Look around at the names of the members of the Nashville Songwriter's Association International Hall of Fame, and you see some of the greatest writers in country music history. Names like Hank Williams, Bill Anderson, Harlan Howard, Bob McDill, Matraca Berg, and Mike Reid are all enshrined in the hallowed group of tunesmiths.
But, there is one omission that is becoming quite glaring -- Larry Wayne Gatlin.
The idea that Gatlin -- who wrote and recorded some of the genre's defining tunes of the 1970s and 1980s -- is not in the exclusive club is simply quite troubling. Since Dottie West brought the Texas native to town in 1971, Gatlin has been a force of nature. Granted, sometimes that force has been his undoing. With an unusual wit that is comparable only to the late Roger Miller, Gatlin has probably alienated a few in the business with his sometimes brash ways -- as well as a highly publicized battle with drugs and alcohol. But, what do you make of songs like "All The Gold In California," "Broken Lady," "Taking Somebody With Me When I Fall," and some of his more underrated gems like "Delta Dirt" and "Bitter They Are, Harder They Fall," which he wrote for Elvis Presley. Each of these songs are classics not only of their time -- but of all time.
Over the past few years, Gatlin has tried his best to make amends with Music City for any bridges that he might have scarred. He, along with brothers Steve and Rudy, released the excellent "Pilgrimage" disc in 2010, and has become one of the Grand Ole Opry's most entertaining figures -- hosting the show's popular "Opry Country Classics" program. He even co-hosts the popular "Coffee, Country, & Cody" morning show on WSM Radio from time to time, making use of that same wit and wisdom that has made him a popular guest on many talk shows on the FOX News network.
But, at the heart of it all, Gatlin is one of the most talented men that has ever written a song in Nashville, and he has long since earned his place in the NSAI Hall. He has picked up his pen over the past couple of years, co-writing with such writers as Leslie Satcher and John Rich. In fact, ask the latter about Gatlin's absence from the Hall, and Rich – always quick to speak what is on his heart – said simply "Larry Gatlin has written songs in the past month that sound like classics! It's high time he was inducted by NSAI as a Hall of Fame member. Cmon guys..."All The Gold!"
Larry Gatlin. NSAI Hall of Fame. It's time.