Joel Gentry

Joel Ennis Gentry (October 14, 1930 - December 22, 2000)

Born in 1930, Joel Gentry was raised near Chattanooga, Tennessee. After serving in the for two years during the Korean War, he began working as a DJ at WGIK Radio in Jacksonville, Florida. In 1960, he began working for Sing Records which was owned by the LeFevres.

After six years, Gentry had been promoted to sales manager. In 1966, he purchased Sing as well as Skylite Records from the Blackwood Brothers and the Statesmen. Rather than operate the two separately, he began branding the new company as Skylite-Sing. Both the Statesmen and the Blackwood Brothers later returned to release recordings on the Skylite label.

Under Gentry's leadership, Skylite-Sing was an early adopter of the compact cassette in 1969.

Along with the record label, Gentry also operated Skylite Talent Agency representing acts including the Rebels, Swanee River Boys, Bobbie Jean White, the Sego Brothers And Naomi, and a young Mark Lowry.

A fire at the Skylite-Sing offices in Nashville in late 1970 reportedly destroyed approximately 500 master tapes. The blaze was determined to be arson.

Gentry also operated other related ventures including Whitfield-Gentry Enterprises with concert promoter J G Whitfield. The company produced a television show called The Original Televised All-Night Singing. Shortly after the formation of Whitfield-Gentry Enterprises, Whitfield, Lloyd Orrell, and W B Nowlin became Gentry's partners at Skylite Talent along with Lou Wills Hildreth. Orrell and Nowlin were also prominent concert promoters. North Carolina promoter Clyde Baker later joined the company as well.

In 1976, Gentry, Bill Baize, and Paul Kendle formed the National Record Company to distribute music and promoted the rack concept for marketing. Baize resigned from his position singing tenor with JD Sumner And The Stamps Quartet to join Gentry in the new venture. Also in 1976, Gentry produced the Blackwood Brothers' "Learning To Lean." The song held the top position on the Singing News chart for a record-setting 15 consecutive months.

During the 1980s, the Masters V released most of their albums on Gentry's Skylite Records label.

In 1986, another fire suspected to be arson damaged the offices of Skylite-Sing. A fire a week earlier had damaged another music office nearby. Gentry again reported that a few masters tapes were destroyed by the fire.

In 1989, a group Gentry produced called the Frontiersmen consisting of former Cathedrals tenor Bobby Clark, former Rebels lead singer Charles Booth, and former Cathedrals baritone George Amon Webster) changed their name to the Rebels at Gentry's suggestion.

In early 1991, Gentry's interest in Skylite-Sing was sold at public auction by a bank in Nashville, Tennessee. In 1993, Gentry was sentenced to serve five years and ten months in prison for three bank robberies committed in 1991 and 1992 and ordered to repay more than $7000.00 in restitution and fines.

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