1953 – Tom Petty is born in Gainesville, Fla. He w…

Tom Petty

1953 – Tom Petty is born in Gainesville, Fla. He wins a Grammy Award as part of the Traveling Wilburys for the 1989 album “Traveling Wilburys Volume One.”

Thomas Earl “Tom” Petty (born October 20, 1950) is an American singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist. He is the frontman of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and a member of Mudcrutch. He was also a member of the supergroup the Traveling Wilburys under the pseudonym of Charlie T. Wilbury, Jnr. He has recorded a number of hit singles, many of which remain heavily played on adult contemporary and classic rock radio. Petty is also a vocal critic of the modern recording industry and the disappearance of independent radio stations.

Petty has been supported by his band, The Heartbreakers, for the majority of his career. He has occasionally released solo work, as is the case with 2006’s Highway Companion

Early life

Tom Petty was born, raised in Gainesville, Florida, USA and attended Gainesville High School. His interest in rock and roll music began at age 11 when he met Elvis Presley.

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, whom he describes as “a prince”.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (1976–1987)

Main article: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

After working with his early bands -The Sundowners, The Epics and Mudcrutch (the third with drummer Randall Marsh, and future Heartbreakers members Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench)

Their second album, You’re Gonna Get It!, marked the band’s first Top 40 album

In September 1979, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers performed at a Musicians United for Safe Energy concert at Madison Square Garden in New York.

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. The same year, it released Southern Accents, which 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. It was criticized by feminist groups. 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). It includes “Jammin’ Me,” which Petty wrote with Dylan.

Traveling Wilburys, solo career, and return to the Heartbreakers (1988–1991)

Main articles: Traveling Wilburys and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

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 Me With Care” in shows from 2003-2006, and for his 2008 tour making “End of the Line” a staple of the setlist.
Tom Petty was an important part of legendary supergroup Traveling Wilburys .

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 and George Harrison (Ringo Starr appears on drums in the video for “I Won’t Back Down,” but they were actually performed by Phil Jones). Since all the original Traveling Wilburys except Bob Dylan participated on the album, it is sometimes considered the unofficial second Wilbury record.

Petty rejoined with the Heartbreakers for his next album, Into the Great Wide Open, in 1991. It was co-produced by Lynne and included the hit singles “Learning To Fly” and “Into The Great Wide Open,” the latter featuring Johnny Depp, Gabrielle Anwar, Faye Dunaway, and Matt LeBlanc in the video.

Move to Warner Bros. Records (1991–present)

In 1989, while still under contract to MCA, Petty secretly signed a lucrative deal with Warner Bros. Records. His first album on his new label, 1994’s Wildflowers, included the singles “You Don’t Know How It Feels,” “You Wreck Me,” “It’s Good to Be King” and “A Higher Place”. The album, produced by acclaimed producer Rick Rubin, was a huge success and sold over 3 million copies in the U.S.

In 1996, Petty reunited with the Heartbreakers and released a soundtrack to the movie She’s the One, starring Cameron Diaz and Jennifer Aniston (see Songs and Music from “She’s the One”). The album’s singles were “Walls (Circus)” (featuring Lindsey Buckingham), “Climb that Hill” and a song written by Lucinda Williams, “Change the Locks.” The album also included a cover of “Asshole,” a song by Beck. The same year, the band accompanied Johnny Cash on Unchained, for which Cash would win a Grammy for Best Country Album (Cash would later cover Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” on American III: Solitary Man).
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers performing live in Indianapolis June 23, 2006.
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers performing live in Indianapolis June 23, 2006.

In 1999, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers released their last album with Rubin at the helm, Echo. Two songs were released as singles in the U.S., “Room at the Top” and “Free Girl Now.” The album reached number 10 in the U.S. album charts.

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers played “I Won’t Back Down” at the America: A Tribute to Heroes benefit concert for victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks. The following year, they played “Taxman,” “I Need You,” and “Handle With Care” (joined for the last by Jeff Lynne, Dhani Harrison, and Jim Keltner) at the Concert for George in honor of Petty’s friend and former bandmate George Harrison.

2002’s The Last DJ included several attacks on the music industry, criticizing it for greed, watering down music, and releasing pop music made by scantily-clad young women and reached number 9 on the U.S. charts.

In 2005, Tom Petty began hosting his own show “Buried Treasure” on XM Radio, on which he shares selections from his personal record collection.

