Sept 20, 2017–The first time I heard about Fredericksburg’s Rockbox Theater in 2005, I confess I did not grasp the concept. I had no idea how a community would receive a permanent music venue, offering a new show every week, year round.
Apparently everyone else “got it.” Soon after opening their doors in June of 2007, the Rockbox Theater became one of the top tourist attractions in Texas. Over the next 10 years and 1600 shows, the offerings grew and changed, shuffling resident cast, adding performers, introducing tribute shows, and welcoming both rising and established stars in the music industry.
One of those stars was country music legend Larry Gatlin. When he first entered the lobby this summer, he rewrote the future history of the Rockbox.
“He walked in and said, hi, I’m Larry. Where’s the bathroom?” said Lynda Haynes, Office Manager. She showed him around the theater, telling him how the owners–Ray and Stacy Rodgers–were considering other options with the venue. “He said, wow, this is a nice place. Why would they do that? We can’t have that. Can we meet and talk about it? This place needs to keep music in it.”
So Haynes called Rodgers, who came in from his ranch and had dinner with the singer between shows.
The result of that meeting is a new chapter in the story of Rockbox Theater. It is now associated with Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers.
“After 10 years, it was time to take this to the next level, and these were the right people to do that,” Rodgers explained. “They offer good, clean, fun, family entertainment.”
The timing was right for the Gatlin Brothers and their business partners.
“One reason Larry wanted us to take a look at this is because he wants a Texas presence,” Steve Gatlin said. “We live in Nashville, because we need to be there for what we do. But we were all raised as Texas boys and always believed someday we would be back here.”
While the Gatlin Brothers have experience running music theaters, they make it clear what they want to do in Fredericksburg is unlike anything out there.
“We love the community, we love the size of the theater,” he said. “It lets us do some different things, where you don’t have to fill an auditorium. It gives us a venue and a place to work.”
Although the Gatlin enterprise is still familiarizing itself with the operation and the area, what they’ve seen so far is energizing them.
“We love the quality of things that are here in Fredericksburg–the shops, the stores, the attractions,” Steve Gatlin said. “It’s a wonderful place to visit. People can spend two days and never see it all. Adding the music element makes it more exciting.”
It’s that “music element” that holds the most intrigue for local audiences. With their Nashville connections, the Gatlin Brothers can tap into a Who’s Who of country and gospel music entertainers from across the decades. Of course they have access to one of the top country music acts of all time–Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers. The GRAMMY®-award winning country music trio of Larry, Rudy, and Steve, has had 33 Top 40 singles and #1 hits, including country classics such as All The Gold In California, Broken Lady, and Houston (Means I’m One Day Closer To You).
“We’re not saying we have the best harmony in the world, but it’s pretty good,” Steve said, in what even casual fans will recognize as understatement.
Beyond the transition period, they are exploring several intriguing ideas they promise to reveal later.
However it unfolds, the new team doesn’t plan to stray from the Rockbox Theater’s core values, which include clean, family fun designed to “release joy.”
“You don’t mess with something that is already a success,” Steve said. “I think we can continue with what makes the Rockbox a success, then sprinkle in other country acts that are friends of ours when that opportunity presents itself.”
The effects are already being felt. Since breaking this story, interest and ticket sales have been climbing, as the public takes a fresh look at the popular venue.
“We like to give audiences an hour and half of good fun, and good music, while they enjoy the Gatlin Brother experience,” Steve Gatlin said. “I don’t think anyone will walk out unhappy.”
Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers will present two shows at Rockbox Theater:
Larry Gatlin & the Gatlin Brothers “Unplugged”
Friday, October 6 @7pm
Saturday, October 7 @ 4pm
Country & Christmas with Larry Gatlin & the Gatlin Brothers
Thursday, December 7 @7pm
Tickets and information on upcoming shows are available online at www.rockboxtheater.com, or by calling 830-997-7625.