Larry Gatlin has some roots right here in Young County.
Larry Gatlin has some roots right here in Young County. (Courtesy photo)
Larry Gatlin is looking forward to returning to Young County to kick off the 2013-14 Graham Concert Association season at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 22. In an evening of song and storytelling, the Texas singer/songwriter will entertain the audience at Memorial Auditorium with his new show, “Larry Gatlin: Will the Real Larry Gatlin Please Sit Down.”

“I tell stories, sing and have a good time,” Gatlin said. “We laugh and I tell about the nice little towns that I have visited.”

Gatlin has always been described as a West Texas boy, but as it turns out, Young County can claim him, too. Although he was born in Seminole, he said his family lived sporadically in Olney where his maternal grandparents lived.

“My mom and dad married at the Assembly of God Church in Olney,” Gatlin said. “My earliest memories are of my grandparents' old house on the same street as the hospital and the schools.”

When he was five, His family moved to Abilene, where he matriculated at the school he attended through the second grade.

“When my dad was trying to find a house in Odessa, my mom and us moved back to Olney, and I went to school when I was in the third grade,” Gatlin said. “My third grade teacher was Miss Pharr. She's 94 now and still calls me.”

Even though he left Young County at an early age, he has spent his entire life so far treasuring the values and heritage of music his grandparents and kinfolk left him and his brothers.

“I've returned to Olney many times and sung over a lot of dirt (at the cemetery),” he said.

Gatlin said that his wife, Janice, has kinfolks here, too. “She's visited Graham many times to see her cousins,” he said. “Two still live in Graham — Thelma and Leah Padget. I hope I can see them while I'm in town.”

Gatlin said his early life in the “heartland' had a profound effect upon his music. Since childhood, Gatlin and his brothers, Steve and Rudy, listened to gospel and country music and grew up singing together at church.

“My grandfather was a great singer and sang gospel music,” Gatlin said. “We were exposed to greats like the Blackwood Brothers and the Statesmen Quartet from an early age.”

He credits his reading skills to his love of the written word. “As soon as I learned to read, I read every book I could,” Gatlin said.

His passion for reading and learning continued throughout his life. In his teen years, Gatlin excelled in English classes and football, starring as quarterback at Odessa High School, and he continued both passions while attending the University of Houston.

“I majored in English in college,” Gatlin said. “I loved words and found that song writing was a way to put poetry into songs and express myself.”

Read the entire story in this weekend's edition of the Graham Leader.