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Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

Tom Petty once said of "Refugee," "If I'd know it was going to be such a big hit I think I would have spent a lot more time working on it." The quote reveals a casual, self-depreciating nature. Petty, solo or with the Heartbreakers, and there isn't much difference (usually a Heartbreaker or two lends a hand on the solo records), is often unfairly described as a meat and potatoes Rocker. He is really more of a straight ahead, no nonsense kind of guy, who delivers. Also, it helps to have a band like the Heartbreakers led by Mike Campbell's guitar.

Petty started his career under the influence of Bob Dylan and the Byrds. "American Girl" captured both Dylan's vocal style and the Byrds ringing guitars. The song was later covered by former Byrds' frontman Roger McGuinn.

As a member of Mudcrutch, Petty left his Gainesville, FL, hometown and ventured to L.A. with a demo tape. The tape sparked interest and eventually the rest of Mudcrutch moved west. However, their first album remained in the can and shortly thereafter Mudcrutch ceased. Their label, Shelter Records, suggested Petty go solo. Meanwhile, former Mudcrutchers Mike Campbell and keyboard player Benmont Tench were putting a group together. Petty, using all his southern charm and powers of persuasion, convinced them to become Heartbreakers.

An appearance on the "FM" soundtrack ("Breakdown") helped establish the group. Early on though, Petty ran into financial troubles that, instead of wiping him out, resulted in the creation of a label to release his recordings. Shelter had been sold to ABC Records, who in turn were purchased by MCA Records. MCA figured Petty owed them more than a half a million dollars. At the time Petty had only a tenth of that. He declared bankruptcy and MCA, figuring they weren't going to squeeze any money out of a broke musician, created and controlled Backstreet Records, for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. It was a nice piece of convoluted business that the record industry is famous for.

"Don't Do Me Like That," "The Waiting," and "You Got Lucky" followed. Solo, Petty came up with "I Won't Back Down" and "Running Down A Dream," which gave a nod to Rock 'n' Roller Del Shannon, whose career Petty had worked to revive. Petty and Campbell contributed to Stevie Nicks' "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around" which, if momentarily, pulled the Fleetwood Mac singer out of her usual dream-like state and forced her to Rock it up. Earlier, Nicks had added vocals to Petty's "Insider." Petty also was a member of the Traveling Wilburys with George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne and the late Roy Orbison.

Tom Petty has been at it for over thirty years - that's at least six lifetimes in the Rock world. He has never strayed too far from his basic concept and has certainly found an audience. Better still, he's managed to keep it.

"Highway Companion," Petty's first solo album in over a decade arrived in '06. The Jeff Lynne/Petty/Campbell produced disc featured "Saving Grace." The three musicians also played all the instruments on the album. It was Petty's first release with American Recordings, an imprint of his longtime label, Warner Bros. Records.

After reviving his original Gainesville band, Mudcrutch (see Mudcrutch for more information), Petty & The Heartbreakers toured North America with Steve Winwood as the opening act. But before that got underway, there was a halftime performance at Super Bowl XLII in Phoenix. They played "American Girl," "I Won't Back Down," "Free Fallin'," and "Runnin' Down A Dream."

For a band with a longstanding live reputation, it was natural to release "The Live Anthology," a massive collection covering thirty years. That was followed by the '10 release, "Mojo." "It's Blues-based," said Petty in a Rolling Stone interview. "Some of the tunes are longer, more jam-y kind of music." Then came the live vinyl LP "Kiss My Amps" issued on Record Day (11/25) in '11. The tracks were culled from the band's '10 tour in support of "Mojo."

Petty & The Heartbreakers rolled out "Hypnotic Eye" in '14. The set, which featured the single "American Dream Plan B," was the group's first in four years. The subsequent North American tour had a unique twist. Every ticket purchased included a copy of "Hypnotic Eye."

The set was the group's first #1 album on the Billboard 200. It only took Petty and company a mere thirty-seven years to get to the top spot.

And what do you know, just three years later, Petty was MusiCares 2017 Person Of The Year. He was honored for his creative accomplishments and charitable work. Jackson Browne, Steve Nicks (Fleetwood Mac), Don Henley (The Eagles) Jakob Dylan (Wallflowers) and Dhani Harrison performed at the L.A. tribute ceremony with proceeds going to aid musicians in times of financial, medical, and personal need.

Like a bolt out of the blue, when it look as though Petty & The Heartbreakers still had more chapters in their story, Petty died of cardiac arrest on 10/02/17. Found unconscious and not breathing in his Malibu home, Petty was rushed to the hospital and put on life support. But with no brain activity life support was removed. He was 66.

An autopsy determined that Petty died of an accidental overdose of various medications, including painkillers.

 Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers Discography


1976 Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers
1978 You're Gonna Get It!
1979 Damn The Torpedoes
1981 Hard Promises
1982 Long After Dark
1985 Southern Accents
1987 Let Me Up (I've Had Enough)
1989 Full Moon Fever
1991 Into the Great Wide Open
1994 Wildflowers
1996 Songs And Music from "She's The One"
1999 Echo
2002 The Last DJ
2006 Highway Companion
2010 Mojo
2014 Hypnotic Eye

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers rolled into view in '76. Early recordings on Shelter laid the groundwork for the classic "Damn The Torpedoes." Petty's most recognizable songs, "Don't Do Me Like That," "Refugee" and "Her Comes My Girl" are here. A decade later "Full Moon Fever" appeared with "Running Down A Dream." It also has the uppity "I Won't Back Down."

"Greatest Hits" covers the expected.


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