you’re like, ‘Where is he?’”
Yet while Angie maintains Gentry’s legacy through the foundation, it hasn’t been the only way in which she has kept part of her late husband alive. You see, shortly after Gentry had passed away, she came up with an idea that she believed could help people in need.
That’s because when Angie was trying to process what had happened to her husband, she wondered whether his organs could be put to some use. In particular, she considered whether they could be donated to someone who really needed them.
Angie explained her logic to People by saying, “If this is your time and God says, ‘I’m taking you home today,’ but other parts of you still work perfectly well that could help somebody else, why would you not donate them? You don’t throw something away that’s perfect. It was something [to which] I felt Troy would have said, ‘Do it.’”
Before too long, then, Angie contacted officials in New Jersey to see if anything could be done. And the news was bittersweet: while Gentry’s organs had been too damaged in the crash to be suitable for donation, his bones, tissue and corneas were all perfectly fine.
Even then, Angie had to put all of her emotions aside and outline Gentry’s medical history on the phone to medical professionals. But despite any distress that she may have experienced during that conversation, there was a fortunate outcome, as Gentry’s bones, corneas and tissues were each given the all-clear for donation.
Angie had already had some familiarity with the organ donor process, too, as her sister had previously had a kidney transplant. As she explained to People, “I don’t know why anybody wouldn’t want to make a donation, because what’s it going to hurt?”
And, one day, Angie hopes to encounter some of the recipients of her husband’s gifts and see just how well those people have gone on to progress. “It will be neat to just give them a hug and say [that] I’m glad I could help,” she has explained.
In particular, Angie revealed, she wants to meet the individual who got Gentry’s corneas. She added to People that she wanted to gaze upon the eyes that “[she] used to look through every day that [she] loved so much, [and] to see that somebody had better vision or has a better life because of [the corneas].”
Luckily for Angie, the Gift of Life Donor Program, which helped bring about her husband’s donation, can help realize this dream. The highly successful organization has the power to unite both donors and recipients as well as their loved ones.
And even though Angie can’t address her late husband directly, she told People that she nevertheless had some words for Gentry about his purpose in life. She revealed that she would console him by saying, “‘You may not have been completely clear about it when you were here, but I know from the stories I’ve heard since you’ve been gone that you had a huge purpose.’”
Meanwhile, when it comes to Gentry’s musical legacy, Montgomery has taken up the mantle. Currently, he is still going strong under the name Montgomery Gentry in the belief that that is what Gentry himself would have wished to have happen.
And February 2018 saw the release of the duo’s last complete album. Aptly named Here’s to You, the men finished it just before Gentry’s fatal accident. After that, Montgomery kept his head high and set off on a tour without his bandmate. That doesn’t mean, however, that life hasn’t been incredibly tough at times for the musician.
In 2018 Montgomery spoke to Rolling Stone about his experiences on stage without Gentry by his side. “I know I’m supposed to be a big badass outlaw or whatever,” he said. “But when we hit the stage a couple weeks ago without [Gentry], I was so nervous. I was like, ‘Oh my God’ – I thought I was gonna get sick. But finally I felt [my late bandmate] in there, and I started smiling.”
“I’m still waiting for [Gentry] to chime in after me,” Montgomery continued. “We had this thing where we knew each other so well. I’d be singing, and I knew Troy was gonna come in at the end of the song and start talking [and] doing his thing, so I’d go back and get me a drink. But now I’m like, ‘Oh hell, I gotta get back up there!’”
Yet while Montgomery is aware that his performances can’t be affected by Gentry’s death forever, reminiscing with fans has helped so far. “We’ll have a Jim Beam [and] we’ll cry and we’ll laugh, and I think that’s the way it’s gonna be,” he told Rolling Stone.
And while speaking about his and Gentry’s shared passion, Montgomery said that they had never played for the fame. He revealed, “[We] didn’t get into this because we wanted to be stars, and we’ve heard guys say that s***. We got into it because we were born into it and raised in it, and we loved people. That’s what it’s always been about, having fun and living life… and life is very short.”
So, with Montgomery continuing with the music and Angie working on the Troy Gentry Foundation, the star’s legacy still lives on. And when it comes to Gentry’s purpose in life, Angie has ensured that it’s ongoing through the gracious donations she helped make to others.