Larry Gatlin & the Gatlin Brothers have been dazzling audiences for more than 60 years. It all began in Abilene, Texas in 1955, when Larry was six, Steve was four, and Rudy was two. Since those days, the road the brothers have plowed has won them countless awards and has taken them to numerous concert halls, festival stages, national television shows (The Tonight Show, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, The Late Late Show, etc.) and even the White House on several occasions. The brothers have seen their music top the charts and touch the lives of fans of all ages.
The brothers grew up singing gospel music after listening to James Blackwood and the Blackwood brothers, Hovie Lister, the Statesman Quartet and many others. The brothers would sing anywhere and everywhere people would listen. As children their music has taken them coast-to-coast, even singing at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York City. They also recorded four Gospel records.
In 1966 Larry went off to college – studying English and law at the University of Houston. In 1971, he auditioned for the legendary Imperials, Elvis’ backup group. He didn’t get the job, but he met Dottie West, who was the opening act for the legendary Jimmy Dean, who would become one of Larry’s oldest and best friends. Dottie was initially taken with Larry’s resemblance to Nashville songwriter Mickey Newbury. Dottie told him one night in their backstage dressing room at the Landmark Hotel in Las Vegas, “Larry, you look so much like Mickey Newbury, you’ve just got to be able to write great songs.” After the gig in Vegas, Larry went home to Houston, wrote eight songs, sent them to Dottie, and she sent him a plane ticket to Nashville.
Through Dottie, Larry met Kris Kristofferson, who became a champion on Gatlin’s talent as a writer and singer. Kristofferson introduced Larry to Fred Foster at Monument Records, which resulted in a contract with the record label. His first album, The Pilgrim, was released later that year. Johnny Cash wrote the liner notes for his first album, and dubbed him “The Pilgrim,” which is what he called Larry until the day he died. Steve and Rudy were still in college at Texas Tech University and moved to Nashville in 1975 to sing backup with Tammy Wynette. The two of them joined Larry in the summer of 1976 to form Larry Gatlin & the Gatlin Brothers.
By 1976, the Gatlin Brothers were in the fast lane, thanks to the chart-topping success of the Grammy Award-winning “Broken Lady.” The hits continued throughout the rest of the decade, including their signature song, “All the Gold in California,” soon to be followed by “Houston (Means I’m One Day Closer to You).” The number one hits continued throughout the next decade with “I Don’t Wanna Cry,” “ I Just Wish You Were Someone I Love,” “Statues Without Hearts,” “Love is Just a Game,” and “Night Time Magic.” In addition to being inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in 1976, the trio was nominated for awards by the Country Music Association, the Academy of Country Music and the Music City News Awards, among others. “We won some of ‘em too,” say Larry.
The brothers continued to tour through out the 80’s. In 1992, they decided to take some time away from the road. That year they embarked on their “Adios Tour” and released an album of the same title. Upon completion of the tour, Larry would go on to Broadway to star in the hit musical, "The Will Rogers Follies,” as Steve built a theatre in Myrtle Beach, SC and Rudy starred in a production of “Oklahoma” in Branson, MO. In early 2002, the brothers decided to tour on a limited basis, recorded a new a album, Pilgrimage, in 2008 and are still performing 40-50 dates a year.
As the brothers round out their 60th anniversary tour and close out one chapter of their lives, they are looking forward to the next one. Larry says, “We just think it’s time to do some other things, spend more time with our families, slow down a little bit, and do it with class and dignity – on our own terms. We are grateful to God for our fabulous run and we can’t wait to see what else He has in store.”
“We have been very blessed and grateful for the many fans who have stayed with us over the years,” says Steve. “You have impacted our lives more than you can possibly imagine.”
Rudy adds, "It's been an incredible 60 years performing with my brothers Larry and Steve! We’re looking forward to another great year and might even get back in the studio. We’ll see!"
The brothers’ latest release is a Gospel album titled, Larry Gatlin & the Gatlin Brothers – The Gospel According to Gatlin. Larry says, “The songs are a little edgy, a little bit different. Steve, Rudy and I didn’t get where we are by playing it safe. We have always pushed the envelope, we have always crossed borders others were afraid to cross and we’re not going to stop now… and that’s the Gospel According to Gatlin.”
Forthcoming projects include a Gaither music collaboration that will also include The Oak Ridge Boys. This year’s concert tour will span North American and feature Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers Unplugged shows.