Led by Larry Gatlin, the Gatlin Brothers are one of the most popular country groups in the music's history. Adopting the close harmony vocal techniques of the Louvins and the Everlys to the highly polished country-pop era, Larry and the Gatlin Brothers scored a number of hits during the '70s and '80s. Often, the group walked the line between intricate, inventive country and pure commercial material, which resulted in strong sales but occasionally poor reviews. Nevertheless, they remained near the top of the charts until the late '80s, when the new traditionalists began to gain popularity. Following their decline in popularity, Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers went into semiretirement during the early '90s, which resulted in the group relocating to Branson, MO, where they ran their own theater.
The Gatlin Brothers didn't officially form until 1979, when Larry began crediting them as a supporting band on his solo singles, but the three brothers -- Larry, Steve, and Rudy -- had been performing together since childhood, when they sang in church and on several local Texas television shows. While they were still in their teens, they recorded a religious album for the independent Sword & Shield label. Following high-school graduation, Larry, who was the eldest of the brothers, headed off to the University of Houston, where he briefly joined the gospel group the Imperials. Larry performed with the Imperials in Las Vegas, where he met Dottie West, who was impressed enough by his songwriting talents to record two of his songs, "You're the Other Half of Me" and "Once You Were Mine," and pay for him to move to Nashville. Once he arrived in Nashville, he found that West had been circulating his demo tapes, which led to Kris Kristofferson playing Larry's demo for Monument Records executive Fred Foster. Impressed by the tape, Foster offered Gatlin a contract in 1972. By that time, Larry had already invited his brothers to Nashville to form a backing group, and they wound up singing on his debut album, The Pilgrim, which featured his first country hit, "Sweet Becky Walker."
Gatlin's second album, Rain Rainbow, also featured support from his brothers and contained "Delta Dirt," which climbed to number 14. The third Gatlin album was officially credited to Gatlin With Family and Friends, and contained his first Top Ten hit, "Broken Lady," which peaked at number five in early 1976. Later that year, the Gatlin Brothers were made members of the Grand Ole Opry. In 1977, Gatlin's fourth album, High Time, was credited to Larry With Brothers and Friends and contained his first number one hit, "I Just Wish You Were Someone I Love." After releasing one more solo album, the Gatlin Brothers were officially credited as Larry's backing band as of 1979, just as he signed to Columbia Records. The first hit single to bear this name was the number one "All the Gold in California."
Throughout the '80s, the Gatlin Brothers ran up a string of 15 Top 40 hits, including "Houston (Means I'm One Day Closer to You)," "Denver," "The Lady Takes the Cowboy Everytime," and "She Used to Be Somebody's Baby." All of their recordings during this time were released under a variety of names, including Larry & the Gatlin Brothers Band, Larry & the Gatlin Brothers, and Larry, Steve, Rudy: The Gatlin Brothers. By the end of the decade, the group's popularity began to decline, due to the popularity of new traditionalist performers. In 1991, the group decided to retire after they performed a farewell tour. Larry appeared in the lead role in the Broadway musical The Will Rogers Follies the following year, while Steve recorded an inspirational album and Rudy opened two Gatlin Brothers Music City Grilles. In 1993, the group opened their own theater in Branson, MO, where they began performing regularly; they also sang frequently in Las Vegas. That same year, the group signed to the small label Branson Entertainment and released Moments to Remember, which was followed by Cool Water the next year. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine