Few singing groups can sound quite so harmonious as family singing groups. The Gatlin Brothers have been at it, quite harmoniously, for more than 40 years.
A popular Grand Ole Opry attraction since their induction in 1976, the Gatlins have always loved to sing as a unit. They won their first talent contest at home in Texas in 1954 at a Hardin-Simmons University talent show in Abilene. Larry was six, Steve four, and Rudy only two.
They began performing gospel patterned after the Blackwood Brothers and the Statesmen on Slim Willets’ radio and TV shows in Abilene that same year — dressed in cowboy outfits.
During the mid-’70s, the Gatlins became consistent hit-makers at Monument Records. Initially, Larry was signed on his own, following his success as a songwriter, and he was soon working with Tammy Wynette. But the Gatlins wanted to perform their music together, so he wrote a song specifically for the three of them — in 15 minutes. “Broken Lady” went to No. 1 and won the Gatlins a Grammy the same year that they joined the Opry cast, in 1976.
“I Just Wish You Were Someone I Love” climbed to the top of the charts in 1977, and “All the Gold in California” followed two years later. Over the next 10 years, the Gatlins had nine more Top 10 hits, including “Sure Feels Like Love” and the chart-topping “Houston (Means I’m One Day Closer to You).”
Larry’s songwriting career had begun when the Opry’s Dottie West spotted him singing in Las Vegas in 1971, encouraged him to write and even provided him a ticket to Nashville. Dottie would record two of Larry’s songs; others were performed by Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, and Elvis Presley.
In the ’90s, Larry earned rave reviews for his work in the Broadway musical The Will Rogers Follies. He released his autobiography, All the Gold in California: And Other People, Places & Things in 1998.
The brothers returned in 2002 to an active touring schedule after a 10-year hiatus. In 2009, the trio released its first album of new, original material in 17 years, the critically acclaimed Pilgrimage. The album, which Country Weekly called “a history lesson with a heart,” basically serves as a musical retrospective of the group’s three-decade music-business career and includes narrative storytelling segments about the songs.
In 2009, Larry began hosting the Opry’s new Thursday show, Opry Country Classics. He also has taken on something of a second career as a political and social commentator, appearing regularly on Fox Business Network’s America’s Nightly Scoreboard and writing a column for FoxNews.com’s Fox Forum. He appeared on CNN’s Larry King Live from the stage of the Ryman Auditorium a few days after the Nashville flood, as he simultaneously hosted an Opry Country Classics show.
“The Grand Ole Opry is not a building. The Grand Ole Opry is a show, and it’s people with heart and soul and talent.”
- LARRY GATLIN