Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers

One of the most successful singer-songwriters in Florida music history is Thomas Earl "Tom" Petty. When he was a rebellious rock 'n' roll teenager, Tom Petty told his disapproving father, "Dad, if you'll just leave me alone, I'll be a millionaire by the time I'm 35." He was right!

Tom Petty was born and raised in Gainesville, Florida, U.S. and attended Gainesville High School. His interest in rock and roll music began at age 10 when he met Elvis Presley.In the summer of 1961, his uncle was working on the set of Presley's film Follow That Dream in nearby Ocala, Florida and invited Petty to come down and watch the shoot.He instantly became an Elvis Presley fan and soon traded his Wham-O slingshot for a box of Elvis 45s. In a 2006 interview on the National Public Radio program Fresh Air, Petty said that he knew he wanted to be in a band the moment he saw The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show.

One of his first guitar teachers was Don Felder, a fellow Gainesville resident, who would later join The Eagles. As a young man, Petty worked briefly on the grounds crew for the University of Florida, but never attended as a student. An Ogeechee lime tree that he planted while employed at the University is now called the Tom Petty tree.

Petty also overcame a difficult relationship with his father, who found it hard to accept that his son was "a mild-mannered kid who was interested in the arts" and subjected him to verbal and physical abuse on a regular basis. Petty was extremely close to his mother, and remains close to his brother Bruce.

Shortly after forming his musical aspirations, Petty started a band known as the Sundowners, later to evolve into Mudcrutch. Although the band, which featured future Heartbreakers Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench were popular in Gainesville.

According to our friend and Florida music historian the late Kurt "King of the Oldies" Curtis, Tom Petty's first band job with Mudcrutch was backing topless dancers at Gainesville's infamous Dub's Lounge. From there, the band recorded a pair of singles for legendary producer Mac Emmerman at Criteria Studios in Miami, but they went nowhere.

Then, the group ventured north to Macon, Georgia, where again they met with failure, as Capricorn Records founder Phil Walden thought that Petty and his band didn't fit the genre established by the Allman Brothers, Marshall Tucker Band and the rest of Capricorn Records Southern Rock Roster.

Eventually, Mudcrutch traveled cross-country to California in 1974 with drummer Randall Marsh and guitarist Danny Roberts and in early '75 with bass player Charlie Souza seeking fame and fortune, and they immediately signed a contract with the up-and-coming L.A. based Shelter Records label. As the first single on Shelter, "Depot Street" was released, the band lived in Leon Russell's recording studio for months recording an album of the early catalog of Tom Petty songs. However, being confined to the studio took its toll and the band members went their separate ways as their recordings went unnoticed by a mainstream audience, although their only single, "Depot Street", remains popular amongst fans.

After Mudcrutch split up, Petty reluctantly agreed to pursue a solo career. Tench decided to form his own group, whose sound Petty appreciated. Eventually, Petty and Campbell collaborated with Tench and fellow members, Ron Blair and Stan Lynch resulting in the first line-up of the Heartbreakers. Their first album, simply titled Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, gained minute popularity amongst American audiences, achieving more success in Britain.

The single "Breakdown" was re-released in 1977 and peaked at #40 in early 1978 after the band toured in the United Kingdom in support of Nils Lofgren.

The debut album was released by Shelter Records, which at that time was distributed by ABC Records.
Their second album, You're Gonna Get It!, marked the band's first Top 40 album and featured the singles "I Need to Know" and "Listen To Her Heart". Their third album, Damn the Torpedoes, quickly went platinum, selling nearly two million copies; it includes their breakthrough singles "Don't Do Me Like That", "Here Comes My Girl" and "Refugee."
In September 1979, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers performed at a Musicians United for Safe Energy concert at Madison Square Garden in New York. Their rendition of "Cry To Me" was featured on the resulting No Nukes album.
1981's Hard Promises became a top-ten hit, going platinum and spawning the hit single "The Waiting." The album also featured Petty's first duet, "Insider" with Stevie Nicks

Bass player Ron Blair quit the group, and was replaced on the fifth album (1982's Long After Dark) by Howie Epstein; the resulting line-up would last until 1994. In 1985, the band participated in Live Aid, playing four songs at Philadelphia's John F. Kennedy Stadium.

Southern Accents was also released in 1985. This album included the hit single "Don't Come Around Here No More," which was produced by Dave Stewart.

The song's video featured Petty dressed as the Mad Hatter, mocking and chasing Alice from the book Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, then cutting and eating her as if she were a cake.

The ensuing tour led to the live album Pack Up the Plantation: Live! and to an invitation from Bob Dylan; Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers joined him on his True Confessions tour and also played some dates with the Grateful Dead in 1986 and 1987. Also in 1987, the group released Let Me Up (I've Had Enough) which includes "Jammin' Me" which Petty wrote with Dylan.

In 1988, Petty became a founding member of the Traveling Wilburys, along with Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Roy Orbison, and Jeff Lynne. The band's first song, "Handle With Care," was intended as a B-side of one of Harrison's singles, but was judged too good for that purpose and the group decided to record a full album, Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1. A second Wilburys album, incongruously titled Traveling Wilburys Vol. 3 and recorded without the recently deceased Orbison, followed in 1990. The album was named Vol. 3 as a response to a series of bootlegged studio sessions being sold as Travelling Wilburys Vol. 2. In recent years, Petty has begun to incorporate Travelling Wilburys songs into his live shows, consistently playing "Handle With Care" in shows from 2003-2006, and for his 2008 tour making "End of the Line" a staple of the setlist.
In 1989, Petty, released Full Moon Fever, which featured hits "I Won't Back Down," "Free Fallin'" and "Runnin' Down a Dream". It was nominally his first solo album, although several Heartbreakers and other well-known musicians participated: Mike Campbell co-produced the album with Petty and Jeff Lynne of Electric Light Orchestra, and backing musicians included Campbell, Lynne, and fellow Wilburys Roy Orbison.

Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers continue to be among the top-grossing recording artists and concert attractions of all time in the state of Florida. Petty hosts his own weekly show on XM (satellite) Radio, has appeared in episodes of FOX-TV's The Simpsons and King of the Hill, and wrote/performed the music for ABC-TV's NBA Playoffs coverage in 2007.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers performed at the 2008 Super Bowl XLII Halftime show. The show FOX NFL Sunday initially broke the news 11/30/07 using a montage of clips from the documentary Runnin' Down a Dream.

We lost Tom in 2017, just after the Heartbreakers 40th Anniversary Tour. #RIPTomPetty

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