Grammy-winning musician Larry Gatlin authored chart-topping country songs including “All the Gold in California,” and “Houston (Means I’m One Day Closer to You).” He was encouraged and inspired by greats including Johnny Cash, Fred Foster, and Kris Kristofferson, and he sang in rich harmony with his brothers Rudy and Steve. On this episode of Voices in the Hall, Gatlin talks about his heady early days, his problematic relationships with fame and creativity, and his creative influences.
Peter on Episode 10: Larry Gatlin
Larry Gatlin is a live wire.
He has been from the beginnings of his Nashville career, when singing star (and, now, Country Music Hall of Fame member) Dottie West recognized his talent and helped him to move to Music City. In his early Tennessee days, Gatlin’s songs and singing caught the ears of Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, publishing great Bob Beckham, and others, and he was soon making solo albums and recording with his siblings, Rudy and Steve, as The Gatlin Brothers.
The Brothers’ harmonies are instantly identifiable and nearly universally pleasing, so much so that the sonics of hits like “All the Gold in California,” “Houston,” and “I Just Wish You Were Someone I Love” distracted attention away from the fact that Larry was writing these songs on his own. Looking to Kristofferson and Mickey Newbury for inspiration and encouragement, Gatlin quickly found his own style as a songwriter, and he and his brothers worked the road for all it was worth. And if it wasn’t worth all the gold in California, it still brought in a gleaming chunk of change.
Gatlin’s fifty years in the spotlight involved great achievement and some missteps, and he is as honest about the latter as he is proud of the former. Substance abuse problems are good for sparking live wires, Gatlin was never known for pulling punches, and as best as any of us can tell he’s been outspoken since the day he learned to speak. I’m not sure that he’s ever mellowed, but the Larry Gatlin of today blends brash proclamation with honest reflection, and his fierce intellect and unabashed love of creation make him one of the most enjoyable people to talk with in Nashville.
If you ever see him around Nashville, see if you can talk him into letting you buy him a cup of coffee and chatting awhile. Heck, buy him two cups. But no more than that. After all, the guy’s a live wire. While you’re waiting on that caffeinated conversation, here’s a Voices in the Hall episode loaded with history, humor, and first-hand reflections on the giants who once walked Nashville’s sidewalks and alleys.
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