Lany Gatlin Helps Celebrate JADAC Anniversary

'N Kahoots Band Opens

By Bill Ede

Singer and songwriter Larry Gatlin was the guest speaker/entertainer for the 20th anniversary luncheon of the Jefferson Alcohol and Drug Abuse Center on Oct. 29 at the Hurstboume-area Marriott lnn.

Louisville's own 'N Kahoots Band opened with a sprightly mixture of pop and country tunes, including oldies by Dion and the Drifters as well as current Garth Brooks and Tom Petty hits — songs they've performed at local clubs such as Marmaduke's on Poplar Level Road and Cross Roads on Cane Run Road. They are a rising band in the local country music club circuit, and demonstrate the drive and determination (and musicianship) necessary for success in that arena.

Larry Gatlin began his part of the program speaking humorously of his short-lived (less than a half-hour) active football career at the University of Houston, and of his first attempts at drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana. He also mentioned his major songwriting influences, crediting half collectively to Kris Kristofferson, Mickey Newbury and Johnny Cash, while reserving the remaining 50% credit for the late Roger Miller. (Gatlin's humorous "Ode to the Road" is' the most obvious example of a Miller-influenced song, but the Miller influence is evident in many of Gatlin's serious songs as well.)

He spoke most passionately about his bout with cocaine, and the religious faith (and involvement in programs like JADAC) that helped pull him through. Though not overtly "religious" (or Christian), his story was as fine a "testimony" to his Christian faith as he could have hoped for, and lent credibility to the songs that I hadn't realized were quite so "lived," causing me to dig out the old albums and rediscover the songs in a new light. (Gatlin's voice is one of the truly great vocal instruments of our time, and has resulted in more than fifteen Top 10 country hits in the last 20+ years.)

Gatlin came full circle by starting his set with "Help Me," the song that first introduced Larry Gatlin to his earliest fans. (The recording was the B-side of Kris Kristofferson's 1974 "Why Me," which also features Gatlin's voice in the background.) "All the Gold in Califomia" was next, and found the audience filling out the Gatlin Brothers' harmony parts (or some of them) quite capably. It wasn't many more songs before the short set would close with the hopeful "Healin' Stream," which fit in quite well with the program's theme, and proved the perfect closer for the afternoon's proceedings.

Though I would certainly love to have heard more songs (e. g., "Jacob and Marcie," "Dealt a losin' Hand," "Penny Annie," etc.), it was great to get the chance to hear Larry Gatlin in a solo context (one of life's truly exquisite — and rare — treats), performing the songs he has written and telling the story behind those songs. (Gatlin's last appearance in Louisville was in the lead role of "The Will Rogers Follies," which showcased in June of 1994 at the Kentucky Center for the Arts.) The program was followed by one more fine set by the 'N Kahoots Band, while Gatlin mingled with members of the audience.