The Gatlin Brothers first started singing in Abilene, Texas, in 1955, when Larry was 6, Steve was 4, and Rudy was 2. In the 1970s, they saw their star rise as one of the hottest acts in country music, with hits like “All the Gold in California” and “Houston.” They toured through the 1980s and ‘90s, then took a break from the road as each went his own way in different aspects of the entertainment industry. In the 2000s, they reunited on a limited schedule, and, now, in honor of their 60th anniversary, they’ve released a new album, The Gospel According to Gatlin, featuring “An American with A Remington.” Grand Ole Opry show host Juliette Vara caught up with the brothers for a look at what made them the men they are today.
You currently live in Nashville, and your career has taken you all over the world. If you can identify one spot or scenario that makes you feel “right at home,” what is it?
Larry: When I am sitting in my leather chair in my man cave in our beautiful home in Nashville, I feel at home. Thank you God and Janis [his wife] for our beautiful home. The only other place on Earth where I feel perfectly at home is on stage at the Ryman, the “Mother Church of Country Music.” I also feel at home on stage at the Grand Ole Opry House, but it’s like this: many years ago, when we were kids, my brother Rudy asked our mother, “Mom, do you love me as much as you love Larry?” Our mom replied, “Rudy, I love you as much as I love Larry, I’ve just loved Larry longer.” That’s the way I feel about the Ryman and the Opry House.
The other place I feel perfectly at home is anywhere from Texarkana to El Paso, Amarillo to Houston, or any place in between north, south, east, or west.
This year you were invited to share the stage with Brad Paisley at The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo to perform your hit, “Houston,” to 70,000 fans. What did that invitation mean to you?
Rudy: It was such a nice gesture on Brad’s part to invite us to join him to sing our song. It was such a thrill, just like old times. I hope we’ve paid homage and honored those who blazed the trail for us like Brad and other young guns in country music are doing now.
The Gatlin Brothers were inducted into the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame this year. We hear you have somecowboy stories of your own from the famed Waggoner Ranch?
Rudy: Oh yeah, I got paid $35 for a half day of cowboyin’. We branded, vaccinated, dehorned, and cut them, too. That’s a pretty tough 30 seconds for those young bulls. I never even cashed the check. I put it in a picture frame along with some pictures of us working those cows. There’s also a picture of us playing penny ante poker with the cowboys in the bunk house.
Larry: My life is better because I knew Ross Malone, his son Don, my brother-in-law, Paul Whitley, and Red Steagall. The times I’ve spent with these men chasing “blues and bobwhites” on the Waggoner have made me a better man.
It’s interesting to note that all three of you were proud Quarter Horse owners. What’s the draw to that particular breed?
Rudy: I love the Quarter Horse because it’s the choice of real cowboys on real ranches working cattle. The Quarter Horse is a smart, very trainable, enjoyable ride, and a beautiful piece of horseflesh. We owned Poco Pete out of Poco Bueno, the great cutting horse from the Waggoner. They are a pleasure to watch when someone who really knows his stuff works them in a round pen doing figure 8s or in an arena in a competition cutting calves from the herd. Mercy, what a sight.
Mixing business with family can be dangerous territory, but 60-some years later, you’re still successfully harmonizing together. What’s the secret to your bond all these years?
Steve: We love God, country, and the music we are making. Creating something from nothing and then watching people enjoy what you do is very satisfying. It’s been used many, many times, but we have learned when to give each other space. We get reinforcement every night from fans saying we are singing better than ever. Our music means something to them and has helped many folks along the way. That keeps me going since I feel I’m helping someone with this journey.
You were discovered as little boys in Abilene and raised in Odessa. Can you share one trait or value you attribute to being born and raised in the Lone Star State?
Larry: Get your hands on something! In other words, get off your butt and go to work. That’s the oil field way and that’s the Cowboy Way.
You recently released a new single and video called “An American With A Remington,” which sends a strong, convincing message to terrorists. What message do you hope Americans take from the lyrics?
Rudy: I hope all Americans will come together and rally around the flag when it comes to protecting ourselves, our freedom, and our way of life. They can’t take it unless we let them. I for one, will not. I honor the Constitution and the 2nd Amendment in particular. There are two kinds of Americans when really threatened: one who is armed, and one who wishes he were.
Can you share a piece of advice you think sums up life or a life lesson?
Steve: Do not withhold good when it is within your power to give.