Trabue Rex Gentry was born on June 26, 1952 in Bloomington, Illinois to Mary Ellen and Russell Rex Gentry. His father was a professional artist whose most notable achievement was his appointment as Professor of Art at Wesleyan University. His mother was a highly accomplished opera singer and musician whose most notable achievement was singing coloratura for the Chicago Metropolitan Opera. Both of his parents are now deceased. He has three older sisters. Sibyl, the youngest, is an accomplished cellist and watercolorist. Melissa, the next oldest, was an accomplished interior decorator. Her work has been featured in a number of finer magazines. She was also a noted culinary expert and was featured in Cuisine and other similar magazines. She is now deceased. Lezlie, the oldest recently mounted the very successful art project “The Return of the Ancestors” which can be found on Facebook. Trabue has one son, Jerry, and currently lives in Springfield, Illinois with his wife Amanda Marie Gentry.
Skills & Expertise
Trabue’s father was largely responsible for his exposure to art. From the time Trabue was a young boy he would watch his father practice his skills as a multi-talented artist. In his teens, Trabue went on to work for his father where he learned many of his father’s artistic skills.
Trabue started writing music at age twelve. Since then he has penned over 150 musical compositions. Much to the dismay of his mother, an academic musician and teacher, he is a non-academic self taught composer and musician. His mother’s disapproval over this disparity caused him much trouble growing up. “Mom wouldn’t let me play piano until I could read music. I could barely read English much less sheet music. Consequently, I never played piano until I left home. Little did anyone know that I had extreme dyslexia. It wasn’t even heard of back then. She also thought that pop music, especially guitar, was the work of the devil and forbade me to play the guitar. I used to sneak my oldest sister’s guitar and then finally got one of my own but she kept taking it away from me. It was a constant struggle between us.”
Humorously talking about his dyslexia, Trabue continued “I’ve probably read no more than twenty books in my life because reading is so hard for me. Try reading a book in the mirror and see how far you get (laughing). Nothing made sense to me so naturally my grades suffered terribly. Big disappointment to my mom. She thought I was just lazy and failure at academia in our house was not acceptable. I mean, anything less than an A+ was a mortal sin.”
“I’ve learned to cope with dyslexia on my own and I’ve improved considerably but I still grapple with it. The biggest problem I have is spoonerization. Spoonerization is the transposition of sentences, words or parts of words. Like, magnifying glass is fagnimying glass to me. Give me a word and if it can be spoonerized I’ll spoonerize it for you, no problem (smiling). I hear everything transposed or completely backwards in my head so I have to deliberately stop and analyze what I want to say and correct it before it falls out of my mouth so that people will understand what I’m talking about. It can be pretty funny at times and is really pronounced when I’m tired or stressed. Fortunately, my wife had the same problem while she was on a particular medication so she understands everything I say (laughing).”
At age 12, Trabue began his apprenticeship at King’s Recording Studio. Owner, Don King, recognized Trabue’s musical talent and took him under his wing. King believed in Trabue and worked diligently for many years to record and promote him during his apprenticeship. “Don was more of a father to me than my own dad which wasn’t really too difficult. He listened to me so, naturally, I listened to him and he taught me a lot about life and . He believed in me and that was big especially w the constant turmoil at home. He was a great guy and I miss him.”
At age 13, Trabue built an electric guitar for his 8th grade shop project. “Well, our teacher said we could make anything we wanted and I wanted an electric guitar so bad that I opted to make one as my term project. It never occurred to me that I couldn’t do it so I did.” At the end of the term, he had produced a beautifully designed and perfectly working electric guitar that earned him an A-. The guitar is still in his possession.
At age 16, Trabue apprenticed for luthier, Peter Hud. Peter was most noted for the fine instruments he made for Andres Segovia. During his apprenticeship, he assisted Hud in making fine classical style guitars. He also took lessons from Hud for a short period of time. “He was a hard task master. He stood over me with a wooden ruler and if I didn’t hold the guitar just right he’d smack my knuckles with it. (laughing) I lasted about three weeks. I just didn’t have the discipline.”
In 1971, Trabue teamed with Kevin Sterner and Dennis Neff to form Gentry, Neff and Sterner. Like all musicians, they performed in all the local venues. “I hated playing out. I much prefer working in the studio. That’s where the magic happens.”
In 1974, Dennis drifted away from the threesome while Trabue and Kevin continued to work in the studio exclusively. Said Trabue of Kevin “He’s a hell of a song writer and singer. He’s also the best bass guitarist I’ve ever heard. He has a truly unique style that I could pick out anywhere.”
In 1977, Bruce Bolin, then marketing Director for Gibson Guitar Company, arranged a meeting for Trabue and Kevin with music producer, Pete Drake (George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Bob Dylan, Jethro Tull, Kenny Rogers and many more). Trabue and Kevin played for Pete in his Nashville office and after three songs Pete offered to produce the duo. The first studio time, album date and tour was set on that day. This day would dramatically change Trabue’s life.
Three days after the meeting with Drake, Trabue received a phone call from Kevin that would dramatically change his life again. Kevin definitively told Trabue that he would be unable to go through with the record deal for personal reasons. In 1979, Trabue and Kevin finally parted ways over yet another issue. Disappointed over the lost opportunity with Drake and the lost friendship with Kevin, Trabue quit music entirely and satisfied his need for creativity in other ways.
