From Music Row to the rooster’s crow, Teddy Gentry has led an abundantly interesting life. At the age of 64, this member of the popular country music group, Alabama, has traveled the country and written thousands of songs. He has seen the peak of success in the music industry over a 40-year career. Now, though, he spends most of his days on a different peak, Lookout Mountain in Fort Payne, Alabama, where he takes care of his herd of cattle.
“I tell people that I put myself through college in the back of a tour bus in the 80s,” said Gentry, as he leaned back in the rocking chair on his front porch.
It was during those years that Gentry studied and read everything he could on grass-fed beef cattle. He had a vision of breeding a cow that would be hardy, able to stand the dry heat of the American south, and survive off of a rotational grass system instead of a grain-based diet. It was out of this vision that Gentry created the South Poll beef cattle breed, which is a mix of four maternal breeds including: Angus, Hereford, Senepol and Barzona. Each of these different breeds was chosen for a specific purpose, such as gentleness or hardiness.
“We wanted the maternal and easy-fattening qualities of the Hereford and Angus,” explained Gentry. “We needed the maximum heat tolerant breed to put on the Angus and so we chose Senepol. After one-generation, we had a slick-haired animal but the Hereford needed some help so we added the Barzona.”
Since its creation, the South Poll breed has grown rapidly in popularity and is now raised in many different states in the South and the Midwest.
“We have close to 3,000 head registered now,” said Gentry. “I think closer to 5,000 head total.”
There are now more South Poll cattle in Missouri than any other state in the nation.
Gentry’s work with cattle has certainly made him a better, well-rounded individual.
“He’s just a good guy to be around,” said Greg Simpson, a South Poll cattle owner who knows Gentry. “He’s humble. That isn’t something you see very often from someone who has had his success. He loves his cattle.”
His work ethic and down-to-earth personality have made Gentry well liked among the residents of Fort Payne, Alabama. First, people saw him on the stage, but now he can be seen driving his Ford pickup truck around town or dining at the local restaurant at the top of Lookout Mountain.
“Teddy works harder than anybody I know, and he’s one of the smartest people that I have ever met,” said Sam Stark, a South Poll breeder from Alabama.
It was the same effort and dedication to success and hard work that took the band Alabama to the top that Gentry applied to creating a cattle breed. He tells kids to keep being passionate and to not give up on their dreams because they can find success like he did. One might think that Gentry would let up after achieving so much.
When asked if he would rather be remembered for a legacy in music or in creating the South Poll breed, Gentry said, “I think the South Poll because we are trying to feed the world.”