Friday was a tough day in the Kentucky music community as word spread quickly on the passing of Don Williams Troy Gentry. For many of us, we sit in shock wondering if the news is true. I received the news as I was talking to two friends about some music stuff and then it was revealed about Don Williams’ passing. Soon after, we heard about Troy’s tragic death. Kentucky may be a big state, but we feel small knowing that one of our own is gone. Not only that, a legend who performed quite a bit over the years, especially at Renfro Valley Entertainment Center, is no longer with us.
For me, I actually met Troy’s parents before I ever met him. I lived in an apartment across from his parents’ business, The Grapevine. I would run in there and grab a bite to eat after a long shift working at the time. I always wanted something homecooked and knew I could find it there. Later on, Troy and Eddie, better known as Montgomery Gentry, did a hometown album release party. It was pouring down the rain right before the meet and greet. I actually met Karl Shannon, famed radio dj from Kentucky, that night as well. It wasn’t long after that, we ended up going bowling with Chely Wright. Not too long ago, we got to talking about Don Williams selling a few of his classic cars and then retiring. Funny how life comes in circles.
The first time I met Troy Gentry, and every single time after that, he always treated me with kindness. In fact, he and Eddie always treated their fans just like family. They always took the time to give back to their communities as well, whether it was Camp Horsin’ Around, or building playgrounds for area schools. It didn’t matter how many records they sold, or how many seats were filled. What mattered is that they remained true to who they were. I had interviewed Eddie Montgomery several times over the years and kept thinking I needed to talk with Troy one day.
In 2015, Montgomery Gentry would go on to be inducted into the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame. I was honored to be able to cover the ceremony on the red carpet. Both guys were estatic and in awe to be inducted and recognized for their talents. That is one thing, they always remained humble and said they were truly honored to be inducted into the Hall.
Growing up, I always got excited whenever “Tulsa Time” came on the radio. Don Williams had that smooth country vocal that was instantly recognizable. I got to see him perform in concert at Renfro Valley a few years ago. Unfortunately, I never got to interview or meet him. His music hit a note among many as other musicians would cover his songs in their concerts. When you think about it – you never heard an unkind word about Don Williams. He was truly a gentle giant as his vocals were gentle, yet made a mark on music.
As music fans, we will miss Troy Gentry with his big bright infectious smile greeting fans. We will miss Don Williams, sitting in a leather chair wearing a cowboy hat, strumming the guitar with ease. Thank you for the memories, as there were many more than I have mentioned before.
Jessica Blankenship is the owner and founder of Kentucky Country Music website. The Berea College graduate has been a music journalist and historian for over 20 years. She enjoys providing concert photography, reviews, historical articles, red carpet event coverage, and exclusive interviews of your favorite musicians. Jessica is proud to be a Kentucky Colonel and alumni of the FFA and 4-H Clubs. In 2018, she was named one of Laurel County’s Ten Under 40 Award Recipients. In 2019, she was a member of the Inaugural class of BRIGHT Kentucky as part of Leadership Kentucky. She has been featured on the Kentucky Music Preview podcast, Hollercast podcast, Overtones radio show, WFKY Nashville News Roundup, KET, and more. Beyond music, she enjoys traveling, helping her community, collecting gnomes, and Volkswagens.