Though seemingly negative descriptions of the country group Montgomery Gentry,” outlaws” and “redneck country rock” aptly depict the duo’s hard-edged, raucous sound and attitude. Eddie Montgomery and Troy Gentry have been credited with trying to revive the traditional country sound that had taken a backseat to the pop-influenced country tunes of artists like Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, and Shania Twain. The duo introduced its rootsy country rock with the albums Tattoos and Scars in 1999 and Carrying On in 2001.
Music has long been in the blood of the Montgomery and Gentry families. Eddie Montgomery and his brother, fellow country star John Michael Montgomery, were raised by their musician parents, Carol (Snookie) Dean Hasty and Harold Edward Montgomery. The love of music was so strong that it even had a place within the Montgomery home. In Sony Music Nashville press materials, Eddie Montgomery joked about musical equipment being substituted for furniture. “When you came in the house, you sat down on a guitar amp for a chair. My dad was a guitar player, my momma was a drummer, and the bartenders were our babysitters.” At the age of five, Montgomery began performing occasionally with his parents’ band, Harold Montgomery and the Kentucky River Express. By his teen years, he was a full-time player in the band, replacing his mother on the drums.
Meanwhile, Troy Gentry was living a similar lifestyle. His mother, Patricia Ann, sang with the family’s church choir and his father, Lloyd Gentry, Jr., was a music fan who frequently listened to records by the likes of George Jones, Conway Twitty, and Merle Haggard. Gentry realized that he wanted to be a performer as early as junior high. “I did my first performance at a talent contest in school and that sensation of everyone patting you on the back and appreciating what you could do made me want more,” Gentry said in his Sony Music Nashville biography. “In high school, I heard Randy Travis for the first time and that’s when I knew this was what I wanted to do for a living. So from there on out, I did everything I could to get myself out in front of people and be heard.”
While the Montgomery brothers were in their late teens, they split from the family’s group to start their own band called Early Tymz, and subsequently Young Country, with Gentry. John Michael Montgomery broke out on his own and Gentry did the same. Gentry’s efforts paid off in 1994 when he won the Jim Beam National Talent Contest and earned the opening act slot for Patty Loveless and Tracy Byrd’s tours. Working as a solo artist was difficult, so he re-teamed with Eddie Montgomery. “We had worked together so well for so long and knew each other so well that I knew it couldn’t be anything but right,” Gentry said in his Sony Music Nashville biography.
The duo dubbed its sound “hillbilly honky tonk.” Montgomery Gentry entered the studio to record a demo,
Members include Troy Gentry (born Troy Lee Gentry on April 5, 1967), lead and background vocals, guitars; Eddie Montgomery (born Gerald Edward Montgomery on September 30, 1963), lead and background vocals, guitars.
Formed group in Lexington, KY, 1996; released single “Hillbilly Shoes” and debut album, Tattoos and Scars, 1999; released Carrying On, 2001.
Awards: Country Music Association (CMA) Award, Duo of the Year, 1999 and 2000; Radio and Records Readers Poll, Top Duo, 1999; American Music Award, Favorite New Country Artist, 2000; Academy of Country Music Award, Top New Vocal Duo/Group, 2000.
Addresses: Record company —Sony Music Nashville, 8 Music Square West, Nashville, TN 37203, website: http://www.sonynashville.com. Website —Montgomery Gentry Official Website: http://www.montgomerygentry.com.
which their former manager, the now-deceased Estill Sowards, took to Sony Music Nashville President Allen Butler. Impressed with what he heard, Butler asked Montgomery Gentry to play a showcase in Nashville for executives. The performance earned the duo a record deal. For its first album, Tattoos and Scars, Montgomery Gentry worked with producer Joe Scaife. A perfectionist, Scaife studied several live performances so he could accurately capture Montgomery Gentry’s sound on CD. During the recording process, one of the band’s heroes, Charlie Daniels, stopped by the studio to record the song “All Night Long,” which the singer had written for them.
