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Larry Gatlin Remembers His First Time on the Radio: ‘I Nearly Passed Out!’

Larry Gatlin June Carter Cash funeral song
Rick Diamond, Getty Images

Larry Gatlin teamed up with his brothers Rudy and Steve in the late 1970s to become one of country music’s most successful acts, charting now-classic hits such as “Broken Lady,” “All the Gold in California” and “Houston.” Songwriting was most certainly his calling: He wrote all but two of the songs that the trio recorded for their first 17 albums.

However, when Larry Gatlin was auditioning to join a gospel music group called the Imperials in 1971 in Las Vegas, he was walking through a showroom and caught the attention of country singer Dottie West. She was so impressed with Gatlin’s writing skills that she recorded two of his compositions: “You’re the Other Half of Me” and “Once You Were Mine” (she also passed one of his demo tapes around Nashville and bought him a plane ticket so that he could relocate there). The first song of his that Gatlin ever heard played on the radio was one of those recordings.

You are not going to believe this: I had moved to Nashville and Dottie West had recorded one of my songs called “You’re the Other Half of Me.” And this is back before I had a record deal with Monument Records.

I was waking up and going to work down at WLAC-TV; I was a janitor down there. My wife was out of town — Janis had gone back to Texas for something … I was by myself in our little apartment, and I had the alarm clock set for maybe one, two, three in the morning, to wake me up. When the radio came on — this was back in 1971 — it woke me up with “You’re the Other Half of Me” with Dottie West singing it.

Well, good Lord, I jumped out of that bed, and I nearly passed out! Unbelievable! So that’s the first time I heard one of my songs on the radio.

This story was originally written by Pat Gallagher, and revised by Angela Stefano.

NEXT: The Bellamy Brothers First Heard Themselves on the Radio in a Cow Pasture

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