Monday, December 11, 2017

Max & The Penetraters

Max Range & The Penetrators released one 45 on their own "Trater" label in May of 1965. The band was based in Kerrville, TX and featured a young Ronnie Leatherman who would later play with the 13th Floor Elevators. 
The band was also later joined by one Carlton White, a young guitarist influenced by folk and bluegrass.
I recently located one of the two Morrison brothers who played in the band and conducted a short email interview with him. Below is the results...

From left to right in the back row:

Danny Klein - lead guitar
Max Range - vocals
Carlton White - guitar
Pat Morrison - rhythm 

From left to right in the front row:

Danny Klein - lead guitar
Ronnie Leatherman - bass guitar
Bob Morrison - drums

How did you start playing music and what got you interested?

My younger brother Bob and I moved to Kerrville around 1960. I played freshman football, was injured, and needed something to do. The real catalyst was a guy named Danny Klein that lived down the street from us.  Danny's uncle played steel guitar in a western band and taught Danny how to play. Bob, Danny, and I became good friends and started practicing. Bob and I had moved to a place out in the country so we had a good place to practice. Not many people around which was good as we were pretty bad at first. Danny taught me how to play rhythm guitar and Bob taught himself to play drums by listening to Ventures records. Ronnie Leatherman showed up saying he would learn to play bass and he did. Max didn't show up until the very end of the band.  

Did you play in any bands before the Penetrators?


When and how did the Penetrators band form? 

I guess it must have been 1961 or 1962 we learned to play well enough and had learned enough songs to actually perform. We played anywhere they would let us play and gradually improved. The four of us had wanted to create a band from the first time we played our instruments.

Where did the bands name come from?

We played a lot of instrumentals at first and Penetration by the Pyramids was one of the first songs we learned.  Only name  we could agree on.   

Who were the band members and what instruments did they play in the group?

My younger brother Bob Morrison played the drums, Danny Klein played lead guitar and sang a few songs. I played rhythm guitar and Ronnie Leatherman played bass and backed up Danny with some of the singing. Max was brought on just to record the record as I recall.

What were some of the regular venues the band would perform at?  Did the band play outside of Kerrville much?

One of our regular jobs was to play on weekends at a teen canteen called the Auld Youth Center... Played at quite a few birthday parties in Kerrville. Danny learned to play steel guitar from his uncle as well as some basic polkas so we were able to play at places other than rock venues.

Criders was a country and western hangout on the river past Ingram Texas and we played there several times.  Big dance floor and lots of beer. We would play some country and a few polkas and then slow songs they could dance to. We were a little nervous the first time we played there since we didn't usually play country and western for an adult audience but it went well.  

One of the best places we  played was at a girls camps located around Hunt Texas. A couple of times during the summer the girls camp would invite one of the boys camps in the area to a dance and we would provide the music.  We did that a couple of summers. We played a couple of German wedding receptions in Fredericksburg. Lots of country as well as polkas. There was always a lot of beer for the crowd so we were usually pretty popular.  

We played in a couple of "Battle of the Bands" in San Antonio that were sponsored by KTSA (the AM rock station in San Antonio). "Big Bearded Bruce Hathaway" would DJ the whole thing. Hathaway was and still is somewhat of a celebrity in San Antonio. We met Doug Sahm as well as Augie Pruneda. Doug Sahm went on to record "She's About a Mover" and had some national success. Pruneda was a member of Sahm's band I think.

How did you come to make that record you guys made?  

I think Max put us up to it. We paid and he sang. When it was finished it was not the Penetrators it was Max and the Penetrators. I think there were about 200 copies pressed. There was no formal distribution but we got some airplay with KTSA in San Antonio and the radio station in Kerrville.  

Did you guys have much of a connection to the guys from the 13th Floor Elevators? I know Ronnie Leatherman played with them later on.

I have read that Max Range was an early member of the Elevators and helped to start the band. I think he had a connection with one of the early members of the Elevators.  Stacie Sutherland was a classmate of mine and a good friend.  He was a good guy and very talented. Stacie liked drugs a LOT.  As he moved more and more into drugs we grew farther apart as the  Penetrators were more into beer and cigarettes. And yes Ronnie played with the Elevators.  I looked on You Tube for the Elevators and Stacie and Ronnie were right there in one of the videos.  That was the infamous interview when one of the band members was asked who the head guy was and he responded "We're all heads." Perfect. 

Were there any other local rock bands from Kerrville during that time that you recall?

No. There were several country and western bands in the area. Bob Schmerbeck had a dance band that he started and played piano for. 

How did the band break up?

The band broke up when we started to leave for college. I think that they played for a while after I left, but not for long. Bob and I went to college. Ronnie played bass for the Elevators and I think Danny joined his uncles band.

Thanks to Pat Morrison and John Thomason!