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 was a founding member of the late 1980's supergroup Traveling Wilburys and Mudcrutch. He has also performed under the pseudonyms of Charlie T. Wilbury, Jr. and Muddy Wilbury.
He has recorded a number of hit singles with The Heartbreakers and as a solo artist, many of which remain heavily played on adult contemporary and classic rock radio. Likewise, his music, most notably his hits, have become increasingly popular among younger generations as he continues to host sold-out shows.
Petty and his band The Heartbreakers celebrated their thirtieth anniversary with a tour in 2006, although Tom has occasionally released solo work, as is the case with 2006's Highway Companion, on which he performed most of the backing instrumentation himself. However, members of The Heartbreakers have played on each of his solo albums and the band has always backed him when touring in support of those albums. He has also toured with Mudcrutch in order to promote their debut album. Petty has been managed by Tony Dimitriades since 1976. On February 3, 2008, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers performed at the Super Bowl XLII Halftime show.
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, whom he describes as "a prince".
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Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (1976?1987)
Main article: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Shortly after he formed his musical aspiration, Petty formed 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, 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.
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 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 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 & the Heartbreakers reformed in 1991 and released Into the Great Wide Open, which 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.
Before leaving MCA Records, Tom and the Heartbreakers got together to record, live in the studio, two new songs for a "Greatest Hits" package. "Mary Jane's Last Dance" and Thunderclap Newman's "Something in the Air". This was Stan Lynch's last recorded performance with The Heartbreakers. Tom commented "He left right after the session without really saying goodbye." The package went on to sell over ten million copies, therefore receiving diamond certification by the RIAA.
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 (Petty's 2nd of 3 solo albums), 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 Rick Rubin, sold approximately 2.5 million copies in the U.S.
In 1996, Petty, with the Heartbreakers, released a soundtrack to the movie She's the One, starring Cameron Diaz and Jennifer Aniston (see