Origin: Gainesville, Florida
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Thomas Earl Petty was an American singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, record producer and actor. He was the lead singer of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. He previously led the band Mudcrutch. He was also a co-founder of the late 1980’s super group the Traveling Wilburys.
Petty has sold more than 80 million records worldwide, making him one of the best selling music artists of all time. He and the Heartbreakers were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002.
Petty was a Gainesville, Florida native whose interest in rock and roll music ignited at age ten when he met Elvis Presley in 1961. Petty knew he wanted to be in a band when he saw the Beatles performance on the Ed Sullivan Show.
After embracing his musical aspirations Petty started a band known as the Epics, later evolving into Mudcrutch which included future Heartbreakers Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench. While popular in Gainesville, their recordings went unnoticed by mainstream audiences. Their only single, “Depot Street” released in 1975 failed to chart.
After Mudcrutch’s dissolution Petty collaborated with Campbell and Tench to form the Heartbreakers. Their eponymous debut album gained minute popularity. The single “Breakdown” became a hit a year after its 1977 release. It was the Heartbreakers third album, Damn the Torpedoes that broke the band into the mainstream.
The album quickly went platinum selling more than two million copies and spawning the hit singles “Don’t Do Me Like That,” “Here Comes My Girl,” and “Refugee.” Their fourth album, the platinum top ten charting, Hard Promises, introduced the hit single “The Waiting” and featured Petty’s first duet, “Insider,” with Stevie Nicks. The band continued to release hit albums throughout the 1980’s and toured with the Grateful Dead and Bob Dylan.
In 1988, Petty joined with George Harrison to form the Traveling Wilburys, which also included Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison and Jeff Lynne. The band had a hit single with Harrison’s “Handle with Care” from their debut album Traveling Wilburys Vol.1. A second album, Traveling Wilburys Vol. 3 without the recently deceased Orbison followed in 1990. Petty incorporated Wilburys songs into his live shows consistently playing “Handle with Care” and “End of the Line” into his set lists.
Petty’s first solo album 1989’s Full Moon Fever featured the hits “I Won’t Back Down,” “Free Fallin,” and “Runnin’ Down a Dream.” While nominally a solo album several Heartbreakers played on the Mike Campbell produced album.
Before leaving MCA Records, Petty and the Heartbreakers recorded two new songs for a greatest hits package one of which was “Mary Jane’s Last Dance.” The album went on to sell more than ten million copies and received diamond certification.
Petty’s first album for the new label was 1994’s Wildflowers (Petty’s second of three solo albums) and included the hit singles “You Don’t Know How It Feels,” “You Wreck Me,” and “It’s Good to Be King,” going on to sell more than three million records.
In 2005, Petty began hosting his own show “Buried Treasure” on XM Satellite Radio on which he shared selections from his personal record collection.
In 2007 Petty reunited with his old Mudcrutch band mates along with Heartbreakers Tench and Campbell to record an album along with a brief tour of support.
In 2014 The Heartbreakers thirteenth studio album Hypnotic Eye was released debuting at number one and becoming the first Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers album to ever top the chart.
In 2017 the Heartbreakers embarked on a 40th anniversary tour with their Hollywood Bowl concert which would be their final show with a performance of “American Girl.”
Nearly one year after Petty’s death, on September 28, 2018, An American Treasure was released. The 60-track, career-spanning box set features dozens of previously unreleased recordings, alternate versions of classic songs, rarities, historic live performances and deep tracks. The box set was preceded by the first single, “Keep A Little Soul,” in July 2018. The song is an unreleased outtake originally recorded in 1982 during the Long After Dark sessions.
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. Petty received the Billboard Century Award, the organization’s highest honor for creative achievement, at a ceremony on December 6th, 2005.
Full Moon Fever (1989)
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)
The Last DJ (2002)
Hypnotic Eye (2014)
with the Traveling Wilburys
Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 (1988)
Traveling Wilburys Vol. 3 (1990)
Check out the newest Tom Petty song, “Keep A Little Soul,” on Sacramento’s K-ZAP 93.3. All part of 50 years of rock, blues and more, 24-7 on our station’s stream at K-ZAP.ORG/LISTEN!