Larry Gatlin is
best-known for his '80s hits with the Gatlin Brothers, but prior to forming and
leading that family trio, he enjoyed a successful solo career with occasional
support from his brothers. Gatlin was born in Seminole, TX, in 1948, and raised
on country gospel music. He and his brothers, Steve and Rudy, often sang
together in church, as well as on local radio and television every once in a
while. After high school, Gatlin enrolled at the University of Houston, where he
joined a gospel group called the Imperials. The Imperials went on to perform in
Jimmy Dean's Las Vegas revue, where Gatlin met Dottie West. Impressed by his
songwriting, West recorded two of his compositions, "You're the Other Half of Me"
and "Once You Were Mine"; not only that, she also passed his demo tape around
Nashville. Gatlin quickly found work as a backup singer for Kris Kristofferson,
and not long after, he landed a solo deal with Monument in 1973.
Gatlin issued his debut album "The Pilgrim" later that year, and it produced his first charting country single, "Sweet Becky Walker," which inched into the Top 40. 1974's "Delta Dirt" was his first Top 20 hit, taken from the album "Rain Rainbow". Gatlin's brothers first made their presence felt on his third album, 1976's Larry Gatlin With Family & Friends, which gave him his first Top Five hit in "Broken Lady." Sometimes accompanied by his brothers, Gatlin scored three more Top Five singles in 1977 ("I Don't Wanna Cry," "Love Is Just a Game," and "Statues Without Hearts"), and in 1978 scored his first number one, "I Just Wish You Were Someone I Love." When Gatlin left Monument for Columbia in 1979, he started crediting the Gatlin Brothers Band on all of his recordings, starting with that year's number one smash "All the Gold in California" (Lloyd played on that one!). Although the group's subsequent releases had several variations on the Gatlin Brothers name, and often billed Larry out front, it was all essentially Gatlin Brothers music from then on.