Joe Worrel and Grant Snider are nursing a couple of gin-and-tonics and cracking each other up — much as they do when performing as Dos Partytos.
“The main point is fun,” Worrel said during an interview Wednesday evening at Mort’s Cigar Bar, 923 E. First St., where the pair frequently play.
Behind the party-hardy attitude, though, is a ton of musical experience. They’ll perform at Mort’s after-work party from 4 to 7 p.m. Friday, then head east for a gig at the private Lakeside Club.
Worrel, who plays guitar and sings, grew up in Missouri, joining his first band when he was 15. He first came to Wichita as an airman assigned to McConnell Air Force Base, leading a country band called Southern Exposure on the side. He lived for a time in Atlanta and Chicago, gigging in those cities and on the Jim Beam college music circuit.
Although Worrel’s first love is the blues — he’s played with some notable Chicago bluesmen — he got signed to a record contract as a country artist about the time he followed his wife back to Wichita for job purposes. He formed another band, Joe Worrel and The Last Free Exit Band, which included Snider on keyboards.
“In five years, we did over 1,200 road dates nationwide,” Worrel said.
The group played roadhouses and casinos, opening for the likes of Blake Shelton and Merle Haggard. Worrel released two CDs of original music — “Take Me With You” (2005) and “Drive” (2009).
The hope was that Worrel and the band would make it to the next level.
“We were right there,” Worrel said, holding his hands a few inches apart. “We’re not chasing that thing anymore.”
Snider quickly interjects that he wouldn’t be surprised if one of Worrel’s songs is recorded by a big-name artist.
Worrel also plays in another band, Fistful of Nickels, and writes the music for a TV show called “Hot Mixology.”
Snider was part of Zyba, Synergy and other Wichita groups before hooking up with Worrel. It wasn’t long after leaving the road with The Last Free Exit Band that he received a phone call from Worrel about his idea for Dos Partytos. It would be a duo modeled on dueling piano acts, mixing music and audience participation.
“Five minutes later, he called back and said, ‘I already made a website,’ ” Snider said. “Ten minutes later, he called back and said, ‘We have a gig.’ We seem to have hit on something.”
Like those dueling piano acts, Worrel and Snider have no problem stopping a song midstream to respond to something happening around them, whether it’s an over-enthusiastic patron screaming the lyrics to a song or a waitress carrying a tray of shots.
“We try to offend everyone equally,” Worrel joked.
Not that the music gets forgotten completely.
The pair count hundreds of songs in their repertoire and can fake their way with many more. Snider loves the Beatles, Worrel “any kind of blues.” But you might also hear them play John Mellencamp, Hank Williams, Bad Company and Katy Perry. (Yes, you read that right.)
Dos Partytos held down the patio at Mort’s every Friday afternoon through the dog days of summer. (“We lost some weight,” Worrel said.) And Worrel and Snider said the bar’s management wants them to continue as long as the weather permits.
That’s fine with them, who — despite their focus on fun — really do approach music as a job.
“I’ve learned you really can make a living at it if you show up on time, do your job and don’t get hammered,” Worrel said. “I’ve done it in three major cities.”
As for the stigma some people attach to cover bands, Worrel laughs it off.
“You have to conform. To me, that’s what defines a musician. If you don’t, you jam a lot at home.”