By Gary E. McKee
Lonnie and Darryl Pettit’s childhood wasn’t exactly the Partridge family, but Momma Pettit had a voice that was as crystal clear as Joan Baez’s and like the Johnny Cash song, Daddy played bass, and little brother, Garrett, and sister, Kari, joined right in to fill their house with music.
Lonnie and Darryl Pettit grew up in a family that cherished music. Their parents, Bill and Betty, were active members of the folk music circuit in the late 1950s and early 1960s and hosted in their home many of the touring coffeehouse circuit folkies. The touring professionals would give lessons to the whole Pettit family starting all the younger Pettits on their musical journey. Garrett became a respected member of the Houston stage musical scene, and Kari became a music teacher and the mother of The Ginn Sisters, a critically acclaimed national touring act.
What? No Amp?
When the family relocated to the Navidad River bottom in High Hill near Schulenburg, their acoustic sound was an anomaly among the local Czech/German music culture. The few rock and rollers then couldn’t figure out why they still played acoustic string instruments and didn’t plug in into amplifiers.
After high school Lonnie and Darryl played in numerous bands, both singularly and together around Houston. Darryl sharpened his acoustic six-string picking skills with the Broken String Band, the traveling house band for the Chelsea Street Pub chain that had locations throughout Texas and neighboring states. Meanwhile, Lonnie focused on his mandolin skills and for several years, Lonnie played in a band called Rooster Junction at resorts in the Cayman Islands. The brothers reunited and did a three-year stint at one of the most unusual clubs in Houston. This was Los Truncos, a giant, multileveled enclosed tree house. The Pettits would move from branch to branch performing at each table, which was on a separate level from the others. If anyone went to Sam’s Boat on Richmond in Houston in the early 1980s, The Corona Beach Band was an institution there for six years with Lonnie’s voice serenading the crowd. For the next decade and a half, the Pettit brothers, played hundreds of weddings and parties in the Central Texas area.
Jammin' at Momma's
In the mid-1990s, the Pettit family began holding a Wednesday evening jam session at Momma’s Pizza, which is in the Von Minden Hotel in Schulenburg. Local musicians soon began stopping by and it rapidly became the place to hear good acoustic traditional music. When younger brother Garrett began managing Sengelmann Hall, a great opportunity opened up. The Wednesday night Momma’s jam did a chord progression to the lower level stage of Sengelmann’s. Great live music, plenty of room, and great food came together to make Sengelmann’s Saloon a weekly oasis for the music lovers in the surrounding counties. As the weekly jam progressed into the new millennium, a core group, who now make up The Pettit Brothers Band emerged playing tight, extremely danceable old school country
This ensemble consists of Darryl, Lonnie, Jim Schubert, Chase Hrncir, Brian Lux, Sean Orr, with special guests stopping by on a regular basis.
Meet the Pettit Band
Jim Schubert, based in Austin, has been playing mandolin music over the Southern United States, embracing different styles of mandolin, jazz, and rockabilly to name a couple, in addition to standard bluegrass and all infused with a tinge of the blues, the basis of all American music.
Chase Hrncir, from Moravia, Texas, Lonnie’s protégé, has been playing mandolin for six years, learning from Lonnie and others at the weekly jam.
Anchoring the drummerless band, is a bass fiddle, Brian Lux, who has deep family roots in Schulenburg. Brian has been a musician for over three decades. While attending Texas A&M he discovered that the stand-up bass was to be his instrument of choice. In his life’s travels, he found there was always a need for a good bass man, whether it was rockabilly, rock and roll, jump, jazz, country, or swing. Brian has played them all quite well, and returning to his family’s home, has been with the band for three years.
Widening the Pettit Brothers sound is Sean Orr, from Bastrop, who has spent decades playing fiddle and guitar in a multitude of bands and different styles. He has played Texas style fiddle at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., and is an expert on getting the “twang” out of his electric guitar to replicate the honky tonk sound. In addition to Texas fiddle, he honors his Celtic heritage by playing intense Irish fiddle in Sean Orr’s Kick Ass Irish Band.
The band has been touring Central Texas playing several nights a week with a recent return engagement in New Orleans. Even more recently they filled the dance floor at the kick-off party for the Second Annual Festival of Texas Fiddling sponsored by Texas Folklife and Texas Dance Hall Preservation. Check out the band’s schedule and buy the CD at www.pettitbrothers.com, or better yet, come see them live!