The seven-member group of Treadwell High School (Memphis, Tennessee), alumni included Bruce Bowles (vocals), Bobby Fisher (saxophone, keyboards), Jimmy Hart (vocals), Jimmy Johnson (trumpet, keyboards), Pat Neal (bass guitar), Larry Raspberry (guitar, lead vocalist), and drummer Larry Wall. The youths formed the Gentrys in May 1963.
The Gentrys’ million-selling “Keep on Dancing” reached #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1965, and they appeared on “Hullabaloo,” Shindig!, and “Where the Action Is” and toured with The Beach Boys and Sonny and Cher, as well as playing on Dick Clark bills. However, two follow-up singles failed to break into the Top 40, and the group disbanded in 1966. Other notable band members during the 1963–1966 years were Claude Wayne Whitehead (rhythm guitar), Larry Butler (keyboards), Ronnie Moore (bass), and very briefly, studio heavyweight engineer/producer and member of the cult band Big Star Terry Manning (keyboards).
“Keep on Dancing” is notable for the fact that it is actually one short recording repeated, to stretch the record out to the length of the typical pop single of its day. The second half of the song — after the false fade, beginning with Wall’s famous drum fill — is the same as the first. Though the group had Jimmy Hart and Bruce Bowles as singers, their biggest hit was sung by guitarist Larry Raspberry.
Original member Hart reformed The Gentrys in 1969, with himself as lead singer, but three attempts at singles again fell short of the Top 40. They recorded at this time for the Bell Records label. The 1969–1974 Gentrys included Hart, Steve Speer (bass), Dave Beaver (keyboards), Jimmy Tarbutton (guitar), Wes Stafford (lead guitar), and Mike Gardner (drums).
Hart subsequently found much greater fame and success in professional wrestling as a manager and composer, nicknamed “The Mouth of the South.” During this time, he returned to music at least once, as a member of The Wrestling Boot Band, a group fronted by Hulk Hogan. The story of the Gentrys is described in the book The Mouth of the South by Jimmy Hart, Hulk Hogan, Bret Hart, Jerry Lawler.
Raspberry formed a band in the 1970s, Larry Raspberry and the Highsteppers. This band continues to play gigs around the country each year.