Country music legend Larry Gatlin to perform in Glens Falls March 12

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Larry Gatlin

It’s not often someone is able to talk one-on-one with a member of country music’s history but that’s exactly what I did on Friday, March 3. That person is Larry Gatlin of the famed Gatlin Brothers Band.

Larry, along with brothers Rudy and Steve, has a list of number-one hits as long as their home state of Texas is wide.

Not only an award-winning performer, Larry is also a prolific songwriter (a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame), a college football player at the University of Houston, an instructor in music theory and writing at the University of Texas in Odessa, an avid golfer, brother, husband, father and grandfather.

To say the least, he leads a versatile life. When asked about it, Larry said “that is just the way I am wired.” He credits his lifetime of accomplishments to having some great teachers, from school in his hometown of Abilene, Texas through university, and in the music industry itself. He also said “I am a great listener and I observe not just watch people and I learn. I have been blessed with some talent that I have been able to share throughout my life.”

Why they sound so good together

Anyone who has ever listened to the Gatlin Brothers is struck by their beautiful harmony. We asked Larry why that is. He believes it comes from two things. First, how close the brothers are: “We are each other’s best friends, and that works because we give each other space.” Being just a few years apart in age and each loving to sing, they began to perform early in their lives, and that he said helped form a spiritual bond. The other reason for that special sound is that they are family. It creates a resonance in their voices that perhaps only siblings can create. “Our voices vibrate on the same wave length.”

What’s the key to songwriting?

According to Larry, most songs come from some sort of personal experience. Larry has written all the brothers’ hits and one that perhaps stands out as a lament of sorts about life on the road performing is their number-one ballad “Houston.”

Larry said he wrote the lyrics while they were traveling from a show in Nebraska to another in Cheyenne, Wyoming. After that, they had one more stop on the tour and then home. Thus, the line, “Cheyenne means I’m one day closer to you.” Uh? Cheyenne? That is not how I remember it. Larry said you can thank brother Steve for the idea to change it to Houston, which was their final and largest stop. It was a showstopper, and the rest is history. As to writing music, Larry said to draw on your personal experiences but mostly, listen to yourself.

Solitude can help. Another great songwriter, Gordon Lightfoot, used to rent a bleak apartment in Toronto, lock himself away from the world and just write. Larry said he does something similar, escaping to his man cave in his Tennessee home, picking up his guitar and working on a song idea for hours or maybe just 15 minutes. It is all in how the mood fits him now.

He also likes to travel to a cabin on a remote golf course in Nebraska where he will set up various objects on the porch, stare at them and see how they come together. This he says helps bring his random thoughts on a musical piece together as well.

Besides writing for himself and his brothers, Larry has penned music later recorded by Elvis Presley, Glen Campbell, Barbra Streisand, Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, Barry Gibb, Ray Price, Tom Jones, Roy Orbison, Johnny Mathis, Dottie West and many more.

It is not all country music

Larry has spent time performing on Broadway as the star in the musical “The Will Rogers Follies.” It was a role he loved, and he said he was crushed when the show closed. In 2017 he wrote and starred in “Quanah,” the story of Quanah Parker, the last Comanche Indian chief. He hopes to bring this back to the stage this year.

What keeps the brothers going ?

According to Larry, the answer is the music itself. He told NYVT Mediathey have had the pleasure to be around some of the greatest musicians in the world and they all share that love of performing, that feeling of actually joining with their audiences, as if the music and the people become as one.

The Gatlin Brothers perform about 100 shows a year, and Larry has his solo career on top of that. Larry says his own children really have not gravitated to the music industry, although he describes his daughter as a great vocalist who will sometimes fill in when brother Rudy is not available. But watch out world. He has three grandsons who are about 2,4 and 6 years old who love to sing together. Could we be looking at an early version of the Gatlin Brothers II?

Larry Gatlin is performing at the Wood Theater in Glens Falls on Sunday, March 12, at 3 p.m.