In 1971, Trabue began providing advertising and promotional services to local businesses. Trabue’s business continued to grow throughout the years as he gathered many local and national clients including AT&T, Simon & Associates, Bell Telephone, Illinois Department of Natural Recourses, Illinois Banker’s Association, Illinois Savings and Loan League and Illinois State Bar Association to name only a few.
Trabue’s most challenging client was the Illinois State Fair (1972 – 1976). He worked in the capacity of graphics artist and stage manager handling over 60 major acts including America, The Beach Boys, Seals and Croft, Mary Travers, Minnie Pearl, Waylon Jennings, Jessi Colter, Neil Sedaka, Frankie Valli, Willie Nelson, Anne-Marie, Johnny Cash, The Osmond Brothers and Dolly Parton.
Trabue’s advertising and promotional business grew to be a fairly lucrative source of income until 1981 with the advent of the desktop publisher. Trabue then concentrated his efforts on developing a 52 piece modular display system which eventually proved even more lucrative than the broader spectrum of advertising and promotions.
In 1980, Trabue conceived and developed the Gentry Room Art Gallery. The gallery was purposed to allow young people the opportunity to show their art publicly without entrance fees or having to be judged to show. “I wanted to provide kids with an alternative to less desirable activities and inspire them on to greater things. I also wanted to bring families together, to give kids the opportunity for their parents to be proud of them. The results were far greater than my expectations and that was incredibly gratifying.”
With the help of Patricia Lemmon, over $14,000.00 in donations was raised for the project and the gallery was donated to the Springfield (Illinois) Park District. “I think this was perhaps the most worthwhile thing I ever did. I’d love to set programs like this up all over the country.”
In 1984, Trabue teamed with the father of glamour photography, Peter Gowland, to produce a unique collaboration of photography and art. The premise of the project was to choose the most adaptable of Peter’s photographs and interpret them in his unique pencil stylization of realism and surrealism.
The collaboration raised quite a ruckus in the very separate worlds of art and photography. “In those days, artists and photographers held a dim view of each other’s art forms and the idea of a collaboration was simply abhorrent. When I spoke to Ansel Adams about the project he was incredulous and rude. Interestingly though, when I talked to Andy (Warhol) about the project he was all for it. He said he really couldn’t criticize what we were doing since he was both a photographer and an artist. I always wondered why no one noticed that. (laughing)” Nevertheless, because of all the furor, this project was truly groundbreaking, a landmark in the world of art and photography.
In 1988, Trabue moved to Los Angeles. “I wanted a radical change. When I got there I had about $300.00 in my pocket and no prospects. But within three days (of arriving in Los Angeles) I had my first job gilding 16 chairs for a shop in Beverly hills.” Trabue went on to be one of only three guilders in Orange County. Later, Trabue moved back to Springfield to be with his dying father.
In 1992, Trabue worked as an intermediary in the trade of hard and soft commodities. The number of principles and transactions involved was staggering making it necessary to database the business. To accommodate this, he learned and applied Microsoft Access, a database programming software. “Programming started out as a necessity and ended up to be my worst habit. I’m a programming junkie.” He went on to learn and apply Visual Basic, CSS, HTML, Java, PERL, SQL, and Visual Basic computer languages specializing in the design of interactive web sites and client server applications.
In 2006, Trabue saw “Fleetwood Mac Live In Boston” on PBS’ Sound Stage. Watching Lindsey Buckingham perform inspired him to reunite with his music. “I was blown away. I mean, just because the Drake thing fell through…well it was stupid. I have all this material that nobody’s heard. I figured if Lindsey, who was like 56 at the time, if he could still do it, then I can too.” With that, after a 26 year hiatus from music, Trabue quickly merged himself back into music.
In 2009, Trabue achieved one of his proudest accomplishments. After 35 years he was able to complete his musical composition “Lost In The Wax”. This musical piece was originally written and recorded by Trabue in 1974. Unfortunately, the recording was devoid of the style of lead guitar he wanted which simply wasn’t available to him at the time so he shelved the project indefinitely.
Trabue heard Russian composer and musician, Michael Krizanovski, on OurStage.com. “I contacted Miki and asked him if he would be interested in working with me to finish the song. Miki agreed and 35 years later he allowed me to complete the piece with his award-winning guitar work. To my knowledge, this sort of collaboration had never been done before and I really enjoy doing things like that.”
This milestone in music history was a complicated undertaking since Krizanovski lives in Kraznodar Russia and neither of the two artists spoke each other’s languages. The collaboration was done via the internet. Krizanovski’s part was recorded in Russia. Additional compliments and the final mix were performed in the U.S. by Trabue. Had It not been for the advent of the internet and the fall of the Iron Curtain this project never would have happened. Trabue and Michael have begun work on new projects together.
Trabue has always been a “project” person. He admits “I just can’t stand working on any one thing too long (laughing). I like to go from project to project trying new things.” He continues to resurrect conceptual projects from the past and to create new projects. “It is a never ending process to learn new things and to apply what you have learned, to be as creative as you can.”