Blake Shelton, Dierks Bentley, Rascal Flatts & More Pay Tribute to Troy Gentry at C'Ya on the Flipside Fundraiser

 John Shearer/Getty Images for ACM
Blake Shelton and Dierks Bentley perform onstage during the 10th Annual ACM Honors at the Ryman Auditorium on Aug. 30, 2016 in Nashville, Tenn.

Many artists playing the inaugural C'Ya on the Flipside fundraiser -- at Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry House on Wednesday night (Jan. 9), to benefit the Troy Gentry Foundation -- drew on fond memories of the late Gentry’s music and his personality.   

Delivering a rough-and-rowdy version of Montgomery Gentry’s 1999 breakthrough hit “Hillbilly Shoes,” Jon Pardi told Billboard that hearing the song on the radio was one of those moments that defined him.

“I just remember it was just so present and powerful,” he said backstage. “I [also] loved the whole [2002 album] My Town. There were so many great and special songs.”

Pardi was among the stars paying tribute to Gentry, who died in a helicopter accident on Sept. 8, 2017. Co-hosted by Blake Shelton and Storme Warren, the show, which raised more than $300,000, also included Rascal Flatts, Dierks Bentley, Chris Janson, Jimmie Allen, Lee Brice and Dustin Lynch, among others.

Others remembered Gentry’s well-loved sense of humor. “I was opening up for them -- maybe opening up for another opener -- and Troy came on my bus to hang out and say hello,” recalls Brice. “At the end of the night, my keyboard player comes up [to Troy] and says, ‘It’s so good to see you tonight. What’s your name?' Troy laughed so hard, and it didn’t hurt his ego because he didn’t have one.”

It was that laughter that will forever be associated with Gentry, Brice added. “When I hear his name, I think of smiles, hard work, perseverance -- he sang about who he was and what he lived. That’s why their music was so consistent. You can’t beat that. That’s why they had all of those fans. They could identify them. When I see his name, I see his smile, and that makes me smile.”

Lynch said many of his memories of Gentry revolved around the Opry Duck Hunt -- an informal gathering of Opry members who came together annually  for a hunting trip -- where the two initially struck a close bond.

“That’s where he and I became familiar with each other,” Lynch says. “We’d have some powerful conversations in front of the lodge, because that was what it was about: getting us together on a personal level. We took off down there for the last time about 10 a.m., and he pulled out moonshine and beer cheese he had just made. That kicked off our trip, and in fine fashion. We were feeling wonderful.”

Fellow member Craig Morgan agreed with Lynch’s assessment of the special times the Opry Duck Hunt provided with Gentry. “It’s been going on for well over 50 years. A lot of times we don’t do any deer or duck hunting; we just hang out. It’s really about that camaraderie, and Troy, quite honestly, had become one the key cogs in the Hunt. As the fans lost him as a buddy, a lot of us lost him as a man and as a person. We also lost him as an integral part of that Hunt.”

Colt Ford, co-owner of Average Joe’s Entertainment, Montgomery Gentry’s label, said  C-Ya on the Flipside was an emotional evening all the way around, especially given that Eddie Montgomery and Gentry were among the first people Ford met in Nashville. 

“They have been so good to me from day one,” he says. “I’ve never been inside [the Grand Ole Opry House] before. So the first time I get to do it and celebrate one of my good buddies with a lot of my other friends, I’m a little nervous, a little excited and a little scared.” 

Ford said getting the call that Gentry had died back in 2017 is something he will never forget. “I remember where I was. We had just finished the new [Montgomery Gentry] record maybe a couple of weeks ago. I got the call less than 10 minutes after it happened. Then, I knew that as friends, I had to make some calls. I called Jamey Johnson and Rhett Akins -- people who you would want someone that knows what is going on to tell them. It’s a tough situation, but I think he would be happy to be up here and see his buddies doing what they are doing.”

For Gentry’s widow, Angie, “I thought [the evening] was never going to get here actually, and now that it’s here it’s likewise exciting and it’s bittersweet that we’re going to celebrate him, and he’s not here.”

Planning the event and talking with fellow artists and fans showed her a different side of her husband. “I guess I’ve learned that he touched a lot of people and how they reacted to him,” she says, adding that other events to provide funding for the Troy Gentry Foundation were in the works.

That’s music to the ears of Gentry’s musical partner of over two decades. Eddie Montgomery says that he and Angie are going to carry on Gentry’s name the best way they know: Montgomery will continue to tour and record under the Montgomery Gentry name. “I am so grateful for Angie, who is going to keep his legacy alive in Nashville -- and I will do my best to do the same on the road. It’s been truly a great night,” said the singer, who closed the night with a crowd sing-along of “My Town.”

The Troy Gentry Foundation will raise money for charities that Montgomery Gentry have long supported, such as The T.J. Martell Foundation, the Opry Trust Fund, Make-A-Wish and The Journey Home Project. “The fact that the Troy Gentry Foundation is going to continue to help out is so special,” Lynch says. "What more can you ask for? Music lives on. We don’t….but it does.”