The return of Gatlin
Musical duo back at Parrot Key Caribbean Grill Tuesdays and Wednesdays
While it may take time for life to return to normal, the arrival of Gatlin back on the Fort Myers Beach music scene has brought a welcome familiarity to their fan base at the Parrot Key Caribbean Grill.
The husband and wife singing team are performing every Tuesday and Wednesday fro 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the waterfront restaurant off Main Street, where they have been performing since 2013. Their three-hour shows cover a steady diet of country and pop music covers.
Andrea and Darryl Gatlin formed as a musical team in 2008. Darryl was in a 1990’s country music duo with his brother Don Ellis and scored a hit in 1992 with their song “No Sir,” which Gatlin still performs. Don Ellis Gatlin went on to write songs for country musicians such as Blake Shelton and Kenny Rogers, and plays in the band Savannah Jack.
Andrea’s background includes majoring in music at Ashland University, where she studied romance languages, Broadway and opera. She sings in six languages. She self-funded college by winning several awards in the Miss Ohio contest. She has also recorded a hip-hop album and sang the national anthem for the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The two met in Ohio and began snowbirding in Southwest Florida in 2012, making Cape Coral their home in 2015. “The audiences that have supported us here have been so good to us,” Andrea said. “We’ve become a part of people’s winter tradition which has been an honor to us.”
They have increased their appearances along the way, playing venues stretching from Naples to North Fort Myers and Punta Gorda, including a steady clientele of country clubs.
The Parrot Key shows have a loyal following, with family and friends gathering in front of the stage at tables in the private entertainment room of the restaurant. an outdoor, open-air pavilion. A special dinner menu is served and the show is free with the purchase from the Gatlin Dinner Show menu.
Darryl, who toured with his brother opening up for country music legends like Reba McEntire and Alabama, cites George Jones, Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings and Alabama as top influences. “I love the Bee Gees,” he said. He will occasionally sing a Bee Gees song on stage. “It’s very painful,” he said.
Darryl also has about a half dozen or so Elvis songs that he picks from for the shows.
Andrea is a fan of 1980’s and 1990’s pop musicians such as Whitney Houston and Journey, as well as classical musicians like Mozart and current pop star Lady Gaga.
Darryl said the different musical backgrounds of the two is what makes the show work. Andrea’s love of opera led to him singing from “Phantom of the Opera.”
“When I first met Andrea, she didn’t listen to country at all,” Darryl said. She now sings moving renditions of country stars like Patsy Cline, including Cline’s version of “Crazy.”
When audiences least expect it, they will dive into a performance of the 1990’s rock hit “Give it Away” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. “That’s definitely all me,” Andrea said. “The fun part of playing it is you don’t expect it,” Andrea said. “It just comes out of nowhere.”
The second half of their show is requests. They have more than 100,000 songs to choose from on their music app on stage. “We never know what we are going to sing,” Darryl said.
“You are never gonna hear the same show twice,” Andrea said.
They know most requests but get stumped on occasion. “It gets kind of crazy whenever you don’t know it,” Darryl said. For those, “we’ll wing it,” Andrea said. That’s what they did after one request for the Beastie Boys “Fight for your Right.”
“I’ll never forget it,” Darryl said.
Their three-hour shows are demanding on their voices, but Andrea says the time flies by. “We are very blessed,” she said. They train for the performances like running a marathon, she said.
“We take care of our voices.”
The pandemic has changed the musical climate a bit. Andrea said the setup in an open-air room at Parrot Key Caribbean Grill is “a big bonus.”
The crowds are not as big pre-pandemic but Darryl sees that starting to change. “I think people are starting to feel a little more comfortable coming out,” he said.