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
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
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
Eventually, Tom and Mudcrutch
traveled cross-country to California in 1974 with guitarist
Mike Campbell, Keyboard
player Benmont Tench, drummer
Randall Marsh and guitarist Danny Roberts seeking fame and fortune,
and they immediately signed a contract with the up-and-coming
L.A. based Shelter Records, Leon Russell's label, recording
the first single"Depot Street", produced by Denny
Cordell. In early '75,
Danny left the group and Tom added bass player Charlie Souza.
On their way across the country once more, they stopped at L.S.U.
to pick up Benmont who was attending college at the time. After
stopping off in Tulsa to record at Leon Russell's 40 track studio,
the group went on to California and literally lived in Leon's
home recording studio in Encino for a few more months, recording
an album of the early catalog of Tom's 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
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
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
Petty and The Heartbreakers continued to be among the top-grossing
recording artists and concert attractions of all time in the
state of Florida. Petty hosted 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
Runnin' Down a Dream.
We lost Tom in 2017,
just after the Heartbreakers 40th Anniversary Tour. Tom