"You and I will meet again, When we're least expecting it, One day
in some far off place, I will recognize your face, I won't say goodbye
my friend, For you and I will meet again."-Tom Petty
Tom Petty is an American singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. He is the front man of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and a member of Mudcrutch. He was also a member of the super group the Traveling Wilburys under the pseudonym of Charlie T. Wilbury, Jr.
Tom Petty was born and raised in Gainesville, Florida. Petty began playing music while he was still attending Gainesville High School. At the age of 17, he dropped out of school to join Mudcrutch, which also featured guitarist Mike Campbell and keyboardist Benmont Tench. 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 Tom Petty to come down and watch the shoot. Tom Petty 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, Tom 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. By 1970, Mudcrutch had moved to Los Angeles with hopes of finding a record contract. The fledgling Shelter Records, founded by Leon Russell and Denny Cordell, offered the group a contract. However, Mudcrutch splintered apart shortly after relocating to L.A. Cordell was willing to record Petty as a solo act, but the singer's reception to the idea was tentative. Over the next few years, Tom Petty drifted through bands, eventually hooking back up with Campbell and Tench in 1975. At the time, the duo were working with bassist Ron Blair and drummer Stan Lynch. Soon, Petty became involved with the band, which was then named the Heartbreakers.
The Heartbreakers 1976 debut eponymous album included the songs "Breakdown" and "American Girl," and the band became a hit in the U.K. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers were shoehorned into the punk/new wave movement by some observers who picked up on the tough, vibrant energy of the group's blend of Byrds riffs and Stonesy swagger. In a way, the categorization made sense. Compared to the heavy metal and art rock that dominated mid-'70s guitar rock, the Heartbreakers' bracing return to roots was nearly as unexpected as the crashing chords of the Clash. As time progressed, it became clear that the band didn't break from tradition like their punk contemporaries. Instead, they celebrated it, culling the best parts of the British Invasion, American garage rock, and Dylanesque singer/songwriters to create a distinctively American hybrid that recalled the past without being indebted to it. Prompted by the record's British success, Shelter pushed the album and the single "Breakdown" in the U.S., this time to success; "Breakdown" became a Top 40 hit and "American Girl" became an album-oriented radio staple.
You're Gonna Get It, the Heartbreakers' second album, was released in 1978 and it became the group's first American Top 40 record. Petty & the Heartbreakers were poised to break into the big time when they ran into severe record company problems. Shelter's parent company, ABC Records, was bought by MCA Records, and Petty attempted to renegotiate his contract with the label. MCA was unwilling to meet most of his demands, and halfway through 1979, he filed for bankruptcy. Soon afterward, he settled into an agreement with MCA, signing with their subsidiary Backstreet Records. Released late in 1979, Damn the Torpedoes was his first release on Backstreet. It was Petty's breakthrough release, earning uniformly excellent reviews, generating the Top Ten hit "Don't Do Me Like That" and the number 15 "Refugee," and spending seven weeks at number two on the U.S. charts.
Tom Petty ran into record company trouble again when he and the Heartbreakers prepared to release Hard Promises, the 1981 follow-up to Damn the Torpedoes. MCA wanted to release the record at the list price of 9.98, which was a high price at the time. Petty refused to comply to their wishes, threatening to withhold the album from the label and organizing a fan protest that forced the company to release the record at 8.98. Hard Promises became a Top Ten hit, going platinum and spawning the hit single "The Waiting." Later that year, Petty produced Del Shannon's comeback album Drop Down and Get Me and wrote "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around" as a duet for himself and Stevie Nicks. Featured on her album Bella Donna, which was recorded with the Heartbreakers' support, "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around" became a number three hit.
On their fifth album Long After Dark in 1982, bass player Ron Blair was replaced by Howie Epstein, giving The Heartbreakers their final line-up. However, frontman Tom Petty had problems coping with the stress and success and decided to slow things down. Petty & the Heartbreakers spent nearly three years making Southern Accents, the follow-up to Long After Dark. Hiring Eurythmics' Dave Stewart as a producer, the band attempted to branch out musically, reaching into new territories like soul, psychedelia, and new wave. However, the recording wasn't easy -- at its worst, Petty punched a studio wall and broke his left hand, reportedly in frustration over the mixing. Southern Accents was finally released in the spring of 1985, preceded by the neo-psychedelic single "Don't Come Around Here No More." Following its release, Petty & the Heartbreakers spent 1986 on tour as Bob Dylan's backing band. During 1988, Petty became a member of the supergroup the Traveling Wilburys, which also featured Dylan, George Harrison, Roy Orbison, and Jeff Lynne. The Wilburys released their first album at the end of 1988 and its sound became the blueprint for Petty's first solo effort, 1989's Full Moon Fever. During the summer of 2007, Tom Petty reunited with his old band mates Tom Leadon and Randall Marsh along with Heartbreakers Benmont Tench & Mike Campbell to reform his pre-Heartbreakers band Mudcrutch. The band originally formed in 1967 in Gainesville, FL before relocating to California where they released one single in 1974 before breaking up.