Jim Petty Jr.
Jim Petty Jr. had the rare and unique experience of being raised in a musical household. His Dad, Jim Sr., was a very talented jazz clarinet and saxophone player. Jim Jr. started playing clarinet when he was five years old and tried to emulate his father, but (after many years of practice) he came to the conclusion that he could never reach the playing level of his dad. So…at the age of 14, he decided to switch over to playing drums! Jim Jr. quickly excelled at this, and by his Junior year of high school was being asked by his private instructor (Johnny Vana) to “sub” for him on weekend jazz trio gigs at the Holiday Inn. As Jim’s playing continued to improve and astonish his father and private lesson teacher, Jim Jr. and Jim Sr. decided to start their own 13-piece Big Band, playing for dances and parties all over El Paso. That ignited Jim’s “musical fire” that burned inside him for the next 5+ decades.
That “fire” got Jim a full music scholarship to the University of Texas at El Paso where he majored in music, and played in all the various bands there, for two years. During this time, Jim caught wind of the world-class jazz program at the prestigious North Texas State University, in Denton (now known as UNT). However, they didn’t offer any scholarship in the Jazz Studies department. He declined a full music scholarship to SMU, so that he could attend NTSU, without a scholarship. (That’s how strongly he felt about becoming a jazz musician!)
For the next two years, Jim played in the various “Lab Bands” at NTSU which gave him the experience and confidence to excel at playing big band jazz. Jim was also playing engagements in the DFW area with his Dad, as well as others. His band performed for the grand opening of Neiman Marcus – Ridgmar (with fashion designer Bill Blass), the grand opening of the Kimball Art Museum in Fort Worth, as well as cultural and noteworthy events such as private dinner parties for Charles Tandy (Radio Shack founder) and the wedding reception for the daughter of Vernon Baird (Mrs. Baird’s Bakery).
After college, Jim went on to pursue interests in the Retail aspect of the music business and opened two locations of “Petty Music”, which he and his parents ran for the next 15 years. During this time, Jim was elected to the Executive Board of the Fort Worth Musicians Union Local 72 where he served as a Board Member. As the youngest member ever elected, he was then was re-elected 5 times and faithfully served for 10 years. He was asked to play a 2-week run of the Moslah Shrine Circus in Fort Worth, and subsequently played that gig for the next 15 years. During that same period of time The Les Elgart Orchestra hired Jim to do multiple tours on the “Mississippi Queen” River Boat with them.
Around 1995, Jim became involved in the manufacturing of replacement parts for drum-sets. He set up a machine shop for the fabrication of metal parts for a multitude of drum/percussion items, specializing in difficult-to-find parts for vintage drums.He also developed the most extensive percussion repair service found anywhere in the industry. His work has attracted such luminaries as Charlie Watts (drummer for The Rolling Stones), as well as major drum shops coast-to-coast, and has garnered accolades through written articles in publications such as: Modern Drummer Magazine, Music Merchandise Review, The Not So Modern Drummer Magazine, and was interviewed by National Public Radio.
In 2007, Jim was asked to become the Musical Director for a Frank Sinatra tribute show featuring singer, David Hallum. Together they performed a “Rat Pack” type musical review for corporate events, country clubs, weddings, and private parties, backed by The Jim Petty Orchestra…with Jim often featured on the drum kit. He and David travelled extensively, playing gigs all over the country (even as recently as this past summer). All he ever wanted to do in life was play jazz, and be on stage, drumming…and he was fulfilling that dream, up until the very end.
Somewhere along the way, Jim became a grandfather, and relished his new role as “Pops”.
Unfortunately, we lost Jim much earlier than we ever expected…quickly taken from us, by COVID-19.He leaves behind a massive hole, not easily filled…in the jazz community…in the percussion repair community…and in our hearts.
Jim is survived by his two sons and their spouses, as well as three granddaughters, Jamie Petty, Judy Petty and Lain Green, of Fort Worth, Texas.And Travis Petty, Susan Petty, Meela Petty and Mikayla Petty, of Blue Ridge, Texas.