Gatlin Brothers playing at Choctaw Casino in Grant

| August 16, 2018 | Reply

Steve, Larry, and Rudy Gatlin

First appeared in Paris Life Magazine, August 2018 issue. Story by Mary Jane Farmer, Courtesy photos

When one mentions Larry Gatlin & The Gatlin Brothers, one person’s mind’s eye might swing over to thoughts of harmonies, tight lyrics, and comradeship among family while others’ envisions California gold and Houston love.

Since their first recording in 1973, a project called The Pilgrim, which landed high on the music charts at No. 33, the sibling trio of Larry, Steve, and Rudy have released about 17 studio albums; some of them compilations such as 16 Biggest Hits,  their millenium project released in 2000; several Christmas music albums, the latest one in 2016 called We Say Merry Christmas, and even two albums recorded completely while they were on stage, the second being Live at Billy Bob’s Texas, when they played the historic Cowtown stage in 2004.

Now, Larry, Steve, and Rudy are coming to the Event Center in Grant’s Choctaw Casino on Saturday, August 18. And they’ll be bringing those harmonies, tight lyrics and brotherly comradeship to the stage. Tickets are on sale now at Ticketmaster, 800-745-3000.  Downbeat at 8 p.m.

All three men now live in Nashville, but were born and grew up in West Texas, where their dad was an oilfield worker. They cut their musical teeth by singing at church, Larry in the leads then since he was the eldest of the three boys. They sometimes sang on radio and on television. The trio even beat out Roy Orbison in a talent contest when they were all just young rednecks. Larry was the first to move to Nashville, too, years later, after attending college in Houston. There, he auditioned for and became a part of the gospel music group The Imperials. While in Las Vegas with that group, he caught country singer Dottie West’s attention. It didn’t take long for Larry Gatlin to impress West with his songwriting skills, and she recorded two of his songs, “You’re The Other Half of Me” and “Once You Were Mine.” She carried Larry’s demo tapes around with her, and handed them out like business cards. West even bought Larry an airplane ticket to Nashville, where she felt he needed to be to advance his career, and all the while continuing to record his songs, including what later became a major hit for Larry and the brothers, “Broken Lady.” Larry worked for a while as a backup singer to Kris Kristofferson and put some guitar licks down on a Willie Nelson recording.

Steve and Rudy joined him a few years later in Nashville, and the real fun began. It was in the 1970s and 80s, when CountryPolitan was the name of the new country music genre, music with a touch of pop to it. Larry Gatlin & The Gatlin Brothers had their first No. 1 single, “I Just Wish You Were Someone I love,” followed soon by “All The Gold In California,” a No. 1 chart hit in 1979. Though they stayed at the top of the game, it wasn’t until 1983 when they charted another song, “Houston (Means I’m One Day Closer To You).” But there were some No. 3s and No. 5s and No. 12s in between all those hits.

Rudy Gatlin was the last one to move back to Nashville, where he’s now brewing tea fresh like is dad did for years. “He brewed his tea. He put the tea in a strainer and poured hot water over it, and then poured that over his ice.” Always fresh. One difference is that Rudy is brewing his tea in Tennessee, while his dad brewed his in Texas. The move from his home in the Dallas area, he said, was prompted about three years ago by the fact that Larry Gatlin & The Gatlin Brothers stay so busy. “We had a lot of stuff going on and Larry and Steve already lived in Nashville. Plus my son and daughter are adults, now, 27 and 21, and she’s going to college at the University of Texas. I was spending more time in Nashville than in Dallas.”

The group is going on about 50 road gigs a year now. “Mostly,” Rudy said, “ We’ll go out on just one or two dates.” That Grant/Choctaw date is one of a duo, with the second one that weekend being in Kansas. Larry does a few solo gigs, too. And it’ll be a cold day in December before they get back to Texas or Oklahoma, according to their Online tour schedule, GatlinBrothers.com.

They will have branched out on a two-week trip westward, into New Mexico, Colorado, California, and other places before the August 18 date in Grant. Nashville, alone, is giving them plenty of gig time.

Rudy laughed when asked “Do you have to practice much with your band?” His answer? “Do you practice walking?” But, he did say that before their Christmas concerts or before a strictly-Gospel concert, they do have a get-together to rehearse. “We don’t do those often. Heck, I don’t even have time to practice my golf swing,” he said as he laughed.

No recording going on right now. Their last CD was We Say Merry Christmas, a collection of Christmas carols and seasonal songs, the songs of their youths.

Rudy is one Gatlin (and they may all be,…or not) who is quite concerned with the way of the world today. “I maybe watch WSM at times, watch a little bit of news in the morning, and then shut the TV off. Civility is out the window. I can get fired up about topics every now and then, and hope to be more understanding and see both sides. Maybe they can come to an agreement, if they can do that too. Bless their hearts, they mean well.

I preface all my sayings with ‘Bless Their Hearts’,” Rudy said.

The Gatlins have a little bit of Oklahoma in them, too, and Rudy said that playing the Grant concert will kinda be back home. “Our grandparents are from Idabel, Oklahoma. Yeah, there’s a little Okie in all of us, But when the Texas-OU game is on, we gotta say, ‘Hook ‘em, Horns.’.”

The brothers grew up with gospel music in the churches around Abilene and Odessa. They grew up just like other normal, red-blooded Texan boys — playing sports, including football and baseball, in Boy Scouts. “We know about hard work, too. We mowed yards and painted fences and worked at the YMCA, we had all kinds of summer jobs. We got $3 a yard, and if we cleaned out your flower beds, we got $5. Seems like gas was 19 cents then.”

Steve, Larry and Rudy Gatlin

They are still normal brothers, on the road or off. “We sing, we play golf and race and do opry shows. We’re having a very busy summer,” Rudy said. As an example, they were to spend Independence Day together at Steve’s house, “because it’s on a hill, and we can see the fireworks from there. We’ll eat ice cream, watermelon, and a hot dog. I’m one patriotic dude, and anyone who doesn’t like that can kiss my foot.”

And the saying goes, “You can take the boy out of Texas, but you can’t take Texas out of the boy.” Rudy said, “Texas is the greatest state in the world. Okie right up there, too.”

He hopes, as do his brothers, he said, to have a great turnout at the concert. “Come see us, we’ll have a great time together.”

Not many changes in the Gatlin Brothers’ lives. Still together. Rudy said, “We love golf, God, and all things Baptist.”

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Category: *- Features, Choctaw Casinos

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