On Christmas night, December 25, 1976, Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers, Steve and Rudy, became members of the Grand Ole Opry. To the best of my knowledge, they are the only Opry members to have joined on Christmas day. Larry was, and still is, a great songwriter and it was that talent that led him to Nashville. Larry started on his own, but wanted to work with his brothers, which led to him writing his own material.
They had their 1st #1 record in 1976 with "Broken Lady." Their hits continued through the rest of the 1970's and 1980's. As their recording careers stalled out, Larry went his separate ways from Steve and Rudy and began to do solo projects. They reunited in 2002 and then again in 2009 with tours and recordings.
Larry was close to Johnny Cash, and in fact, named one of his children after John. Much like John, Larry also battled a serious drug problem, that after treatment, he was able to overcome.
As far as the Opry, Larry has made many solo appearances over the years as well as with his brothers. In 2009, Larry became the main host for the Opry Country Classics show on Thursday nights, and he does a great job. His brothers join him on occasion. Like many others, when Larry first joined the Opry, he appeared on a somewhat regular basis. As the years went on, his appearances became more infrequent. In fact, from 2000 thru 2008, prior to when he started to host the classics show, he appeared on the Opry a total of 9 times. While he has a regular hosting job with the classics program, he still makes very few Saturday night appearances. But, at least he has re-established his relationship with the Opry.
Here is the line-up from Christmas night, December 25, 1976, when The Gatlin Brothers became official members of the Grand Ole Opry.
6:00: Bill Monroe(host); Ray Pillow; Marion Worth; Lonzo; Ernie Ashworth
6:30: Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper(host); Charlie Louvin; Del Wood
6:45: Ernest Tubb(host); Skeeter Davis; Billy Grammer
7:00: Roy Acuff(host); Charlie Walker; Minnie Pearl; Jimmy C. Newman; Stu Phillips
7:30: Porter Wagoner(host); Dottie West; Justin Tubb; The Gatlins; Crook Brothers; Opry Square Dancers
8:00: Lester Flatt(host); Jack Greene; Jeannie Seely; Vic Willis; Bob Luman
8:30: Hank Snow(host); Jeanne Pruett; Stonewall Jackson; Carlisles; Jim & Jesse; Fruit Jar Drinkers
9:30: Charlie Louvin(host); Ernest Tubb; Skeeter Davis; Lonzo; Billy Grammer
10:00: Bill Monroe(host); Ray Pillow; Ernie Ashworth; Del Wood
10:15: Roy Acuff(host); Marion Worth; Charlie Walker
10:30: Lester Flatt(host); Jack Greene; Jeannie Seely; Jimmy C. Newman
10:45: Porter Wagoner(host); Justin Tubb; The Gatlins; Crook Brothers; Opry Square Dancers
11:00: Hank Snow(host); Bob Luman; Vic Willis; Fruit Jar Drinkers; Kirk McGee
11:30: Marty Robbins(host); Jeanne Pruett; Carlisles
Yes, this was the period of time when the 1st Opry show started at 6:00 and was a 3 hour show. It's kind of funny that during the winter months, they would sometimes do a 3 hour Saturday night first show because so many Opry members were in town and wanted to be on. During the summer, they would go back to starting at 6:30. Also, I have the square dancers listed. I am not sure if it was the Bill Jones Promenadors, The Tennessee Travelers or The Stoney Mountain Cloggers that were on this particular week. What a line-up!!!