Larry Gatlin

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Larry Gatlin
Gatlin in 2009
Gatlin in 2009
Background information
Birth nameLarry Wayne Gatlin
Born (1948-05-02) May 2, 1948 (age 74)
Seminole, Texas, U.S.
GenresCountry, gospel
Occupation(s)Singer, songwriter, actor
Years active1973–present
LabelsMonument, Columbia, Universal, Capitol, Curb
The Gatlin Brothers
OriginNashville, Tennessee
GenresCountry, gospel
Years active1973–present
LabelsMonument, Columbia, Universal, Capitol, Curb
  • Larry Gatlin
  • Rudy Gatlin
  • Steve Gatlin

Larry Wayne Gatlin (born May 2, 1948)[1] is an American country and Southern gospel singer and songwriter. As part of a trio with his younger brothers Steve and Rudy, he achieved considerable success within the country music genre, performing on 33 top-40 singles (combining his solo recordings and those with his brothers). As their fame grew, the band became known as Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers.

Larry Gatlin is known for his tenor voice and for the country songs he wrote and recorded in the 1970s and 1980s. Some of Gatlin's biggest hits 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 "Night Time Magic". During this time, country music trended heavily towards slick 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' rich gospel-inflected harmonies and Larry's poetic lyrics.

Early life[edit]

Gatlin was born in Seminole in Gaines County, Texas, United States,[1] 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.[1] He was reared listening to country and Southern gospel music. His brothers, Steve and Rudy, and he have performed together since childhood; when they were younger, they often sang in their local church with their sister, LaDonna, joining them.[1] 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 managed to beat Roy Orbison in a local talent contest.[citation needed] In 1964, Gatlin was a quarterback at Odessa High School. He was the last quarterback to defeat Permian until Rick Leach did it in 1997.

After graduation in 1966, Gatlin was eligible to serve in the military during the Vietnam War; however, he did not,[2] instead choosing to attend the University of Houston.[1] As a wide receiver on the football team, he caught a touchdown pass in a 1968 game in which his team, the Cougars, scored 100 points.[3]

He later auditioned for and joined the Gospel music group The Imperials.[4][5] 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.[citation needed]

West soon met Gatlin and was impressed with his songwriting skills. She recorded two of Gatlin's compositions, "You're the Other Half of Me" and "Once You Were Mine".[1] West also passed one of Gatlin's demo tapes around Nashville, Tennessee, and even arranged for him to relocate there by purchasing a plane ticket for him (a story he related on the November 12, 2009, episode of RFD-TV's Larry's Country Diner).[citation needed] 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 landed a solo recording contract with Monument Records.[1]

In December 1973, Gatlin released his first album, The Pilgrim.[1] Two singles were released from the album: "Sweet Becky Walker" and "Bigger They Are, Harder They Fall", though both failed to chart.[1] The latter was recorded by Elvis Presley in 1976 (who had also recorded Gatlin's "Help Me" in 1973).[1] 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 number 14. The song was also Gatlin's only entry on the pop charts, when it reached number 84. In 1975, Gatlin had his first major hit with his composition "Broken Lady", which reached number five on the Hot Country Songs chart in 1976.[1] Gatlin won a Grammy Award for the song in 1977 for Best Country Song.[1] A new album, High Time, was released in 1976.[1] Gatlin is also credited on guitar on Willie Nelson's 1976 album The Troublemaker.[citation needed]

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 during the late 1970s, notably "I Don't Wanna Cry", "Love Is Just a Game", and "Statues Without Hearts".[1] In 1978, Gatlin scored his first number-one hit with "I Just Wish You Were Someone I Love."[1] Gatlin continued his success as a solo artist 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.

In 1985, Gatlin purchased shares in the Nashville Sounds, a Minor League Baseball team of the Triple-A American Association.[6][7]

With the Gatlin Brothers[edit]

The Gatlin Brothers in the uniforms of the Nashville Sounds in 1985 (from left to right: Larry, Steve, and Rudy)

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, reaching number one 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 number five in 1981; they followed up with "What Are We Doin' Lonesome", which peaked at number four 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) number-one 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. Though the group never achieved another number-one hit, they had hits that came close, like the jaunty release in 1986, "She Used to Be Somebody's Baby" (which peaked at number two), and 1987's "Talkin' to the Moon", and 1988's "Love of a Lifetime" (both of which peaked at number 4).

The Gatlin Brothers were also one of the first country groups to have music videos, such as 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. (Incidentally, the Loma Prieta earthquake hit just after their National Anthem playing, and the game was played 10 days later at the same site.)[citation needed] They had also sung the National Anthem at game five of the 1985 World Series at Busch Memorial Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri, and would do so again at game six of the 2005 NBA Finals at AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas.[citation needed]

Later work[edit]

Gatlin's chart success declined greatly when a new breed of "Neotraditional country" singers entered Nashville around 1986. New stars such as Dwight Yoakam and Randy Travis pushed Gatlin and other Countrypolitan vocalists out of the top 10. He had a duet recording in 1987 with another country-pop styled singer, Janie Fricke.[8] However, their duet only reached number 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 many of his songs. After recovery, Gatlin worked briefly with an opera coach to rebuild his voice and his vocals took on a powerful operatic style.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

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[9] and Fox Across America with Spencer Hughes on March 16, 2011. He also hosts radio shows for WSM, including a weekly gospel program, and the Grand Ole Opry spin-off Opry Country Classics.[citation needed]



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Colin Larkin, ed. (1993). The Guinness Who's Who of Country Music (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 153. ISBN 0-85112-726-6.
  2. ^ Jack Shifflett (2014-09-04). "President Gatlin Declares World War III". Retrieved 2014-09-07.
  3. ^ "1968: About That Houston 100-Points Game". The Pecan Park Eagle. 2013-09-15. Retrieved 2014-09-07.
  4. ^ "Southern Gospel History | I / Imperials".
  5. ^ "PBS - Austin City Limits". 11 November 2001. Archived from the original on 2001-11-11. Retrieved 2021-08-07.
  6. ^ Woody, Larry (1996), Schmittou: A Grand Slam in Baseball, Business, And Life, Nashville: Eggmann Publishing Company, pp. 64–65, ISBN 1886371334
  7. ^ "Sounds Owners". The Nashville Sounds 1985 Official Souvenir Program. Nashville Sounds. 1985. p. 6.
  8. ^ The Billboard Book Of Top Country Hits, Joel Whitburn, ISBN 0-8230-8291-1, 2006
  9. ^ "Larry Gatlin to Sit In for Vacationing Don Imus".
  • Wood, Gerry. (1998). "The Gatlin Brothers". In The Encyclopedia of Country Music. Paul Kingsbury, Editor. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 195–6.

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