A tribute to the late Troy Gentry was an emotional highlight of several Kentucky moments at Wednesday night’s CMA Awards.
Very early in the broadcast from Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Dierks Bentley and members of Rascal Flatts took the stage and launched into Montgomery Gentry’s signature hit, “My Town,” with photos of Gentry, who died in a September helicopter crash in New Jersey, flashing up behind them. Flatts frontman Gary LeVox sported at Batman t-shirt, highlighting Gentry’s favorite character. Then came the heart-in-the-throat moment as Gentry’s longtime partner Eddie Montgomery took the stage with his signature microphone twirl to join the performance.
At the crescendo of the song’s third verse, Montgomery bellowed, “Later on, me and T-Roy will show you around, my town.” ABC cameras frequently went to Gentry’s widow, Angie, taking in the performance.
Gentry was also recognized later in the awards show in the in memoriam segment, with host Carrie Underwood singing the hymn “Softly and Tenderly,” along with stars such as Glenn Campbell and Don Williams, who died the same day as Gentry.
As fans remembered Gentry and celebrated Montgomery’s return to the stage, Eastern Kentuckian Chris Stapleton enjoyed another big night at the CMAs, taking home awards for male vocalist of the year and album of the year for “From A Room: Vol. 1” — his third and second time, respectively, winning those awards. In notably humble speeches, he honored his fellow nominees each time, saying each of his fellow male vocalist nominees had helped get him where he is. He also thanked his wife and stage partner Morgane, their kids and, “kids that are on the way,” as the couple is expecting twins.
In addition to tributes to Gentry and awards for Stapleton, it was a big night for WBUL-FM 98.1 morning team DeAnn Stephens and Don Evans, aka Officer Don and DeAnn, as they were named broadcast personalities of the year, small market.