Profile: Thomas Earl “Tom” Petty is an American musician, singer, songwriter, multi instrumental and record producer that is best known as the frontman of the band Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. He pursued a solo career in 1989, recording hit songs such as “Free Fallin” and “Runnin’ Down a Dream.”
Did You Know?
- Tom Petty was born in Gainesville, Florida in 1950 and was playing with local favorite, Mudcrutch, by his teens. He actually dropped out of high school when he was 17 to play bass with the band. He quickly emerged as the frontman and primary songwriter of the group.
- Mudcrutch was the name of a farm that two of the band members lived on.
- Tom married his girlfriend, Jane Benyo (with whom he already had daughter, Kimberly), before moving to Los Angeles with some of the members of the band in hopes of reaching a larger audience. There, Tom and his wife had their second daughter, Adria.
- Mudcrutch signed to Shelter Records, but when their single didn’t go well, the group separated; however, the label offered Tom a solo contract.
- Tom reconnected with former Mudcrutch bandmates Mike Campbell (guitar) and Benmont Tench (keyboards), and signed a contract with Shelter Records as Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. They then began working on their first album.
- Their first album released in November 1976.
- Tom has collaborated with famous artists including Stevie Nicks, Bob Dylan, and George Harrison.
- It has been reported that Tom didn’t have a good relationship with his father, but found refuge in music and learning to play guitar. He idolized Elvis Presley and the Beatles.
More Fun Facts
- For about two years starting in 1986, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers toured with Bob Dylan as his backing band.
- In 1999, the band received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
- Tom met Elvis Presley when he was 11 years old on the set of the movie Follow that Dream.
- The band’s videos won several MTV Video Music Awards including the Video Vanguard award for lifetime achievement in 1994.
- Petty had an infamous wall-punching incident during the Southern Accents sessions in 1984. His right hand was severely damaged, and it was thought that his guitar -playing days were over. Tom’s hand was repaired with steel inserts, and he recovered in time to play for a tour supporting the Southern Accents.
- Tom played Lucky on King Of The Hill.
- He fought against increases in record prices and won. The standard price at the time was $8.98, but MCA planned to charge $9.98 for his album Hard Promises. Tom didn’t want fans to pay such a high price for his music, and refused to release the album until MCA agreed to sell it for the standard price… and they agreed.
- He advocated for marijuana legalization with his protest song “Don’t Pull Me Over.” The Village Voice ranked it as the fourth-worst song of 2010.
- His first #1 album was Hypnotic Eye in 2014.
- Full Moon Fever (1989)
- Wildflowers (1994)
- Highway Companion (2006)
WITH THE HEARTBREAKERS
- Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (1976)
- You’re Gonna Get It! (1978)
- Damn the Torpedoes (1979)
- Hard Promises (1981)
- Long After Dark (1982)
- Southern Accents (1985)
- Let Me Up (I’ve had Enough) (1987)
- Into the Great Wide Open (1991)
- Songs and Music from “She’s the One” (1996)
- Echo (1999)
- The Last DJ (2002)
- Mojo (2010)
- Hypnotic Eye (2014)
WITH THE TRAVELING WILBURYS
- Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 (1998)
- Traveling Wilburys Vol. 3 (1990)
- Mudcrutch (2008)
- 2 (2016)
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