It’s been around nine years since the Ernest T. Band started “humping gear and playing gigs” in Ashtabula County.
After all that time, they’re still playing in bars and roadhouses, drawing a large, devoted following. They’ve found a niche that newer bands often have a hard time with. The secret of the Ernest T. Band’s perennial success is in its lineup and material.
Mike Penna, bass player and leader of the band, said he’s not really sure who came up with its name, or why it stuck. It seemed to be fun for people to guess who Ernest T. was, or if it meant they were serious. The first members of Ernest T. were formerly with the bands Moondance and The Saloonatics, and they jammed in Pennna’s garage long enough to build a set list. They were Penna on bass, Steve Barbato on guitar, Randy Coutts on guitar, Steve Tobias on vocals and Bobby Holmes on drums. Five years ago, Brady Burnett replaced Holmes on drums.
“Our song list is always evolving,” Penna said. “We add and delete but we keep something ready for any audience. It’s classical rock, rockabilly, blues and ‘b-sides’ we arrange our own way.”
Penna said the band’s most requested song was “Cool Water” by Jimmy Thackery. They close the night with “Goodbye Baby Goodbye” by Robert Gordon. There are Motown crossovers, and even some Zappa songs. The Ernest T. Band now has a 100- song list. “We go for anything with a big beat,” Penna said.
Their song list and chemistry have proven to be an effective formula. The Ernest T. Band has regular engagements at The Old Mill Winery in Geneva and the Grand River Manor in Austinburg. Other fairly regular gigs include the VFW club, Sons of Italy and Eagles Club in Ashtabula, the Eagles Club in Geneva and Pickled Pepper’s in Geneva-on-the-Lake. Ernest T. has played more than 1,000 concerts.