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The diversified Larry Gatlin

November 22, 2000

The diversified Larry Gatlin



By MEG H. PARTINGTON Staff Writer

Larry Gatlin


Saturday, Dec. 2, 2 and 8 p.m.

The Maryland Theatre

21 S. Potomac St.

Hagerstown

Tickets cost $25, $30 and $35, plus service and mailing charges.

For information, call 301-790-2000.




Larry Gatlin's diversity has helped him defy discontent.

"I've always written poems and music and songs and stuff," said Gatlin in a telephone interview from his home in Austin, Texas.

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His career progressed from singing to songwriting to acting to playwriting, and often he's doing more than one at a time.

He hasn't had any revelations about when to change roles. Instead, he senses dissatisfaction on the horizon and avoids it.

"I've never seen any bolts of lightning. The water didn't part like it did for Moses and the children of Israel," said Gatlin, 52.

In 1993, after studying tapes of Keith Carradine playing the lead in "The Will Rogers Follies," Gatlin took the role. He spent about nine months in New York and three months on the road with the follies.

He continues to feed his love for acting. From February through July, he'll perform in "The Civil War," a touring musical in which he appeared earlier this year.

Then he will do concerts from August through the end of next year, joined onstage by his daughter, Kristin Spencer, and his niece Annie Johnson.

Performing with family is nothing new to Gatlin.

He and his younger brothers, Steve and Rudy, began singing as children on a Sunday morning radio show in Abilene, Texas. In the mid-1970s, they came together again, this time as The Gatlin Brothers. Sister LaDonna sometimes joined them in the studio.

The Gatlin Brothers went to No. 1 in 1977 with "I Just Wish You Were Someone I Love," and in 1979 with "All the Gold in California." They performed 250 to 300 days a year.

Then it was time to move on.

"Seven or eight years ago, we just decided to love each other from afar," Gatlin said.

The country and gospel singer who earned a Grammy in 1976 for "Broken Lady" plans to give his voice a rest at the end of next year. Local audiences will get the chance to hear his voice in two shows Saturday, Dec. 2, at The Maryland Theatre in Hagerstown.

In late 2001, he will shift his focus to writing musicals.

He launched his first musical, "Alive and Well," in 1994 in Bristol, Pa. Four years later, he premiered his second musical, "Texas Flyer," in Bristol. Now he's working on a writing deal with Alley Theatre in Houston.

Also in 1998, Gatlin released his autobiography, "All the Gold in California," named for The Gatlin Brothers' biggest hit. He said it describes how he went from hero to zero in 10 minutes flat thanks to a battle with drugs and alcohol.

In 1984, two weeks after leaving a treatment center, he was a guest on "Good Morning, America," where he openly shared his struggles.

"I wanted to come out and be open about it," Gatlin said.

Sober for 16 years, Gatlin said he's been blessed with good health, opportunities, mentors, heroes and family, including his wife, Janis, his daughter, 28, and son, Josh, 24.

"I have been able to overcome what fears and trepidation I might have had," Gatlin said.

What he didn't have as a young man was a guide to follow his dream of becoming a musician.

He went to University of Houston on a football scholarship, then went to law school. At least with law school, there was a prescribed path to a career. There was no country singing major in college.

The Larry Gatlin School of Entertainment at Guilford Technical Community College in High Point, N.C., changed that.

The school, which opened this fall, teaches students the ins and outs of the entertainment business, including designing CD covers, songwriting, lighting, makeup and wardrobe design.

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