California musician and his wife found dead in Mojave Desert

Photo of Amy Graff
Musician Larry Petree and his wife Betty were found dead on Aug. 21 in a car on a remote road in the Mojave Desert.

Musician Larry Petree and his wife Betty were found dead on Aug. 21 in a car on a remote road in the Mojave Desert.

Felix Adamo/adamopictures.com

A California musician and his wife were found dead on Aug. 21 in a car on a remote road in the Mojave Desert. The Kern County Sheriff's Office did not name the deceased, but KGET reported that the bodies belonged to Larry and Betty Petree.

The sheriff's office said it had received a report of two dead bodies in East Kern, and when deputies arrived on scene, they found 88-year-old Larry at the wheel in the drivers seat and Betty leaning against the rear tire. 

The sheriff's office said homicide detectives were not called to the scene, as there is no reason to suspect criminal activity.

Larry played pedal steel guitar, and he was part of a sub-genre of country music called the Bakersfield sound, a raucous, guitar-driven blend of rockabiliy, honky-tonk, blues and Western swing. This style of music sprung up in Bakersfield in the 1950s, marking a push against the more polished, orchestral music coming out of Nashville. Buck Owens and Merle Haggard were both a part of the movement.

The Kern County Sheriff's Office said it found Larry and Betty Petree deceased in the area of  Proctor Boulevard and 150th Street.

The Kern County Sheriff's Office said it found Larry and Betty Petree deceased in the area of  Proctor Boulevard and 150th Street.

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"He just loved playing music," veteran singer and recording artist Jennifer Keel told the Bakersfield Californian, "and even though he played with several bands through the years he was always available to fill in anytime you needed him."

Larry's last show was a benefit concert for the Bakersfield Country Music Museum, with the Soda Crackers, at the Bakersfield Music Hall of Fame on July 30. 

"We had the honor of having Larry as our steel guitarist at our first ever show in Bakersfield and had the even greater honor of playing with him for his last show a few weeks ago," the Soda Crackers wrote on Facebook

Larry Petree, far left, with the Soda Crackers and Bakersfield Hall of Fame Pioneers. Bakersfield Music Hall of Fame concert, July 30, 2022.

Larry Petree, far left, with the Soda Crackers and Bakersfield Hall of Fame Pioneers. Bakersfield Music Hall of Fame concert, July 30, 2022.

Felix Adamo/adamopictures.com

"Larry we are forever grateful to have been blessed by your talent, your heart and your friendship," a message on the Bakersfield Music Hall of Fame Facebook page said. "Play the Bakersfield Sound in heaven till we all meet again, you are a legend."

Born in Oklahoma in 1933, Larry moved with his family to Bakersfield as a child and graduated from Bakersfield High School, the Bakersfield Californian reported. After a tour of duty in the U.S. Army, he worked for the Kern County Fire Department.