For Larry Gatlin and his brothers, Steve and Rudy, the road from west Texas church gigs to symphony hall has been paved with a willingness to work hard, take chances and never refuse a chance to sing for fans.
The Gatlin Brothers, who will perform Saturday with the Augusta Symphony at Bell Auditorium, are best known for Nashville hits in the 1970s and '80s that include Houston (Means I'm One Day Closer to You) and All the Gold in California. Larry Gatlin conceded that the Gatlin Brothers' sound, which incorporates elements of classic country, gospel and pop, seems like a stretch for a symphony, but said the concerts, which the brothers have done for a long time, usually prove successful.
"I love doing them," he said in a recent telephone interview. "The thing is, Steven and Rudy and I have never been afraid to venture out and do weird, wacky and wonderful things. I mean, recently I took my guitar and sang Houston on the Great Wall of China. I think taking chances like that is part of our west Texas mentality."
He has performed both as a solo artist and as part of the Gatlin Brothers, who, for a short time in the early '90s retired from music. In true Texas style however, the retirement just didn't take.
"We have a mantra - if you make us an offer we can't understand, we'll probably take it," Mr. Gatlin said with a laugh. "The thing is, we are working men. I mean, our father is 80 years old and still works five days a week. My welfare program and my medical program is work. So if you offer us a little bit of money to sing, well, we're probably going to do it."
Over the course of their career, the Gatlins have viewed country music trends from both peaks and valleys, selling out arenas one year and hitting the county fair circuit the next. Mr. Gatlin said such a dynamic career path has allowed the brothers the opportunity to gauge success by both chart position and something a bit more difficult to define. Mr. Gatlin recalled playing the fair circuit and pulling into a hot and dusty Iowa midway. It was a gig that he, admittedly, wasn't excited about playing and even less excited when a family came in late and sat down front and center.
"I started to get mad at them, but then it occurred to me. This family had chores to do before they came to a Gatlin Brothers show. They were doing the hardest job in the world and I was on a stage singing songs. From that moment on, everything changed. That, I decided, is what success is really all about."
It's also what encourages the Gatlins to continue to make music together. They are working on the first Gatlin Brothers release in several years and, as they have done all their lives, playing dates on the road.
"Here's the bottom line," Mr. Gatlin said. "We've made a good living. I mean, we are not down to bread-and-milk money. But we still need to work hard. Our survival in intendant on us going out to sing."
Click here to listen to the Gatlin Bros. "Houston."
Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or firstname.lastname@example.org.