Mistake leads to Ďgoldíen career


May 16, 2017

 From left, Steve Gatlin, Larry Gatlin and Rudy Gatlin of the Gatlin Brothers perform the National Anthem on June 11, 2015, at LP Field at the CMA Music Festival in Nashville, Tenn.
Associated Press

Still to this day, Larry Gatlin is thankful he was mistaken for someone else.

In 1971, while auditioning for The Imperials, who went on to play in Jimmy Deanís Las Vegas Revue, Gatlin caught the attention of country singer Dottie West, because she thought he looked like county singer and songwriter Mickey Newbury.

What West found out about Gatlin was he was an immensely talented singer and songwriter from Texas, who later penned several of her songs, including "Youíre the Other Half of Me" and "Once You Were Mine."

So impressed and convinced of Gatlinís talent, West issued several copies of Gatlinís demo tapes throughout Nashville and arranged for the twentysomething Texan to move to Music City, even buying him a plane ticket.

West struck gold with Gatlin, who was later joined by his brothers, Steve and Rudy, to form the country music trio Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers.

On Friday, Larry will perform a single solo show at 7:30 p.m. at the Marcus Center in downtown Milwaukee.

He is excited to return to Milwaukee.

"I love (Milwaukee)," Larry said. "I was a big Milwaukee Braves fan.

I can remember the starting infield, maybe all of them.

"Letís see ó Del Crandall, Warren Spahn, Joe Adcock, Eddie Mathews, Hank Aaron, Wes Covington ... pretty good, huh?"

He loved the Braves because his grandfather taught him how to play baseball and grandpa loved Warren Spahn.

"Very early on, maybe fifth or sixth grade, I read his biography about how he tore up his arm and that he thought he wasnít going to pitch again," Larry said.

Larry added he also loved playing at Summerfest.

"Itís a wonderful city," Larry said. "I have a lot of Wisconsin roots."

Recently, Larry has been dealing with a sore throat, but he promises heíll be ready to belt out the legendary tunes fans came to adore from him and his brothers. Those hits include chart-toppers "All the Gold in California," "Houston (Means Iím One Day Closer To You)" and

"I Just Wish You Were Someone I Love," plus "Talkiní to the Moon,"

"The Lady Takes the Cowboy All the Time" and "Broken Lady."

Larry learned early on he had a love for singing, often popping a nickel into the jukebox at the local steakhouse and singing along to songs like "Hey Good Lookiní" by Hank Williams. And people took notice. Thatís how he knew he had something to offer.

"I loved it," Larry said.

Larry and his brothers often sang gospel music at their local church and performed on local radio and television shows. One year, the brothers beat out Roy Orbison in a local talent contest.

Soon after meeting West, Larry found work as a background singer for Kris Kristofferson.

In 1973, Larry signed with Monument Records. In 1974, he had his first top-20 hit, "Delta Dirt." In 1975, he had his first top-five hit with "Broken Lady," winning a Grammy for Best Country Song. The following year, he had his second top-five hit with "Statues without Hearts."

Larryís first No. 1 was in 1978, "I Just Wish You Were Someone I Love."

"I love to write songs," Larry said. "Thatís why Iím here. Thatís the joy of my life. The fact people will pay their hard-earned money to hear me do it is a great blessing. Iím honored. Itís the best job in the world."

In 1979, Larry signed with Columbia Records and his brothers joined the mix. They were an immediate success.

The first single the brothers released reached No. 1, "All the Gold in California."

Also that year, they won three trophies from the Academy of Country Music ó Single of the Year ("All the Gold in California") and Album of the Year ("Straight Ahead"), and Larry won Male Vocalist of the Year.

The trio went on to record 33 top-40 hits, including eight No. 1 singles, and Larry wrote all 33 of them.

"Larry will forever be grateful to Dottie West, for her assistance and guidance in helping him come to Nashville and start writing and recording songs," said Bonnie Brozik, Larryís assistant.

Brozik added Larry is also grateful for the opportunity to achieve chart-topping success with his brothers.

"Larry has always been grateful for his success and in awe of the places they visited and the people they met, and especially, the friends they made," Brozik said. "Family has always been the most important thing to Larry. He loves nothing more than singing with his brothers, to this day."

As for the audition? Well, Larry didnít land the gig. But things still worked out quite well for him and his brothers.

"We knew we were given an ability by God and we tried to use it for a story and make a living," Larry said. "Itís worked out real well."

Reach Nicholas Dettmann at ndettmann@conleynet.com or 262-306-5043.