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Biography: The Gatlin Brothers

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Larry, Steve, and Rudy Gatlin are three Texas boys who took the Nashville scene by storm and then some! Known for their impressive three-part harmonies and polished sound, the Gatlin Brothers have over a dozen Top 10 hits.

 

From left to right: Steve, Larry, and Rudy Gatlin.

 

The story of the Gatlin Brothers started in 1948 with the birth of Larry.  Born in Seminole, TX, Larry was followed by Steve in 1951 and Rudy in 1952, both of which who would be born in the Texas town of Olney.  The Gatlin family would shortly end up in Abilene and before long the boys were performing gospel songs not only in church, but on local radio and television programs.  After finishing high school in Odessa and college at the University of Houston, it would be Larry who would break through into the music business after joining the Imperials, a gospel group who would go onto to fame in their own right.  At a 1972 performance on Jimmy Dean's Las Vegas Revue, Larry met legendary country star Dottie West.  West was impressed not only by Larry's unique voice, but his songwriting talent.  She ended up recording two of his songs, "You're the Other Half of Me" and "Once You Were Mine", and bought him a ticket to Nashville where he would start making a living as a songwriter.  Some notable artists to record Larry's songs during this period include Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, Tom Jones, and Elvis Presley.

 

High Time put Larry Gatlin on the proverbial map as a solo artist.  His brothers would officially join him on the next album and by 1979 they would be billed as Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers.

 

While he was making some waves with his songwriting, Larry found himself singing back-up vocals for Kris Kristofferson.  By 1973, he had leveraged this into a record deal with Monument Records and released his first album The Pilgrim.  Although the record was not a commercial success, it made it onto the US Country Charts at #33 and included two charting singles, "Sweet Becky Walker" at #40 and "Bitter They Are Harder They Fall" at #45.  It's also worth mentioning that although Larry was considered a solo artist at this time, his brothers Steve and Rudy were featured as backup singers on the album - albeit unofficially.  Another album, Rain / Rainbow, would be released in 1974 and would make it to #37 on the charts.  Even though Rain / Rainbow did not chart as high as The Pilgrim, its featured single "Delta Dirt" would make the Top 20 at #14 and ended up making Monument Records a good deal of money.  The next album, 1975's High Time, peaked at #14 and included two Top Ten singles, "Broken Lady" and "Statues Without Hearts".  Not only did both singles peak at #5, "Broken Lady" earned Larry a Grammy award for Best Country Song.  Even with all of this success, a new chapter had started for the Gatlin Brothers and there was a lot more to come!

 

The Gatlin Brothers' live shows were always unique and spectacular.  They toured regularly together from 1979 until 1992.

 

Steve and Rudy Gatlin made their first official appearance with Larry on the 1976 Larry Gatlin with Family and Friends album, which peaked at #24.  1977's Love Is Just a Game blew away all of Larry's previous records, charting at #7, and included the first Gatlin #1 hit, "I Just Wish You Were Someone I Love".  Other hits from the album included "I Don't Wanna Cry" and "Love Is Just a Game", both of which peaked at #3.  Larry's last record released as a solo artist, Oh Brother, also peaked at #7 and included two more Top Ten hits, the #2 "Night Time Magic" and the #7 "I've Done Enough Dyin' Today".  After 6 years with Monument Records, Larry signed with Columbia and officially had his brothers billed on all future albums and singles.  Now known as "Larry Gatlin & the Gatlin Brothers", their first album produced under Columbia, Straight Ahead, peaked at #7, was certified gold (eventually going platinum), and knocked it out of the park with another #1 hit, "All the Gold in California".  The single also earned Larry the coveted "Top Male Vocalist of the Year" award from the Academy of Country Music.

 

Houston to Denver has been hailed as the quintessential Gatlin Brothers album, featuring the hit singles "Denver", "The Lady Takes the Cowboy Everytime", and "Houston (Means I'm One Day Closer to You)".

 

The Gatlin Brothers kicked off the '80s with the Help Yourself album, which peaked at #11 and featured the #5 single "Take Me to Your Lovin' Place".  The next album, released in 1981 and peaking at #10, was called Not Guilty and included the #4 "What Are We Doin' Lonesome" single.  1982's Sure Feels Like Love climbed to #18 and its title track reached #5.  1983 saw the groups last #1 single (and perhaps most famous song), "Houston (Means I'm One Day Closer to You)" as a promotional single for the 1984 Houston to Denver, which made it to #9 on the charts.  "The Lady Takes the Cowboy Everytime" (another single from the album) was made into a music video, one of the first to feature a country act.  1985's Smile was less successful than previous records, only making it to #33 on the charts, but 1986's Partners made it to #13.  Partners featured two more Top Ten singles, "She Used to Be Somebody's Baby" at #2 and "Talkin' to the Moon" at #4. 1988's Alive and Well would only chart at #44, but did have one more #4 single, "Love of a Lifetime".  It would be the last Top Ten single and marked the end of the Gatlin Brothers' relationship with Columbia.

 

After a decade and a half of not touring, the Gatlin Brothers are officially back on the road!

 

1989's Pure and Simple, released through Universal, would be something of a disappointment, only reaching #49 on the charts.  Even worse, none of the singles from the album would come close to the Top Ten.  Although the band was still billing at top venues, including performing the National Anthem before game three of the 1989 World Series, the music scene had moved on and their Cookin' Up a Storm, released in 1990, did not even chart.  Furthermore, after years of performing with his trademark falsetto, Larry Gatlin's voice was suffering and he had to undergo vocal chord surgery in 1991.  By 1992, the band released their non-charting Adios album and kicked off their "Adios Tour", which would be their last full tour for over a decade.  For years afterwards, the Gatlin Brothers sporadically performed for select venues and released a few more non-charting albums.  In the late 2000's, the boys began touring again, still in a limited fashion, to promote their 2009 album The Pilgrimage.  They are still on this "Gatlin Brothers Never Ending Reunion Tour", performing across the United States and Canada.  Check out their website for more information.  With over four decades of music behind them, it's good to know that the Gatlin Brothers are still making it happen!

 

Discography:

(1973) The Pilgrim - #33

(1974) Rain / Rainbow - #37

(1975) High Time - #14

(1976) Larry Gatlin with Family and Friends - #24

(1977) Love is Just a Game - #7

(1978) Oh Brother - #7

(1979) Straight Ahead - #7

(1980) Help Yourself - #11

(1981) Not Guilty - #10

(1982) Sure Feels Like Love - #18

(1984) Houston to Denver - #9

(1985) Smile - #35

(1986) Partners - #13

(1988) Alive and Well - #46

(1989) Pure 'n Simple - #49

(1990) Cookin' Up a Storm

(1992) Adios

(1993) Moments to Remember

(1994) Cool Water

(1998) In My Life

(2004) Larry Gatlin & the Gatlin Brothers Sings Their Family Gospel Favorites

(2009) The Pilgrimage

 

Songs on KBEC 1390:

"All the Gold in California" - #1

"Broken Lady" - #5

"Houston (Means I'm One Day Closer to You)" - #1

"I Just Wish You Were Someone I Love" - #1

"I've Done Enough Dyin' Today" - #7

"Love Is Just a Game" - #3

"Love of a Lifetime" - #4

"Night Time Magic" - #2

"Statues Without Hearts" - #5

"Take Me To You Lovin' Place" - #5

"Taking Somebody With Me When I Fall" - #12

"The Lady Takes the Cowboy Every Time" - #3