It's '74 and there's a hot Country-Rock band named Mudcrutch in Gainesville, FL. But not much is happening so the bass player/vocalist splits to L.A. with a demo tape. He gets a record label (Shelter) interested and everybody relocates to California. But the debut single, "Depot Street," stiffs and the group's album sits on the shelf. However, the label wants the band's vocalist as a solo. But even a solo act needs a backing band. Mudcrutch guitarist Mike Campbell and keyboardist Benmont Tench answer the call becoming the first Heartbreakers.
In the process, Tom Petty dumped the bass and picked up a Rickenbacker guitar (which led to fame and fortune).
Now jump ahead three decades. In the same year that Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers performed during the Super Bowl halftime (don't get much bigger than that) and a several years after the group was inducted into the Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame (in '02), Petty got the idea to revive Mudcrutch. Aside from Petty, who was back on bass, Campbell and Tench; there was original Mudcrutch guitarist Tom Leadon, brother of the ex-Eagles guitarist Bernie, and drummer Randall Marsh.
Mudcrutch's self-titled debut album arrived in April, '08. "It's some of the best music I've made in years," exclaimed Petty. To wrap up the year, Mudcrutch issued their "Extended Play Live" EP. The four performances were recorded during the group's California tour. Also, a Mudcrutch documentary premiered on VH1 Classic.
Eight years later, Mudcrutch rolled out "2."
2008 Extended Play Live
It's one of those "road not taken" questions. What would have happened if Petty and Shelter Records had stuck with Mudcrutch. Fun to ponder, but it's obvious that Mudcrutch would never have eclipsed Petty & The Heartbreakers - largely because the Eagles had mined the Country-Rock mother lode for nearly half a decade before Mudcrutch came along. The Gainesville gang would have been deemed derivative and tossed in a heap that included everyone from the Outlaws to the Marshall Tucker Band.
Given the talent involved that would have been a shame. So the way things turned out was fortuitous - at least for Petty, Campbell and Tench.
Mudcrutch's debut benefits from the time lapse. Their use of Country elements and acoustic guitars sounds refreshing and vibrant - like Petty fronting a pre-"Hotel California" Eagles. Nothing sounds forced or contrived. Rather, the album has natural flow to it.
Petty handles most of the songwriting chores, but there's room for a cover of "Six Days On The Road," the Carl Montgomery and Earl Green Country classic that was a '63 hit for Dave Dudley and revived in '97 by Sawyer Brown. Mudcrutch delivers a killer version. Only "The Wrong Thing To Do" is better. "Scare Easy," "Topanga Cowgirl" and "Queen Of The Go-Go Girls" are masterful blends of drawl and drive. Mudcrutch lean toward Creedence Clearwater Revival on "Lover Of The Bayou" and get full-on Country with the Hammond and twang "June Apple" and "Bootleg Flyer."