It was on Christmas day in 1976, that Larry, Steve and Rudy, the Gatlin Brothers, became members of the Grand Ole Opry. Here is a short biography of brothers:
Raised in a musical family, the Gatlin Brothers were joined by their sister LaDonna, who sang on several Gatlin albums through 1976. The boys and their sister grew up on the gospel harmonies of the Blackwood Brothers and the Statesmen Quartet. The brothers first performed in public at the 1954 Gavalcade of Talent at Hardin-Simmons University when Larry was six, Steve was four, and Rudy was two. They later sang on Abilene radio and had an Abilene TV series.
Larry won a football scholarship to the University of Houston, where he majored in English and studied law. He later worked various jobs and sang with the gospel group the Imperials. While touring with the Imperials in 1972, he met Dottie West in Las Vegas. After he later sent her a tape containing eight original songs, West sent him an airplane ticket to Nashville. A few months later he moved to Nashville permanently. In 1973 Larry and Rita Coolidge provided backing vocals for Kris Kristofferson's #1 record "Why Me." In the same year Larry charted for the first time with his Monument Records single "Sweet Becky Walker."
Before joining Larry, Steve and Rudy were members of Young Country, as were LaDonna and her husband Tim Johnson, which was a group that provided background vocals for Tammy Wynette. Larry's career with his brothers featured smooth country stylings and went through several name incarnations (Larry Gatlin; Larry Gatlin with Family and Friends; Larry Gatlin & the Gatlin Brothers, etc.) They won a Grammy in 1976 for "Broken Lady" and reached #1 in 1977 with "I Just Wish You Were Someone I Love." After switching from Monument to Columbia, they again hit #1 with "All the Gold in California." (1979) and "Houston (Means I'm One Day Closer to You)" (1983). In 1989 the Gatlins moved from Columbia to Jimmy Bowen's new Universal Records, then to Captial Records when Bowen took over the helm of that label.
Besides writing his own hits, Larry's songs have been cut by such artists as Elvis Presley, Hank Snow, Dottie West, Barbra Streisand, Charlie Rich, Johnny Mathis, the Carpenters, Judy Collins, Tom Jones, Anne Murray, and Johnny Cash.
Drug addiction led Larry to a California treatment center, where he made a recovery in 1984. He has since lectured on the dangers of alcohol and drug abuse. The Gatlin Brothers have performed at the invitations of Presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and George Bush.
Larry Gatlin especially, has had a very solid career as the front man of the group and as a songwriter. It would not surprise me to some day see him in the Country Music Hall of Fame. I do have a couple of impressions of the Gatlin Brothers. My first one is when I watch the Time/Life infomercials featuring country music's greatest hits, they will many times show Tammy Wynette singing, usually in a clip from Nashville Now. And in the background, you will see Rudy doing the vocals. My second is that I remember in the early 1970s when Larry was touring with Johnny Cash as his opening act. During that time period, Johnny was helping out a lot of young writers and Larry contibuted a couple of songs to the Johnny Cash album "Gospel Road."
Since joining the Grand Ole Opry on December 25, 1976, Larry has appeared many times on the Opry stage as a solo act. I know for a period of time, the group had basically broken up. They have gotten back together in recent years and have performed in Branson in additon to taking their show on the road.
To honor Larry Gatlin on his 35 years as an Opry member, here is the line up from Saturday December 25, 1976, when Larry Gatlin & The Gatlin Brothers joined the Opry.
