Larry Gatlin

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Larry Gatlin
Larry Gatlin.JPG
Background information
Birth name Larry Wayne Gatlin
Born (1948-05-02) May 2, 1948 (age 66)
Seminole, Texas, United States
Genres Country, countrypolitan
Occupations Singer, songwriter, actor
Years active 1973–present
Labels Monument, Columbia, Universal, Capitol, Curb
Associated acts The Imperials, Dottie West, Kris Kristofferson, Janie Fricke, Kenny Rogers
Website gatlinbrothers.com

Larry Wayne Gatlin (born May 2, 1948) is an American country music singer/songwriter. He is perhaps best known for teaming up with his brothers Steve and Rudy in the late 1970s, becoming one of country music's most successful acts of the 1970s and 1980s. Gatlin has had a total of 33 Top 40 singles (combining his solo recordings and those with his brothers). As their fame grew, the band became known as Larry Gatlin & the Gatlin Brothers.

Their popularity lasted throughout much of the 1980s. Their biggest hits together include, "Broken Lady", "All the Gold in California", "Houston (Means I'm One Day Closer to You)", "She Used to Be Somebody's Baby", and "Talkin' to the Moon". Larry Gatlin is known for his rich tenor voice and for the string of pop-inflected hit songs he wrote and recorded throughout the 1970s and 80s. During this time, country music trended heavily towards polished pop music arrangements in a style that came to be known as Countrypolitan. Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers came to prominence and enjoyed their greatest success during this period with hit singles that showcased the brothers' powerful three-part harmonies and Larry's evocative falsetto voice.

Biography[edit]

Larry Gatlin was born in Seminole in Gaines County, Texas, next to the New Mexico border. His father was an oilfield worker, and the family lived in several locations while he was a youth, including Abilene and Odessa. He was reared listening to country and southern gospel music. He and his brothers, Steve and Rudy, have performed together since childhood,. When they were younger, they often sang in their local church. They sometimes performed on local radio stations, and occasionally on television shows. They also recorded a gospel music album for the Gospel label Sword and Shield. The brothers even managed to beat out the legendary Roy Orbison in a local talent contest. In 1964, Gatlin was a quarterback at Odessa High School. After graduation in 1966, he attended the University of Houston. As a wide receiver on the football team, he caught a touchdown pass in a 1968 game in which the Cougars scored 100 points.

He later auditioned for and joined the gospel music group, The Imperials.[1][2] The Imperials went on to perform in Las Vegas, Nevada in January 1971 at Jimmy Dean's Las Vegas Revue. While walking through the showroom, he caught country singer Dottie West's attention, who thought he looked like Mickey Newbury.

West soon met Gatlin and was impressed with his songwriting skills. She was so impressed, in fact, that she recorded two of Gatlin's compositions, "You're the Other Half of Me" and "Once You Were Mine." West also passed one of Gatlin's demo tapes around Nashville, Tennessee, and even arranged for him to relocate there, purchasing a plane ticket for him—a story he related on the 11/12/2009 episode of "Larry's Country Diner" on RFD-TV. West later recorded other compositions by Gatlin that would later become hits for him, including "Broken Lady", which was put on West's 1978 album, Dottie.

As a solo artist[edit]

With West's help, Gatlin found work in Nashville as a background singer for Kris Kristofferson. In 1973, Gatlin finally landed a solo recording contract with Monument Records.

In 1973, Gatlin released his first album, The Pilgrim. Two singles were released from the album: "Sweet Becky Walker" and "Bitter They Are, Harder They Fall", though both failed to chart. The latter was, however, recorded in 1976 by Elvis Presley (who had also recorded Gatlin's "Help Me" in 1973). In 1974 came the release of a new album (Rain/Rainbow) and a new song ("Delta Dirt"). The album and single proved more successful. "Delta Dirt" was a Top 20 Country hit, peaking at No. 14. The song was also Gatlin's only entry on the Pop charts, when it reached No. 84. In 1975, Gatlin had his first major hit with his composition, "Broken Lady", which reached No. 5 on the Hot Country Songs chart in 1976. The song was so successful that Gatlin won a Grammy Award for the song in 1977 for Best Country Song. A new album, High Time, was released in 1976.