In February 2006 Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers agreed to be the headline act at the fifth annual Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival. In July 2006, Petty released a new solo album titled “Highway Companion”, which included the hit “Saving Grace”. It debuted at number 4 on the Billboard charts, becoming Petty’s highest chart position since the introduction of the Nielsen SoundScan system for tracking album sales in 1991. In 2006, the American Broadcasting Company hired Petty to do the music for its National Basketball Association playoffs coverage.

During the summer of 2007, Tom Petty reunited with his old bandmates Tom Leadon and Randall Marsh along with Heartbreakers Benmont Tench & Mike Campbell to reform his pre-Heartbreakers band Mudcrutch. The quintet recorded a new album together scheduled for release April 29, 2008. The disc contains 14 tracks. “We would play and then we would just talk about the old days,” Tom Leadon says.

In January 2008, it was announced that the band would be embarking on a North American Tour which set to start on May 30 following the appearance at Super Bowl XLII..

On February 3, 2008, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers performed during the halftime-show of Super Bowl XLII (Super Bowl 42) at the University of Phoenix Stadium. During the halftime-show they played “American Girl,” “I Won’t Back Down,” “Free Fallin’,” and “Runnin’ Down a Dream,” in that order. ‘I Won’t Back Down’ was used in the closing credits of the coverage on BBC2.

In April 2008, Mudcrutch released an album that had been recorded after they reunited in 2007. The band formed in 1967 in Gainesville, FL before relocating to California where they released one single in 1974 before breaking up. The band featured Petty on bass guitar and vocals, future Heartbreakers Mike Campbell on guitar and Benmont Tench on keyboards plus others. The band supported the 2007 album with a brief tour of California in early 2008 before Petty resumed a scheduled tour with the Heartbreakers during June-August 2008.


Tom Petty’s first appearance in film took place in 1978, when he had a cameo in FM. He later had a small part in 1987’s Made In Heaven, and appeared in several episodes of It’s Garry Shandling’s Show between 1987 and 1990, playing himself as one of Garry Shandling’s neighbors. Petty was also featured in Shandling’s other show, The Larry Sanders Show, as one of the show-within-the-show’s final guests. In the episode, Petty gets bumped from the show and nearly comes to blows with Greg Kinnear. Petty also appeared as The Bridge City Mayor (and from the dialogue it’s implied that he is playing a future version of himself) in the 1997 movie, The Postman, directed by and starring Kevin Costner.

In 2002 he appeared on The Simpsons in the episode “How I Spent My Strummer Vacation”. In it, he spoofed himself as a “tutor” to Homer Simpson on the art of lyric writing, composing a brief song about a drunk girl driving down the road while concerned with the state of public schools. Later in the episode, he loses a toe during a riot.

Petty currently has a recurring role as Lucky in the animated show King of the Hill.

In 2008, Petty made a guest appearance as himself in the Comedy Central show Lil Bush’s season 2 finale. He is asked to write a song for Bush and his cronies. At the end, he is shown riding off into the sunset in a flying car alongside Iggy Pop, who is a regular voice actor on the series. Petty thus joined various musical guest stars on the show, including iggy, Dave Grohl of Nirvana and Foo Fighters, and Anthony Kiedis and Flea of The Red Hot Chili Peppers.


Petty has been honored with 18 Grammy Award nominations since 1982. In that year he received his first nomination for “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” in the category of Best Rock Performance By A Duo or Group With Vocal. As a member of the Traveling Wilburys, he earned a Grammy Award in 1989 for Best Rock Performance By A Duo or Group With Vocal for Traveling Wilburys Volume One. In 1995 he received another Grammy for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance for “You Don’t Know How It Feels” and engineers David Bianco, Jim Scott, Richard Dodd and Stephen McLaughlin won the Grammy for Best Engineered Album (Non-Classical) for Wildflowers, which also garnered a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Album.

Other Wildflowers achievements included Best Male Video Award for “You Don’t Know How It Feels” at the 1995 MTV Video Music Awards. Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers won the same award in 1994 with the video for “Mary Jane’s Last Dance”. At the 1994 ceremony, Petty was also presented with the Video Vanguard Award, citing his longtime contributions to the field. In accepting the award though, Petty denied his work was any more important than anyone else’s, saying that all artistic expression was equally valid.

In 1994, You Got Lucky, a Tom Petty tribute album featuring such bands as Everclear and Silkworm was released.

