Vince Gill performs at Troy Gentry’s memorial service at the Grand Ole Opry; Jason Davis/Getty ImagesTroy Gentry’s coffin sat center stage at the Grand Ole Opry, situated firmly in the treasured circle of wood transplanted from the historic stage of the Ryman Auditorium, as a house full of friends, family and fans came to say an unexpected goodbye Thursday.
The always-smiling 50-year-old Kentucky native lost his life Friday in a helicopter crash in New Jersey, as he prepared to make what seemed like just another Montgomery Gentry appearance with his musical partner of close to twenty years, Eddie Montgomery.
In a service that lasted 90 minutes, the stage was filled with an equal measure of both the famous and the relatively unknown. Friends from Troy’s church recalled his fondness for dressing as Batman, his love of Disney, and how much he relished a good laugh.
Even after death, Troy made good on a promise, drawing his fellow duo Halfway to Hazard onto the Opry stage for a coveted appearance as they sang “My Old Kentucky Home.” Gentry had told the duo that one day, he expected to see them play the Grand Ole Opry.
Trace Adkins accompanied himself on guitar as he delivered the gospel classic “Wayfaring Stranger.” Country-Music-Hall-of Famer Charlie Daniels recalled inviting Troy and Eddie to be members of the Opry in 2009, before showcasing his musical prowess on the acoustic guitar and launching into “How Great Thou Art.”
Vince Gill issued a plea to Eddie Montgomery before he sang, saying “Don’t disappear,” and urging him to lean on the Opry family as he figures out what to do after his unfathomable loss. The Oklahoma native invoked the names of country and bluegrass legends like Jim and Jesse and the Louvin Brothers, who suffered similar losses and still managed to soldier on. Remarking how happy he was to not have to sing “Go Rest High on That Mountain” for once, Vince instead offered “Whenever You Come Around,” the first song Troy ever sang to his wife, Angie.
In a fitting close, Troy’s pastor promised the album on which Montgomery Gentry had recently worked so hard would indeed be released over the coming month.
Troy’s service concluded as his voice once again filled the Opry House — in a recorded version of the new song, “A Better Me.”
Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.