His Signature Song
By 1979, Larry was on a roll with a number one record under his belt, “I Just Wish You Were Someone I Love”. Then he added “Night Time Magic,” which peaked at No. 2, and “I’ve Done Enough Dyin’ Today” at No. 7 to his string of successes in 1978. With his recording contract up for renewal, a bidding war ensued and a trip to Los Angeles during the negotiations process inspired the Gatlins’ signature song, “All The Gold In California.”
Larry Gatlin was between meetings with United Artists Records and Warner Brothers. He had slowed to a stop on the Hollywood Freeway and got stuck in a traffic jam right in front of the Hollywood Bowl. He noticed an old truck in front of him. It belonged to a clan that looked a lot like the destitute Joad family from “The Grapes of Wrath.” Gatlin began thinking about that scenario. It was how the Okies had migrated out to California in the 1930s to get rich and believing all the gold was out there.
One thought led to another and in only seven minutes, Larry Gatlin had written “All The Gold In California.” A couple of days later, he took the song back to Houston. He played it for his brothers and they just knew it was going to be a hit.
Columbia Records ended up winning the bidding war for Larry Gatlin’s services. “All The Gold In California” was the first release on his new label, from Larry’s debut Columbia album “Straight Ahead.”
His Song and Style
With its tight family harmony, “All The Gold In California” is also the perfect example of Larry Gatlin’s philosophy about songs. He says that most of his hits have contained a few uncharacteristic traits about them not found in other tunes.
Example, many times the song starts out with the chorus, the big hook-line right up front. Then a verse in the middle explaining the scenario, followed by the chorus part again. This type of song structure, more or less, became a Gatlin trademark.
No song indicates this more than “All The Gold In California”. Gatlin reasoned that the verses aren’t what grabs listeners’ attention. It’s the big harmony thing up front during the first 15 or 20 seconds of the song that reels ‘em in, and it certainly worked on this record.
On January 1985, just over five years after “All The Gold In California” became Larry’s second of three number one hits. He and his brothers performed the tune live before a national television audience during the 50th Presidential Gala. It was the day before the second inauguration of President Ronald Reagan. Larry Gatlin’s autobiography was published in 1998, appropriately titled “All The Gold In California.”
This single was also the first Gatlin record to bill his entourage as a band. “All The Gold In California” soared to No. 1 on Billboard’s country chart October 20, 1979, and stayed there for two weeks. The Academy of Country Music named it the “Single of the Year” and the “Straight Ahead” as the “Album of the Year.” Gatlin was also voted “Top Male Vocalist of the Year.”
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