Musician Larry Petree and his wife were found dead on a dirt road in the middle of the Mojave Desert

A beloved veteran musician of the Bakersfield Sound era has passed away.

The bodies of Larry Petree and his wife Betty were discovered Sunday afternoon along a dirt road in the desert east of California City.

Petree played pedal steel guitar, the laptop stringed instrument that gave certain songs, especially country songs, that lonely, sad tone.

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The bodies of 88-year-old Petree and his wife, Betty, in her 60s, were discovered on a deserted dirt track in the middle of the Mojave Desert east of California City around 2 p.m. Sunday.

Larry’s body was in the driver’s seat of a car and Betty was outside, leaning on a rear tire. Apparently they had run out of gas.

Nobody can say where and on which route they were going at the moment. The sheriff’s department does not believe there is a criminal offense, so homicide investigators were not called to the scene. The cause of death will be released at a later date.

Petree had just performed at the Bakersfield Music Hall of Fame with a local band, the Soda Crackers, about three weeks ago. But he, always scrupulously punctual, had shown some signs of disorientation.

“He always had a smile on his face. He was just a darling of a guy and he was always there to help other people. I just can’t believe they’re gone, and in such a bizarre way,” said friend Kim Hays.

Larry Petree was born in Oklahoma in 1933 and moved to Bakersfield in 1942 at the age of 9. He worked with Tommy Hays and the Western Swingsters for years, passed offers to play for well-known artists, but apart from the occasional gig, decided to keep his fire department job for 30 years and stay at home with Betty.

“He was so good”

Tommy Hays said he and Petree could communicate with onstage nods.

“He was a man in his field. He was pretty determined. And he was so good,” said Tommy Hays.

Soda Crackers’ Zane Adamo may only be 29, but the fiddle-playing bandleader has a penchant for western swing, the Bakersfield Sound and local greats like Larry Petree.

“I will never forget his smile. When he smiled, he had those big cheeks. And there’s no way not to smile when you saw Larry smile. And just the nicest guy ever. And he had so much wisdom, and I remember talking to him and just listening to every word he said,” Adamo said.

And with that, the Bakersfield sound loses another key figure – Larry Petree, pedal steel guitar.

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James Brien

James Brien is a 24ssports U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. James Brien joined 24ssports in 2021 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing:

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