• August 2, 2020

Gatlin Brothers celebrate 65 years - Odessa American: Local News

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Gatlin Brothers celebrate 65 years

Odessans have had successful career

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  • Hometown Heroes

    The Gatlin Brothers — from left, Steve, Larry and Rudy — embark on their 65th year of performing together on July 25 at Franklin Theatre in Franklin, Tennessee. While limited seating for the performance has already sold out, “Gatlin Brothers Fan Favorites” will be available via livestream through www.franklintheatre.com.

Posted: Sunday, July 19, 2020 4:30 am

Larry, Steve and Rudy Gatlin have created harmonies together since childhood, and they’re still going strong after nearly seven decades.

While the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted plans for a big 65th anniversary tour, the sibling trio will embark on a more modest schedule later this month with a performance at the historic Franklin Theatre in Franklin, Tenn.

“We’ve had an incredible, wonderful career, met a lot of great folks, sung in a lot of great places,” Rudy Gatlin, who is producing the event, said via phone. “We’re still very blessed to be able to sing a little bit, and I’m glad. I could do some other stuff, but I don’t want to have to go back to doing it. I like doing this. It’s been pretty good to us.”

“Gatlin Brothers Fan Favorites” is scheduled at 8 p.m. Saturday. While attendance was limited to 70 in the 462-seat theater and those tickets have already sold out, the program is also being livestreamed. Tickets for the streaming are available for $20 at www.franklintheatre.com.

Streaming is a concept Rudy Gatlin has been considering for a decade, and he said the timing was finally right to make it happen.

“We did a concert at a racetrack at Bristol, Tennessee,” Gatlin said. “The guy said, ‘Don’t worry about the 200 people in the stands, I’m streaming this online.’ I thought he said a couple of million people watched it and thought ‘What?!’ At that time, there was 700 million people on Facebook, and he was streaming it or trying to develop the livestream platform for Facebook. He never got that done and they subsequently did something else and I guess that turned into FacebookLive.

“Off and on for the last 10 years, I have looked at venues, I’ve looked at livestream platforms, I’ve looked at camera people, audio people, the back office that takes the credit cards and sets up the codes to sign up and stuff. I’ve looked at so many different possibilities. The timing of this also was important. Before, everybody was like, ‘Well, nobody’s going to sit at home and watch a concert. They won’t pay for it.’”

Gatlin said the loss of most of the group’s summer schedule to the pandemic made streaming an attractive option.

“All of our March through August dates were rescheduled to next year,” he said. “We’re going to have dates from August to December that we hope to get to do on the road. But if we get shut completely down again, this thing is really going to make more sense. For 20 bucks, you can watch it live. It is not taped.”

Among the rescheduled shows was one in August at the Wagner Noël Performing Arts Center, which just happened to free up Gatlin, a 1970 Odessa High graduate (Larry is Class of ’66, Steve is Class of ’69) for his 50th class reunion in August. The Wagner Noël performance was pushed back a year to Aug. 20, 2021, which will be Rudy’s 69th birthday.

“I like blue, I’m an XL, a size 11 shoe, a 44-Long if you want to bring something to my birthday party,” he quipped.

The Gatlin Brothers first performed in a talent show in Abilene before moving to Odessa in 1957. They performed mostly gospel, sometimes forming a quartet with their younger sister, LaDonna, who went on to achieve success as a gospel artist.

Through it all, Odessa remains a special place for Gatlin.

“I really enjoy getting back there because it’s where we were raised and it’s home,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of good friends out there. It’s a great place.”

In addition to singing, Rudy played Little League baseball on a team sponsored by the Odessa American, worked a series of jobs and played quarterback at Odessa High under coach Joe Means.

“I can run 14 option if they’ll get in that stacked backfield,” Gatlin said. “I still remember every play we ever had and how to run ’em. Go Bronchos!”

Along the way, the brothers won a talent show at Ector County Coliseum against a field that included the Wink Westerners and lead singer Roy Orbison. First prize that night was a Shetland pony.

“The meanest animal God ever put on the face of this earth,” Gatlin said. “We put him in the back yard. You know, it just doesn't take a Shetland pony long to mess up a back yard, and I had a big, ol’ shovel and bucket to prove it.

“(Orbison) won dinner for four over at the Blue Star in Midland, which I think was a much better deal.”

Gatlin said the format for the July 25 performance will differ from a typical Gatlin Brothers concert.

“We are going to do ‘All the Gold,’ but we’re not going to do ‘Houston,’ ‘Broken Lady,’ all those other hits you hear,” he said. “We’re going to do the ones you don’t get to hear that people will holler up during a show.

“We’re going to do 10, 11, 12 of those most-requested songs through the years. Those are going to be like ‘Midnight Choir,’ ‘Sweet Becky Walker,’ ‘Love Is Just A Game.’ We had 30 or 40 Top 10 records — ‘I Might Be What You’re Looking For,’ ‘Love Of A Lifetime,’ ‘She Used to Sing on Sunday.’”

It’s a playlist the brothers are looking forward to performing.

“It’s going to be fun for us because we haven’t sung these songs in years,” Gatlin said. “But those are the ones we’re going to do, 8 o’clock July 25. Go to franklintheatre.com and get your tickets and get your family together. Some people will hook their Internet up to a big-screen TV, have the friends and neighbors over and have a party. For 20 bucks.”

The Gatlin Brothers’ catalogue of material, all composed by Larry, is sufficient enough they can do similar performance with little repetition.

“We can do this again in about three months,” Rudy said. “We’ve got 30 albums. We’ve got a whole bunch of other fan favorites that we don’t do and won’t have time to get around to in this show.

“Mac McAnally has a show on July 31 and then the Franklin Theatre is shutting down for the rest of the year. Let’s see how this goes and maybe we might be able to open back up for Fan Favorites Volume 2 in about three months, and maybe a Christmas show later. I might livestream a Christmas show.”

And streaming show will be part of Gatlin Brothers performances in the future.

“It’s the way of the world or however you want to say it,” Gatlin said. “It’s what we’ve got to work with. It’s the way of the future and will be for some time, especially if we really get theaters and festivals and fairs and live performances if they shut down.

“We’re going to have 70 people in the theater spaced six feet apart. Maybe some other theaters in the country can do that, have half a house or however many people you can get six feet apart. If you can make a go of it, great. But a lot of them are saying they’re just going to shut down until next year.”

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