In April 1996, Petty received the UCLA’s George and Ira Gershwin Award for Lifetime Musical Achievement. The next month, Petty won the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers’ Golden Note Award.
Hollywood Walk of Fame star.
Hollywood Walk of Fame star.

In 1999 Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for their contribution to the recording industry.

In 2002, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. On December 6, 2005, Petty received the Billboard Century Award for his lifetime achievements. The same year, Conversations with Tom Petty, an oral history/biography comprised of interviews conducted in 2004 and 2005 with Petty by music journalist Paul Zollo, was published (ISBN 1-84449-815-8).

On September 21, 2006, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers received the keys to the city of Gainesville, Florida, where he and his bandmates either lived or grew up. From July 2006 until 2007 the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio featured an exhibit of Tom Petty items. Much of the content was donated by Petty himself during a visit to his home by some of the Hall’s curatorial staff. On October 14, 2007, Peter Bogdanovich’s documentary film on Petty’s career entitled Runnin’ Down A Dream premiered at the New York Film Festival.

Views on artistic control

Petty is known as a staunch guardian of his creative control and artistic freedom. In 1979, he was dragged into a legal dispute when ABC Records was sold to MCA Records. He refused to be transferred to another record label without his consent. In May 1979, he filed for bankruptcy and was signed to the new MCA subsidiary Backstreet Records.

In early 1981, the upcoming Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers album, which would become Hard Promises, was slated to be the next MCA release with the new list price of $9.98, following Steely Dan’s Gaucho and the Olivia Newton-John/Electric Light Orchestra Xanadu soundtrack. This so-called “superstar pricing” was $1.00 more than the usual list price of $8.98.

In 1987, Petty sued tire company B.F. Goodrich for $1 million for using a song very similar to his song “Mary’s New Car” in a TV commercial. The ad agency that produced the commercial had previously sought permission to use Petty’s song but was refused. A judge issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting further use of the ad and the suit was later settled out of court.

Some have claimed that the Red Hot Chili Peppers single “Dani California”, released in May 2006, is very similar to Petty’s Mary Jane’s Last Dance.

Personal life

His first marriage, to Jane Benyo, lasted 22 years. He spent most of those years working, on the road or in the studio. He has two daughters, Adria and Anna Kim, by that marriage. Since 2001 he has been married to Dana York, whom he first met years earlier when she came to one of his concerts.

In 1987, an arsonist set fire to Petty’s house in Encino, California. The fire caused $1 million in damage but firefighters were able to salvage the basement recording studio and the original tapes stored there, as well as his Gibson Dove acoustic guitar. Petty later rebuilt the house.

This section does not cite any references or sources.
Please help improve this section by adding citations to reliable sources. Unverifiable material may be challenged and removed. (February 2008)
The tone or style of this section may not be appropriate for Wikipedia.
Specific concerns may be found on the talk page. See Wikipedia’s guide to writing better articles for suggestions. (February 2008)

Tom Petty owns and has used a number of guitars over the years. From 1976-1982, his main instrument was a sunburst 1963 Fender Stratocaster. During the 2006 Highway Companion tour, Tom pulled the old workhorse out for a few songs. He has also used a number of Rickenbacker guitars from 1979 onwards, notably the Rose Morris 1993 and 1997 models and the 360/12 and 660/12 models. The Rickenbacker 660/12 was designed by Petty (specifically the neck) and featured his signature from 1991-1998. Petty has also used various Gibson Firebirds, Fender Telecasters, Gibson SGs, a Vox Mark III and a number of different Gretsch guitars. For acoustic guitars, Petty has had a signature C.F. Martin HD-40, and has written virtually all of his songs on a Gibson Dove acoustic.

Petty currently uses a Vox AC-30 and Vox Super Beatle amp.

The Heartbreakers

* Tom Petty – lead vocals, rhythm guitar, harmonica
* Mike Campbell – lead guitar
* Ron Blair – bass guitar
* Benmont Tench – keyboards, backing vocals
* Stan Lynch – drums, percussion, backing vocals


* Tom Petty – lead vocals, rhythm guitar, harmonica
* Mike Campbell – lead guitar
* Howie Epstein – bass guitar, backing vocals, mandolin
* Benmont Tench – keyboards, backing vocals
* Stan Lynch – drums, percussion, backing vocals


