From left: Larry Getz at age 6; Larry (in forefront with dark hair and beard) as a member of iconic 1970s band Granny’s Bathwater; and from later years at a performance. (Contributed photos)

Larry Getz spent much of his life on stage, playing his trumpet so sweetly that friends insist that  “the angel Gabriel must have been jealous.” 

But after his death Feb. 8 at age 80, most of the memories shared about Larry recalled his life out of the spotlight — his humor, his frank honesty, his resourcefulness, his generosity in helping others. 

Best known in Springfield for his role in the iconic 1970s band Granny’s Bathwater, Larry was born into a musical family in the tiny Jasper County community of Purcell. He took up the trumpet at age 4 and within two years began appearing at gigs in the Joplin area with his father, Leonard.

“My grandfather was a Dixieland musician,” recalls Larry’s son, Rob. “My great-grandpa was an old horn player, too. My dad came by it naturally.”

Larry Getz

Larry played with several groups around southwest Missouri growing up, but by his teens he had taken his trumpet to the Mecca of Dixieland jazz, New Orleans. After spending several years touring, especially throughout the South, in 1972 he joined the Springfield-based Granny’s gang, helping anchor the band’s signature horn section.

Son Rob has fond memories of growing up around the Granny’s musicians and other popular Springfield groups, including the Ozark Mountain Daredevils. A special treat occurred when Granny’s toured coast to coast as the band behind Motown legend Martha Reeves. “I got to meet a lot of quality musicians thanks to dad,” says Rob, “but a highlight was Martha. Wow! She was great.”

While Larry’s horn-playing could be angelic, it was his personality that former bandmates and others have talked about the most in recent days.

“What a character,” exclaimed Frank Westbrook, a Granny’s Bathwater keyboardist who now lives in Tulsa, speaking at a memorial service for Larry at Springfield’s Downtown Church. Recalling their first meeting, Westbrook said he was glad that Larry was joining the band “because I thought to myself, ‘Here’s a great-looking guy who’ll attract girls to see us.’”

However, Westbrook soon came to appreciate Larry’s musical talent as well as less obvious facets: 

“He was always a very positive person. No matter how bad things got — canceled gigs, situations where club owners didn’t want to pay us — Larry kept things moving. He was always very upbeat. I don’t think he ever slept; he was working all the time, just relentless.

“He’d get on the telephone and get us a gig somewhere else and save us. I’d think, ‘How did he know that guy? How did he ever get that person to agree to hire us?’ He had connections from his earlier experiences. Many times he was the hero.

“Larry was a really good musician. But to me he also was a very inspiring person.”

Brian Mattson, officially director of worship and operations at Downtown Church but known to most as “the music guy” at the church, says he admired Larry’s musical knowledge and abilities but was also impressed with his kindness and compassion.

“His exterior could appear to be rough, but dig one layer down and he was pretty soft in the middle,” says Mattson. “Larry was not a person of substantial means, but there was no one that he wouldn’t do whatever for.”

Downtown Church pastor the Rev. Lori Lampert agrees. Recalling Larry’s first appearance at the church five years ago, Lampert recalls:

“Larry didn’t come for good preaching. Larry came for music. And I’m grateful, because he probably taught me more about how to be a better Christian than many of the jillion sermons I’ve heard or I’ve preached. Larry challenged me to face the realities of living what I believed.”

Getz became a Sunday regular at Downtown Church

Chuckling at the memory of Larry arriving in his big blue Lincoln at 9 a.m. when Sunday services didn’t start until 10:30 a.m., he “came early for coffee, but mostly for company,” Lampert says.

“There would be a thousand things going on here while we’re getting ready on a Sunday morning, but Larry would say, ‘Lori, I need to tell you something…’ I’d have things I needed to accomplish at that time, but I’d have to slow down and the Lord would tell me to be patient, be patient.

“Larry had traveled many miles, and I am grateful he chose to settle with us for a spell. I believe it was because here he found himself loved and found himself accepted — and found himself with new ears to hear his stories! He had 75 years of them that we hadn’t heard before.”

Lampert said that on some Sunday mornings, after coffee and conversation, Larry would “tell me right up front: ‘I’m not staying for worship — I have to leave to give somebody a ride to work. And I may not be back.’ At first I didn’t know what to do with that. But I’d get home and think about it and say to myself, ‘Which one of us really did church that day? Was it me or was it Larry?’”

Tom Becker was a Granny’s bandmate with Larry back in the ‘70s. He returned to his home near Bloomington, Ill., to raise corn and beans on his farm. However, Becker says with a laugh, “Springfield is like flypaper — you get stuck to it and you can’t get away from it.” Same with Larry: “We stayed friends, and he’d come up in the fall and help us harvest.”

Like many others, Becker notes that he knows “a lot of stories about Larry, but we’d better not put them in a family newspaper. He had a good heart, but he could be ornery. And ornery as he was, he lived to be 80? If he hadn’t gotten sick, he’d probably have lived to be 100.”

Friends of Larry Getz gathered for his memorial service and played Dixieland renditions of “A Closer Walk With Thee” and “When the Saints Go Marching In” that brought the 60 attendees in the church to their feet for a standing ovation. (Photo by Mike O’Brien)

A newer friend, Dan Engler of Springfield, who met Larry about five years ago and enjoyed visiting local music venues with him and others, echoes that Larry “was a storyteller at times, with most of those stories not fit for publication. He could be loud and obnoxious, yet there was a heart of gold under that thick, gruff exterior.”

Engler told of a practical joke he and friends played on Larry while they attended a musical performance at a local club: “Larry had been texting a woman he’d met at church. He made the mistake of leaving his phone on the table when he went to speak with someone else. We exchanged a message or two on his behalf. These were not inappropriate in any way. However, we then put a rather suggestive message on his phone, but did not send it.

“Larry came back to the table and saw the unsent text. He didn’t look close enough, and thought this was something she had sent him. He was excited, and went somewhere quiet to call her. He came back later with a puzzled look on his face. We didn’t ask why. Nor did he offer an explanation…”

Springfield attorney and avid local music patron Steve Snead, who may or may not have been a participant in that phone prank, says Larry liked to tease him by calling him “‘Senator’ — not as a compliment but as a reference to my Falstaff-like stature.” Snead says he enjoyed attending performances of MOJO (Missouri Jazz Orchestra) at the Dugout on Wednesday nights when Larry occasionally would sit in with the band. “It was apparent that his fellow musicians admired his playing ability,” says Snead, “as did fans, including me.”

MOJO trumpeter Mark Brueggemann performed with other musicians at the Downtown Church memorial service for Larry. Brueggemann first learned of Larry’s musical skills decades ago when, as a college student living in an apartment next to Battlefield Lanes, he would frequent the venue beneath the bowling alley to hear Granny’s Bathwater.

“The band was great, but Larry was tremendous,” Brueggemann remembers. “I was amazed at how good he was. He was a fantastic Dixieland player.” So it was special to Brueggemann that in recent years “Larry was a big fan of MOJO. We always knew when he was there. We loved to ‘talk shop’ with him. He could be as crazy as someone can be. But he had a really good heart.”

Brueggemann led Dixieland renditions of “A Closer Walk With Thee” and “When the Saints Go Marching In” that brought the 60 attendees in the church to their feet for a standing ovation to cap the memorial service. Later he noted:

“Larry always said there is only one key to play in, and that’s the key of F. The last song we played was ‘Saints’ in F…”

Mike O'Brien

Mike O’Brien is a longtime newspaper reporter, editor and columnist and is also a college journalism educator in Springfield. To suggest a person who might make a subject for Lives Remembered, email him at or More by Mike O’Brien