Carrying On

Montgomery Gentry return to memories in their old Kentucky home

Story by Larry Holden • Photos by Morrison/Wulffraat

Troy Gentry squints as he lines up the cue ball.

Thwack! The cue stick rockets the ivory orb into the crimson three ball, dropping it into the corner pocket. Eddie Montgomery nods his approval.

It's a quiet day at Austin City Saloon, the honky-tonk where the Montgomery Gentry boys met 14 years ago. The club -- in their old stomping grounds of Lexington, Ky. -- is overflowing with neon and memories.

"Eddie, his brother John Michael and I were asked by the owner here to put a band together," recalls Troy. "Eddie was the drummer, I played rhythm guitar and John Michael was the lead singer. Eddie and I sang, too. We were John Michael Montgomery and Young Country."

Thwack! Eddie takes his shot, dropping his target ball into the opposite corner pocket. "We played five nights a week and made about $175 per band member," he recalls. "By the time Troy and I paid our bar tabs, we didn't have much left. Some weeks we actually owed the bar money!"

Troy clarifies, "It wasn't that we were drinkin' that much. We'd buy drinks for friends and fans. So we had to work day jobs to pay our bills."

On the way to another nightspot -- a bar owned by Troy's dad -- they talk about those early day jobs. Eddie repaired TVs, worked as a mechanic and toiled as a farm hand. Troy operated aresidential lawn service.

"When Dad opened The Grapevine," remembers Troy, "I started out waiting tables before moving to bartending."

Troy shows how a good waiter does it, taking the group's order -- and then skillfully delivering the food from the kitchen. The group includes his wife, Angie, 7-year-old daughter Taylor, and his dad and mom, Lloyd and Pat Gentry.

After John Michael landed his record deal in 1991, Eddie went on the road with his brother to assist with security. Troy pursued his solo career around Kentucky, playing weekend gigs at his dad's bar.

"When Eddie rolled into town, he and I would play car-lot openings and charity fund-raisers," recalls Troy. "About the time his father died from cancer in 1994, we decided to make a run at Nashville as a duo."

Three years later they signed with Columbia Records.

"Eddie and I grew up listening to Waylon, Willie, Charlie Daniels, Hank Jr., Merle Haggard, The Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd -- and playing that kind of music in the clubs," explains Troy. "The blending of the music of our heroes helped create the Montgomery Gentry sound."

That distinctive sound definitely harkens back to their youth.

"My mom's got a picture of me sittin' behind a set of drums when I was four," notes Eddie. "I took over drummin' for Mom when I was about 12, in their band Harold Montgomery and Ambush Country. Mom was a very good drummer."

Troy had flashier beginnings. "By the time I was 12, my brother and some friends were putting on KISS concerts in our backyard playing plastic guitars. We'd put on KISS make-up and make our own costumes out of dance leotards. We even used aluminum foil to make those big tall silver boots."

Eddie and Troy have come a long way from those early days. Their debut album, Tattoos & Scars, scored several hits, including "Hillbilly Shoes" and "Lonely And Gone." And late last year they unseated eight-time winner Brooks & Dunn as CMA Duo of the Year.

Now their single "She Couldn't Change Me," the first from their just-released second CD, Carrying On, has climbed into the Top 20. They can be seen on the road this summer as part of Brooks & Dunn's Neon Circus & Wild West Show Tour, plus they're hitting the highways on their own Jim Beam Backroom Bar Tour.

"Jim Beam is sponsoring us this year," declares Eddie. "That means," he adds with a grin, "the Jim Beam folks are constantly restocking our supply of our favorite drink. That gives us the only honky-tonk on wheels that's open 24-7!"

And Troy and Eddie are giving back to Jim Beam. "We serve on the Benefiting Emerging Artists in Music program advisory board," notes Troy. The program bolsters new artists and local music scenes through band searches and music-related grants. Troy won the national Jim Beam country band search in 1994.

 

Speaking of winning, the boys are offering their fans a chance to win a F-150 Ford pickup, a Harley Davidson motorcycle and a vacation package through a promotion with Ford, Country Weekly and Columbia Records (Click here for Details).

On the way to Eddie's new farm south of Lexington, the duo stops by an old haunt, Lake Herrington.

"The partyin' here was great and the fishin' wasn't bad either," quips Eddie. "Everybody would pull their boats into a cove, tie them together -- and the festivities would begin!"

At the farm, Eddie and Troy scoot around on four-wheelers. With 206 acres, there's room to roam. "I've got woods, wildlife and a natural spring," reveals Eddie. "This is where I love to be."

Eddie and wife Tracy are building a two-story plantation-style house with six bedrooms and seven baths. As they walk around the just-finished foundation of the 6,400-square-foot house, three of their four kids -- Kevin, 17, Brooke, 14 and Hunter, 5 -- scope out where their rooms will be. Daughter Candace, 11, is on a school trip to historic Williamsburg, Va.

Leaning against Eddie's Ford pickup, Troy sighs, "What Eddie and I have done together -- from the time we started with Young Country to right now -- seems like it's happened in the blink of eye. And it's been one incredible ride!"

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