* Tom Petty – lead vocals, rhythm guitar, harmonica
* Mike Campbell – lead guitar, mandolin
* Scott Thurston – rhythm guitar, harmonica, backing vocals, percussion, piano
* Howie Epstein – bass guitar, backing vocals
* Benmont Tench – keyboards, backing vocals
* Stan Lynch – drums, backing vocals


* Tom Petty – lead vocals, rhythm guitar
* Mike Campbell – lead guitar, mandolin
* Scott Thurston – rhythm guitar, harmonica, backing vocals, piano
* Howie Epstein – bass guitar, backing vocals
* Benmont Tench – keyboards, backing vocals
* Steve Ferrone – drums, percussion


* Tom Petty – lead vocals, rhythm guitar
* Mike Campbell – lead guitar, mandolin
* Scott Thurston – rhythm guitar, harmonica, backing vocals, piano
* Ron Blair – bass guitar, backing vocals
* Benmont Tench – keyboards, backing vocals
* Steve Ferrone – drums, percussion


Main article: Tom Petty discography

See also

* List of best-selling music artists
* List of artists who reached number one on the U.S. Mainstream Rock chart


1. ^ Grabert, Jessica (2008-01-03). “Rant: Why Tom Petty’s Not Quite Dead Yet”. CinemaBlend.com. Retrieved on 2008-04-12.
2. ^ a b c Erlewine, Stephen Thomas (2006). “Tom Petty – Biography”. All Music Guide. Retrieved on 2008-04-12.
3. ^ a b Newman, Melinda (2005-11-28). “Tom Petty: A Portrait Of The Artist”, Billboard. Retrieved on 2008-04-12.
4. ^ Pareles, Jon (2008-02-04). “The Stubborn Voice of a Troubadour”, The New York Times. Retrieved on 2008-04-12.
5. ^ Sager, Mike (2006-06-30). “What I’ve Learned: Tom Petty”. Esquire. Retrieved on 2008-04-12.
6. ^ “Tom Petty’s life changed when he met Elvis”, The Gainesville Sun (2007-08-16). Retrieved on 2008-04-12.
7. ^ “Tom Petty Knows ‘How It Feels'”. National Public Radio (2006-07-27). Retrieved on 2008-04-12.
8. ^ Felder, Don (2008). Heaven and Hell: My Life in the Eagles. Wiley. ISBN 978-0-470-28906-8. p. 28
9. ^ Bernie Machen (2006-09-06). “September 13, 2006 Speech to Campus Community Council”. University of Florida Office of the President. Retrieved on 2008-09-10.
10. ^ “Tom Petty Gets Key to Gainesville, Fla”, Fox News (2006-11-22). Retrieved on 2008-04-15.
11. ^ DeYoung, Bill. “Full Steam Ahead” Goldmine July 13, 1990
12. ^ Zollo, Paul. Conversations With Tom Petty (2005): 8-15
13. ^ Runnin’ Down A Dream (2007), documentary by Peter Bogdanovich.
14. ^ “Mudcrutch Album/Tour Dates”. JamBase. March 29, 2008. Retrieved March 29, 2008.
15. ^ “Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – History of the Band”. Mudcrutch Farm. Retrieved on 2008-04-12.
16. ^ Finn, Natalie (2007-10-23). “Raitt, Browne & Nash Rerock Against Nukes”. E! Online. Retrieved on 2008-04-12.
17. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. “”No Nukes” – Overview”. All Music Guide. Retrieved on 2008-04-12.
18. ^ Philips, Chuck. “Petty’s Secret Deal Isn’t for Petty Cash” Los Angeles Times April 5, 1992: 58.
19. ^ Komodo Rock | Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers Announce US Summer Tour
20. ^ USA Today, September 22, 2006 (AP story)
21. ^ Goldstein, Patrick. “Petty Battling MCA Over Record Price Hike” Los Angeles Times February 1, 1981: N72.
22. ^ Marsh, Dave. “Tom Petty” Musician July 1981: 43.
23. ^ “BFG Ad Not Petty To Petty” Akron Beacon Journal March 6, 1987: D8.
24. ^ wgmd.com
25. ^ Rolling Stone Interview, 2006
26. ^ Zollo, Paul. Conversations With Tom Petty (2005): 155-157.
27. ^ “Rock Star Tom Petty’s Home Damaged in Fire”, Los Angeles Times, May 18, 1987, Metro
28. ^ Zollo, Paul (2005). Conversations With Tom Petty, 106-109.

Be Sociable, Share!

Leave a Reply