Legendary country stars to appear at Renfro Valley April 27
By John Herndon, KentuckySings.com
Long before All the Gold in California was in a bank in the middle of Beverly Hills, The Gatlin Brothers were probably singing about walking on golden streets.
Before Houston was One Day Closer, they were undoubtedly singing about Heaven being the land of 10,000 years. You just know they were.
“We grew up around gospel music,” Rudy Gatlin said Thursday. “I started singing in church when I was two-and-a-half years old. That was 64 years ago in 1955.”
Larry, Steve and Rudy, The Gatlin Brothers, as they are now billed, will be visiting Renfro Valley on Saturday, April 27 for a night of that distinctive harmony that came together in the Gatlins’ west Texas home.
“My mother and father would take us to the gospel concerts. We would go see The Blackwood Brothers or The Statesmen,” Rudy remembers. “We bought their records and would come home to play them. We’d sing along with the records. That’s how we learned to sing.”
According to the group’s website (www.gatlinbrothers.com), the boys sang while their parents accompanied on piano and guitar. Eventually the boys won a talent contest in Abilene and were on their way to becoming one of country music’s most successful acts of the last 40 years.
(A younger sister, LaDonna, also sang with the brothers before they moved to Nashville. She decided to “sing a different song,” and become a professional speaker, according to her website, http://www.ladonnagatlin.com.)
The Gatlins will be returning to Renfro Valley for what has become an almost annual visit in recent years. “We will keep coming as long as they will have us,” Rudy says.
The group’s popularity suggests those trips to Rockcastle County will continue well into the future. The string of country hits, including their signature “All the Gold in California,” “Broken Lady” and “I Just Wish You Were Someone I Love” are undoubtedly what draws the crowds, but the gospel roots are deep and wide.
According to sghistory.com, Larry Gatlin sang with the Imperials, backing up Jimmy Dean in Las Vegas for about a month. At the time, the Imperials were one of the hottest names in gospel music, but Larry never recorded an album with the Hall of Fame group.
While working in Vegas, however, Larry met country superstar Dottie West, who became influential in getting Larry to Nashville. There, he worked closely with Kris Kristoffersen, according to http://www.gatlinbrothers.com.
When Steve and Rudy both graduated from Texas Tech, they joined Larry in Nashville. The country music hits flowed but gospel has stayed in their blood.
“Some of the most wonderful songs ever written are gospel songs: “How Great Thou Art,” “Amazing Grace,” “He Touched Me,” Rudy says.
Rudy says the group often sings some of their gospel songs like my personal favorite “Light at the End of the Darkness,” and “Played in the Band, Sang in the Choir.” He says they sing “Help Me,” which Larry debuted on Johnny Cash’s “The Gospel Road” album, at nearly every concert. The Gatlin Brothers also sang it at June Carter Cash’s funeral.
“We started out singing gospel and it’s very dear to our hearts,” Rudy says. “We had a great time doing the project with Bill Gaither.”
That project, recorded with the Gaither Vocal Band and The Oak Ridge Boys at the Gaither Studios in Alexandria, Indiana, became two CD’s, “Country Roots and Gospel Favorites” and “A Few Good Men” along with a DVD. Among the songs in the collection are classics like “I’ll Fly Away” and “Life’s Railway to Heaven.”
The CDs contain four songs written by Larry Gatlin, including the popular “Prodigal Son.” Another song was penned by Larry Gatlin along with Bill and Gloria Gaither.
Rudy says “Loving God, Loving Each Other” is one of his favorites from the album, while longtime gospel fans will undoubtedly love “Sheltered in the Arms of God” featuring solos from Larry Gatlin, the Oak Ridge Boys’ Duane Allen and the late Ben Speer.
“We had been talking about doing that for several years,” Rudy says. “Then Duane booked it with Bill Gaither four or five months in advance and we just did it.”
The Gatlins last solo album was also a Christian work, “The Gospel According to Gatlin,” released in 2016. The CD includes a “Clean,” which the Gaithers recorded, along with “Thank God Mary Loved her Unborn Child” and “An American with a Remington,” which political conservatives would enjoy.
Larry, Steve and Rudy don’t travel as extensively as they once did but they stay busy with appearances at the Grand Ole Opry and Opry Classics. Rudy says they are involved in other projects as well.
Rudy had shoulder surgery early this week but says he will be ready to go at Renfro Valley. “I am going on the Opry Classics (at the Ryman Auditorium) tonight!” he laughed. “I am convalescing but I will be ready.”
Renfro Valley will be ready as well.
Larry, Steve and Rudy, The Gatlin Brothers will appear at Renfro Valley Entertainment Center on April 27 at 8 p.m., Eastern time. Ticket prices are listed at $40, 42 and 45. As of April 19, tickets were still available for the show.