Larry Gatlin Stepped In
Our concert with Elvis in Houston came at about the time Roger Wiles, our baritone, was considering an exit from the group. We happened to run into an old friend while in Houston. He was singing locally in a venue as a soloist while attending the University of Houston. We approached him a little later about filling in for us when Roger left and he enthusiastically accepted the offer. I think he was ready to escape Houston or the job he was presently in, so immediately upon Roger’s exit, Larry Gatlin stepped in as our baritone. Because he was raised singing gospel music with his family group in Odessa, TX, he knew many of our songs so the transition was made quickly.
While with us for only a brief time, we worked at the Landmark Hotel in Las Vegas with Jimmy Dean on a month-long appearance. Jimmy’s supporting artist was Dottie West, the great country singer. She was very nice to us and the show went well with sold-out crowds every night. At the close of that month, Larry decided to move to Nashville and as his songwriting was just beginning, he worked out an arrangement with Dottie to write his songs and place them in her publishing company. So while his stay with us was short, he does credit us with kickstarting his career in country music. Larry was there for the Elvis show and the Jimmy Dean show before he left us. We were getting used to the crazy life that Las Vegas offered, which was to work most of the night and sleep late the next day. Because I wasn’t a gambler at all, the hotels there in Vegas didn’t make much from me and I was able to save most of my salary. I have a saying to this day – those huge hotels in Las Vegas didn’t get built by losing more than they took in.