(Photo: Mindy Small/Getty Images)

Troy Gentry, half of chart-topping country duo Montgomery Gentry, has died. According to Variety, Gentry died this afternoon in a helicopter crash in New Jersey. Details about the crash have yet to come to light.

Born in Kentucky, Gentry met Eddie Montgomery in 1990, beginning a musical partnership that would last for most of the rest of his life. Originally titled Deuce, the duo changed their name to Montgomery Gentry in 1999, signing with Columbia Records and beginning a quick rise to country music success.

From the start, the band’s mix of Southern rock influences, powerful vocals, and base-friendly lyrical topics—heartbreak, patriotism, and just a hint of tolerance and diversity peeking out from behind their bad-boy personas—saw them quickly take their place at or near the top of the modern country scene, beating country mainstays Brooks & Dunn for Vocal Duo Of The Year at the 2000 CMAs. (Even so, that “outlaw” image sometimes went too far, as in 2006, when Gentry was fined for charges related to an instance of “canned hunting,” in which he purchased a black bear, enclosed it in a three-acre electric fence, and then shot and killed it with a bow.) 

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The group hit its arguable peak in 2004 with You Do Your Thing, which featured two number one singles on the country charts (“If You Ever Stop Loving Me” and “Something To Be Proud Of”) along with another major hit, “Gone”. The album—their fourth—leaned harder on the duo’s rock side; the push-and-pull over how “hard” or “soft” their sound should be would lead to strife with Columbia in later years, leading Montgomery Gentry to eventually break ties with the label. They continued to tour, play, and record constantly, though, ultimately producing eight studio albums before the partnership ended with Gentry’s death.

As a musician, Gentry was best known for his tremendous vocal range, which stood in contrast to the raspy baritone baseline his partner provided. In 2009, he and Montgomery were inducted into the Grand Ole Opry by their friend, collaborator, and long-time influence, Charlie Daniels.

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Gentry was 50.