In early 1999, radio latched on to Montgomery Gentry’s first single, “Hillbilly Shoes,” so quickly that Columbia pushed up the single’s release date from March 22nd to February 22nd. “I couldn’t be any more excited about these guys,” Bruce Logan, program director at WSSL Greenville, South Carolina, told Billboard magazine reporter Deborah Evans Price in 1999. “I think the format is in desperate need of some fun and some attitude music that guys are going to like and women are going to like because it’s fun.”
The full-length album, Tattoos and Scars, followed. Billboard, in retrospect, dubbed the record “an unapologetic exercise in redneck country rock, boasting attitude galore.” To push the record, Montgomery Gentry repeatedly visited radio stations for acoustic performances and interviews. The plan worked. Tattoos and Scars debuted at number one on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart, which according to the magazine, was the first debut album to land inside the top ten since LeAnn Rimes’ Blue in August of 1996. On SoundScan, Tattoos and Scars earned the highest first-week sales for a debut country act in that company’s history.
The duo toured clubs to build a nationwide following for the band and Tattoos and Scars. They earned a reputation for keeping traditional country music alive in the wake of more pop-influenced tunes that were filling radio airwaves. Dubbing itself “pure whup-a** country,” Montgomery Gentry was given the nickname “outlaws.”” If people wanna put us in that category as being outlaws, it’s okay with us,” Gentry said in Sony Music Nashville press materials.” You’re talking about Waylon [Jennings] and Willie [Nelson], Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, Hank [Williams] Jr., Hank [Williams] Sr., Charlie Daniels Band, the Allman Brothers, [Lynyrd] Skynyrd. I couldn’t be in any better company than those guys.” In a year-end review, a Radio and Records poll named Montgomery Gentry the top duo of 1999. It was the first time in seven years that someone other than Brooks & Dunn won the prize.
The duo continued their Tattoos and Scars tour through the year 2000 but took a quick break in the summer to participate in the annual bike week motorcycle gathering in Sturgis, South Dakota. Their concert also featured a performance by the Marshall Tucker Band at the nearby Buffalo Chips campground. Montgomery Gentry returned to the festival in the summer of 2001, this time webcasting the event via its website. “Sturgis is a big party, no holds barred,” Montgomery told Billboard.” You’re in the middle of South Dakota and there are hundreds of thousands of bikes…. You have all these different people mixing it up. Some of the stuff you see, maybe you don’t need to, but you definitely see stuff you’re not going to see any place else.” In August, the group shot a video for the song “All Night Long” with the tune’s songwriter, Charlie Daniels, at the Kentucky State Fair in Louisville.
As soon as Montgomery Gentry left the road, they returned to the studio to record their sophomore effort Carrying On, produced once again by Scaife. On May 1, 2001, Montgomery Gentry released Carrying On, an album that carried on the duo’s reputation for rowdy” redneck country rock.” There was a promotional blitz behind the record. CMT, Country Music Television, gave away a Ford F-150 pickup truck and a Harley-Davidson motorcycle around the release of Carrying On. In the summer of 2001, Montgomery Gentry performed as part of Brooks & Dunn’s Neon Circus and Wild West Show tour. To warm up for the summer jaunt, the duo hit smaller venues with Jim Beam as its sponsor. The outlaws scored a hit single with “She Couldn’t Change Me.” Apparently, Nashville couldn’t change Montgomery Gentry either.
Tattoos and Scars (includes “Hillbilly Shoes,” “Lonely and Gone,” “All Night Long”), Sony Nashville, 1999.
Carrying On (includes “She Couldn’t Change Me”), Sony Nashville, 2001.
Billboard, March 6, 1999; April 24, 1999; July 7, 2000; August 21, 2000; March 31, 2001; May 12, 2001.
Entertainment Weekly, May 4, 2001.
People, June 7, 1999.
Billboard.com, http://www.billboard.com (July 25, 2001).
“Montgomery Gentry,” Sony Nashville, http://www.sonynashville.com/montgomerygentry/bio/bio.html (July 25, 2001).
Additional information was provided by Sony Music Nashville publicity materials, 2001.
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