2015-08-22 / News

Gatlins to celebrate 60th anniversary at Sweet Corn Festival

By Scott Rawdon

The Gatlin Brothers will perform at the Sweet Corn Festival at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 5. From left to right are Steve Gatlin, Larry Gatlin and Rudy Gatlin. Courtesy photo. The Gatlin Brothers will perform at the Sweet Corn Festival at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 5. From left to right are Steve Gatlin, Larry Gatlin and Rudy Gatlin. Courtesy photo. MILLERSPORT- Don’t call it a “farewell” tour; call it a 60th anniversary celebration, said legendary country artist Larry Gatlin who will perform with the Gatlin brothers, Steve and Rudy, during the Millersport Sweet Corn Festival. It’s one stop on the trio’s 60th Anniversary Tour.

Sixty years is a long time to be a touring musician and while Gatlin is the first to admit continuing to tour has its financial benefits, standing up on stage in front of cheering fans never loses its thrill.

“We got used to eating three meals a day and sleeping inside,” Gatlin told The Beacon with a chuckle. But seriously, “We know in our hearts that God gave us the ability to sing, write, and entertain,” he said. “People lay down their hard-earned money to come out and see us, and that’s fulfilling our calling.”

It all began in 1955 for the Gatlin Brothers, when Larry was six, Steve was four, and Rudy was two. Since those days, the road that the trio has plowed has taken them to concert stages all over the world and has seen their records top the charts and touch the lives of fans from nine to ninety.

“We’re not calling it a farewell or a final tour,” Gatlin said. “We’re calling it the 60th Anniversary Celebration. By no means are we retiring, but after this tour, we are going to slow down a little bit. There are other priorities in life. I have two granddaughters. Brother Steve has seven grandchildren and Rudy has two kids. We still love the fans and the road and we still love to sing but we want to spend more quality time with our families.”

Gatlin is particularly grateful for how much their music has meant to their fans over the years. “It’s been such a rewarding career,” he said.

After performing together as children, Larry went off to college - studying 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 Gatlin’s oldest and best friends. West was initially taken with Gatlin’s resemblance to Nashville songwriter Mickey Newbury. West told him one night in her 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 West, and she sent him a plane ticket to Nashville.

Through West, Gatlin met Kris Kristofferson, who became a champion of his talent as a writer and singer. Kristofferson introduced Gatlin 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 Cash called Gatlin until the day he died.

Steve and Rudy moved to Nashville in 1975 and teamed up with brother Larry to form Larry Gatlin & the Gatlin Brothers. By 1976, the Gatlin Brothers were in the fast lane, thanks to the charttopping success of the Grammywinning “Broken Lady.” The hits continued throughout the rest of the decade, with seven more number one songs: “I Don’t Wanna Cry,” “I Just Wish You Were Someone I Love,” “Statues Without Hearts,” “Love Is Just A Game,” “All The Gold in California,” “Houston (Means I’m One Day Closer To You)” and “Night Time Magic.” In addition to being inducted into the Grand Ole Opry, 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 them, too,” Gatlin said.

So, as the Gatlin brothers close out one chapter of their lives, they are looking forward to the next one. “We’re not cutting back because we can’t draw a crowd or that we can’t sing anymore. Today, we sound just like we did 40 years ago.... pretty dadburn good,” Larry Gatlin said. “We’re not being run out of the business; we’re not going broke. We’re not down to bread and milk money. We just think it’s time to do some other things, 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.”

The Gatlin brothers will soon release a new gospel album on Curb Records, titled, Larry Gatlin & the Gatlin Brothers 60th Anniversary Celebration. “We were going to call the album, The Gospel

According to Gatlin because some of the new songs are a little edgy, a little bit different,” Gatlin said. “Then we realized it was our 60th anniversary, so we went with that as the title.” And, speaking of edgy, “Steve and Rudy and I didn’t get where we are by playing it safe,” he said. “We have always pushed the envelope, we have always crossed borders others were afraid to cross and we’re not going to stop now. It’s some fun. I think Christians can still have fun and that is the Gospel According to Gatlin.”

While many siblings don’t even live in the same state, Gatlin said he and his brothers work together very professionally. “We get along amazingly well,” he said, “even with the family dynamic. We have a love of God and of each other.”

Gatlin said those who attend the Sweet Corn Festival show can expect to hear all the classic Gatlin Brothers songs they know and love, even with a new album coming out soon. “They’re going to hear the hit songs,” he said. “Maybe just a couple new ones. And, they’re going to laugh and giggle.” Gatlin said he and his brothers are always very interactive with the audience and try to make audience members feel like they’re part of the show. He said a Gatlin Brothers’ audience never needs to worry; after putting on show after show for 60 years, he and his brothers know how to entertain a crowd. “It ain’t rocket surgery,” he said.

Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers will appear at the Millersport Sweet Corn Festival at 8:30 p.m.

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