Brothers Steve and Rudy made their first appearance on Larry's 1976 album Larry Gatlin with Family & Friends. They were featured on some of Gatlin's other hits he had during the late 1970s, notably "I Don't Wanna Cry", "Love Is Just a Game", and "Statues Without Hearts". In 1978, Gatlin gained his first number one hit with "I Just Wish You Were Someone I Love." Gatlin continued his music success as a solo act up until 1978, when he released his last solo album, Oh Brother, which featured the top 10 hits "I've Done Enough Dyin' Today" and "Night Time Magic", the latter of which also made an entry into the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart. Both songs spotlighted Gatlin's soaring falsetto that became a trademark of his vocal style. Soon it became quite obvious that his brothers wanted to become country performers as well, and Gatlin decided to have his brothers as part of his band.

With the Gatlin Brothers[edit]

In 1979, when Gatlin signed with Columbia Records, he decided to officially have his brothers billed on his singles and on his albums. That year, their name was officially "Larry Gatlin & the Gatlin Brothers". In October, they released the album, Straight Ahead. It spawned the classic single "All the Gold in California", which became their biggest hit together, taking the No. 1 spot on the Hot Country Songs list. This was Gatlin's second number one hit and led to his being awarded "Top Male Vocalist of the Year" by the Academy of Country Music that year. On June 6, 1980, Straight Ahead was certified gold.

The group's next big hit came in early 1980, with "Take Me To Your Lovin' Place", which peaked at No. 5 in 1981; they followed up with "What Are We Doin' Lonesome", which peaked at No. 4 later in the year. They continued their hit success, having top 10 and top 20 hits with "In Like With Each Other" (1982), "She Used to Sing on Sunday" (1982), "Sure Feels Like Love" (1982), "Almost Called Her Baby By Mistake" (1983), and "Denver" (1984). In 1983, the group had their third (and last) No. 1 hit, "Houston (Means I'm One Day Closer to You)". On January 19, 1985, the Gatlin Brothers sang "All the Gold in California" at the nationally-televised 50th Inaugural Gala, the day before the second inauguration of Ronald Reagan. Even though the group never achieved another No. 1 hit, they had hits that came close, like the jaunty release in 1986, "She Used to Be Somebody's Baby" (which peaked at No. 2), as well as 1987's "Talkin' to the Moon", and 1988's "Love of a Lifetime" (both of which peaked at No. 4).

The Gatlin Brothers were also one of the first country groups to have music videos, like 1984's "The Lady Takes the Cowboy Everytime". In 1985, Gatlin wrote the song "Indian Summer" with Barry Gibb, which he recorded as a duet with Roy Orbison. In 1989, the Gatlin Brothers sang National Anthem before game three of the 1989 World Series, played at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, California.

Later work[edit]

When the "Neotraditional country" singers entered Nashville in 1986 with singers like Dwight Yoakam and Randy Travis pushing Gatlin and other Country-Pop-styled vocalists off the Top 10 list, Gatlin's chart success declined greatly. He had a duet recording in 1987 with another Country-Pop styled vocalist, Janie Fricke.[3] However, their duet only reached No. 21. He briefly signed with Universal Records in 1989, where he recorded his last singles. His last charted single came in 1989, called "Number One Heartache Place". Gatlin underwent surgery on his vocal cords in 1991 after the years of wear and tear on his voice. In concert, he had begun to struggle with the high falsetto notes that were featured prominently in most of his songs. After recovery, Gatlin worked briefly with an opera coach and his vocals took on a powerful operatic style in the early 1990s.

Gatlin (left) playing cards with Seabees in Croatia after a performance in 1995

After more than a decade of singing together, in December 1992, the Gatlin Brothers embarked on a farewell tour before retiring to their own theater in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Gatlin went on to star in the Broadway production of The Will Rogers Follies. In 1994, Gatlin and his brothers opened a 2,000-seat theater in Myrtle Beach. In 1995, he played himself in the TV-movie about Dottie West's life, Big Dreams & Broken Hearts: The Dottie West Story. West had died four years before in a major car accident.

Gatlin co-wrote with celebrity biographer Jeff Lenburg a memoir called All the Gold in California that was published in 1998. In 1999 Gatlin toured and entertained troops of the 1st CAV division in Bosnia.

Since 2010, Gatlin has contributed to Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network as a political and social commentator. In 2010, Gatlin acted as substitute host for Don Imus on Imus in the Morning[4] and Fox Across America with Spencer Hughes on March 16, 2011.

Discography[edit]

References[edit]

  • Wood, Gerry. (1998). "The Gatlin Brothers". In The Encyclopedia of Country Music. Paul Kingsbury, Editor. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 195–6.

External links[edit]