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Gatlin returns to Church of the Nazarene

February 14, 2018
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , North Fort Myers Neighbor

Two years ago, country music legend Larry Gatlin almost didn't make it to his show at the Church of the Nazarene in North Fort Myers - his bus broke down in South Carolina and had to fly to Fort Lauderdale and then drive four hours to the show.

This time, he came just seven weeks after having back surgery and having just returned from a cruise.

Gatlin, who with the Gatlin Brothers were among the top country music artists in the '70s and '80s, came to sing his classic songs, perform a little gospel and tell stories about his life and music with a combination of laughter and enlightenment.

Article Photos

Country legend Larry Gatlin performs at the Church of the Nazarene in North Fort Myers on Saturday.


About the only disappointing thing was the attendance. After nearly selling out his 2016 performance, the church was only half-filled this time around.

That didn't stop Gatlin from entertaining those who came. Among the classics he sang were "All the Gold in California," "Houston," and "Broken Lady," as well as the gospel classic "I'll Fly Away."

Throughout, he also sang about "Playing in the key of G," in which he both won and lost a lost of awards with. At a church, the letter G didn't mean anything musical.

Like last time, he spent lots of time telling tales from his long career.

"My dear friend Paul McCartney told me I needed to stop name-dropping," Gatlin said. "Speaking of Barbra Streisand..."

Gatlin especially spoke about his antics with fellow music legend Roger Miller, whom he called one of the funniest people he's ever met.

One story involved Gatlin getting in the car to go to see Barbra Streisand with Miller, who remained behind at the house. When Gatlin went to get him, he saw Miller staring at the thermostat in his bedroom.

"I just lost 100 pounds," Miller said, joking the thermostat was a scale.

That visit with Babs resulted in her singing the Gatlin-penned "Try to Win a Friend," a track that Gatlin performed that didn't quite make the album to Streisand's classic film "A Star Is Born," though she released it on one of her recent albums.

The gospel portion of the show featured old friend Jonathan Edwards, who had a hit "Sunshine" in the early 1970s, and opening act Andrew Garner, who goes by Andrew's Legend and happens to be the son of pastor Van Garner and served as the opening act.

For Andrew, performing with Gatlin was one of the highlights of his young career.

"Larry is a gracious individual and his theme throughout by playing in the "Key of G," makes it very easy to get out and play with him," Garner said, who also performed on Sunday for his father.

As for the pastor, while he was disappointed by the turnout, the show itself was uplifting.

"Larry always does a great job, and to have Jonathan Edwards here on top of that, it was phenomenal," Garner said. "My son got to play with them and hopefully, it will help boost his career a little bit."

The more than 200 people who came agreed.

"He was amazing. My parents came to visit from Sebring and they loved it. I've been a fan since I was a kid," said Kelly Henderson of North Fort Myers. "I love it when he does gospel. He has an amazing voice."

The Church of the Nazarene is at 6781 Bayshore Road next to the Pritchett Farm.

The church regularly brings in musical guests and concerts.



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