COUNTRY MUSIC LOSES TWO OF ITS FINEST
By Vernell Hackett
It was the day the music died for country music last Friday, with the loss of Country Music Hall of Fame member Don Williams and Grand Ole Opry member Troy Gentry of the duo Montgomery Gentry.
Williams, who was 78, is known for his hits “Good Ole Boys Like Me,” “Amanda” and “Tulsa Time,” died after a brief illness. Kyle Young, CEO of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, said of the man known as the “Gentle Giant,” “His music will forever be a balm in troublesome times. Everyone who makes country music with grace, intelligence and ageless intent will do so while standing on the shoulders of this gentle giant.”
A native Texan, Williams took up music early in life, going on to form the Pozo-Seco Singers with hits “I Can Make It With You” and “Look What You’ve Done” in the 1960’s. He then began his career as a solo performer, working with the late “Cowboy” Jack Clements and producer Allen Reynolds to build his career. He charted his first number one single, “I Wouldn’t Want To Live If You Didn’t Love Me” in 1974, and his career surged from there. He was not only popular in the U.S. but developed a world-wide following. He also appeared in a couple Burt Reynolds movies, “W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings” and “Smokey and the Bandit II.”
Williams and songwriter Bob McDill made great partners, with the singer recording numerous of McDill’s tunes including “If Hollywood Don’t Need You (Honey, I Still Do,” “Turn Out The Lights (And Love Me Tonight),” “It Must Be Love,” “Rake and Ramblin’ Man” and “She Never Knew Me.” The two once said that their similar backgrounds, growing up in Texas around the same period of time, made the pairing of singer and songwriter the great collaboration that it was.
Gentry, who was 50, grew up in Kentucky, where his love for small town values, his country and lasting friendships was a basis for the songs that he and fellow Kentuckian Eddie Montgomery poured into their career as the duo Montgomery Gentry. He died when a helicopter in which he was riding crashed in Medford, New Jersey, where Montgomery Gentry was scheduled to perform Friday night.
The duo broke into country music with their matter-of-fact hit, “Hillbilly Shoes,” and followed with hits including “She Couldn’t Change Me,” “My Town,” “If You Ever Stop Loving Me,” “Lucky Man” and “Where I Come From.” They were invited to join the Grand Ole Opry in 2009 by their friend, Charlie Daniels.
Montgomery Gentry loved playing live. Gentry once said, “Eddie and I are road dogs. All of our lives we’ve been playing music – in the clubs when we started out, maybe five or six nights a week, and now in the arenas and fairs and festivals. We love to play music and we love being out there entertaining the crowds.”
Funeral arrangements have not been announced.