Bill Monroe (host): Love Come Home
Ray Pillow: Love is Slowly Coming Over Me
Marion Worth: Just a Little Lovin'
David "Lonzo" Hooten: If We Make it Through December
Bill Monroe: Bluegrass Breakdown
Ernie Ashworth: Shamrock Hotel
Bill Monroe: Mule Skinner Blues/Ashland Breakdown
6:30: Mrs. Grissoms
Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper (host): Forgive and Forget Us
Charlie Louvin: Let's Put Our World Back Together Again/A Toast to Mama/Love Has to Die All By Itself/I Ain't Gonna Work Tomorrow/I Want A Happy Life
Del Wood: There's A Big Wheel
Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper: Philadelphia Lawyer
Ernest Tubb (host): Women Make a Fool out of Me
Skeeter Davis: Desperado
Billy Grammer: My Life's Been A Pleasure
Ernest Tubb: Another Story
Roy Acuff (host): Wabash Cannonball
Charlie Walker: Pick Me Up On Your Way Down
Minnie Pearl: Comedy/Thinking Tonight of My Blue Eyes
Jimmy C. Newman: Blue Lonely Winter
Stu Phillips: Have a Nice Day
7:30: Standard Candy
Porter Wagoner (host): Wake Up Jacob
Dottie West: Country Sunshine
Justin Tubb: You Nearly Lose Your Mind
Crook Brothers/Stoney Mountain Cloggers: Black Mountain Rag
LARRY GATLIN & THE GATLIN BROTHERS: BROKEN LADY/STATUES WITHOUT HEARTS
Porter Wagoner: Happy Birthday Jesus
8:00: Martha White
Lester Flatt (host): Shuckin' the Corn
Jack Greene: You Don't Need a Cowboy
Jeannie Seely: Mama Never Told Me About Cowboys
Vic Willis: Christmas Carols by the Old Corral
Lester Flatt: Corn, Corn, Corn
Bob Luman: A Satisfied Mind
Jack Greene: There Goes My Everything
Lester Flatt & Charlie Nixon: Dobro Instrumental
Hank Snow (host): I'm Moving On
Jeanne Pruett: Satin Sheets
Stonewall Jackson: Don't Be Angry
The Carlisles: I've Waited Too Long
Jim & Jesse: Then I'll Stop Going For You
Fruit Jar Drinkers/Stoney Mountain Cloggers: Bill Cheatham
Hank Snow: Christmas Roses
Ernest Tubb (host): I'll Get Along Somehow
Charlie Louvin: Sweet Texas
Skeeter Davis: The End of the World
Wayne Hammond: Welcome to My World
David "Lonzo" Hooten: Daddy Looked a Lot Like Santa
Billy Grammer: I Dreamed of an Old Love Affair
Ernest Tubb: Blue Christmas
Bill Monroe (host): A Beautiful Life
Ray Pillow: Gone at Last
Ernie Ashworth: My Love Will Never Change
Del Wood: My Country
10:15: Union 76
Roy Acuff (host): Old Time Sunshine Song
Marion Worth: Just a Little Lovin
Charlie Walker: Who'll Buy the Wine
Onie Wheeler: Old Roy
Lester Flatt (host): Why Do You Wander
Jack Greene: Birmingham
Jeannie Seely: American Trilogy
Jimmy C Newman: The Potato Song
Lester Flatt & Marty Stuart: Rawhide
Porter Wagoner (host): Highway Headed South
Justin Tubb: Sweetwater Texas
LARRY GATLIN: STATUES WITHOUT HEARTS/ALLELUJAH
Crook Brothers/Stoney Mountain Cloggers: 8th of January
Porter Wagoner: Happy Birthday Jesus
Hank Snow (host): Lester, The Long Eared Christmas Donkey
Bob Luman: Blue Christmas
Vic Willis: Cool Water
Fruit Jar Drinkers/Stoney Mountain Cloggers: Katy Hill
Kirk McGee: Always Be Kind to Daddy
Hank Snow: Silent Night
11:30: Baltz Bros.
Marty Robbins (host): Don't Worry
Jeanne Pruett: Satin Sheets
Bill Carlisle: Have a Drink on Me
Marty Robbins: El Paso City/Love Me/Among My Souveniers/Way Out There/El Paso
Talk about a great line up for a Christmas night show!!!!