American musician, singer and songwriter Thomas Earl “Tom” Petty was born October 20, 1950 in Gainesville, Florida. He attended Gainesville High School. His interest in rock and roll music began at age ten when he met Elvis Presley.In the summer of 1961, his uncle was working on the set of Presley’s filmFollow That Dream in nearby Ocala, Florida, and invited Petty to come down and watch the shoot. He instantly became an Elvis Presley fan, and when he returned that Saturday he was greeted by his friend Keith Harben and soon traded his Wham-O slingshot for a collection of Elvis 45s. One of his first guitar teachers was Don Felder, a fellowGainesville resident, who would later join the Eagles. As a young man, Petty worked briefly on the grounds crew for the University of Florida, but never attended as a student. Shortly after forming his musical aspirations, Petty started a band known as the Epics, later to evolve into Mudcrutch. Although the band, which featured future Heartbreakers Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench, were popular in Gainesville, their recordings went unnoticed by a mainstream audience. However, their only single, “Depot Street”, remains popular amongst fans. The original Mudcrutch included guitarist Danny Roberts who was later replaced by bassist Charlie Souza.
After Mudcrutch split up, Petty reluctantly agreed to pursue a solo career. Tench decided to form his own group. Eventually, Petty and Campbell collaborated with Tench and fellow members Ron Blair and Stan Lynch, resulting in the first lineup of the Heartbreakers. Their eponymous debut album was more successful in Britain than America. The single “Breakdown” was re-released in 1977 after the band toured in the United Kingdom in support of Nils Lofgren. Their second album, You’re Gonna Get It!, featured the singles “I Need to Know” and “Listen To Her Heart”. Their third album, Damn the Torpedoes includes their breakthrough singles “Don’t Do Me Like That”, “Here Comes My Girl” and “Refugee”.In September 1979, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers performed at a Musicians United for Safe Energy concert at Madison Square Garden in New York singing“Cry To Me” which became a top-ten hit, spawning the hit single “The Waiting”.Petty’s also sang his first duet, “Insider” with Stevie Nicks. In 1985, the band participated in Live Aid, playing four songs at Philadelphia’s John F. Kennedy Stadium. The album Southern Accents was also released in 1985which included the hit single “Don’t Come Around Here No More”, The ensuing tour led to the live album Pack Up the Plantation: Live! Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers joined Bob Dylan on his True Confessions Tour and also played some dates with the Grateful Dead in 1986 and 1987. Also in 1987, the group released Let Me Up (I’ve Had Enough) which includes “Jammin’ Me” which Petty wrote with Dylan
In 1988, Petty became a founding member of the Traveling Wilburys, along with Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Roy Orbison, and Jeff Lynne. The band’s first song, “Handle With Care”, was followed by the album, Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1. A second Wilburys album, entitledTraveling Wilburys Vol. 3 and recorded without the recently deceased Roy Orbison, followed in 1990. Petty has also begun to incorporate Travelling Wilburys songs into his live shows, such as “Handle With Care” and “End of the Line”. In 1989, Petty released the album Full Moon Fever, which featured hits “I Won’t Back Down”, “Free Fallin’” and “Runnin’ Down a Dream”. Mike Campbell co-produced the album with Petty and Jeff Lynne of Electric Light Orchestra, and backing musicians included Campbell, Lynne, and fellow Wilburys Roy Orbison and George Harrison (Ringo Starr appears on drums in the video for “I Won’t Back Down”.Petty & the Heartbreakers released Into the Great Wide Open in 1991, which was co-produced by Jeff Lynne and included the hit singles “Learning To Fly” and “Into The Great Wide Open”, featuring Johnny Depp, Gabrielle Anwar, Faye Dunaway, and Matt LeBlanc in the video.Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers then recorded two new songs for the Greatest Hits. “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” and Thunderclap Newman’s “Something in the Air”. Petty’s next solo album, 1994’s Wildflowers included the singles “You Don’t Know How It Feels”, “You Wreck Me,” “It’s Good to Be King” and “A Higher Place”.
In 1996, Petty, and the Heartbreakers, released a soundtrack to the movie She’s the One, starring Cameron Diaz and Jennifer Aniston. Featuring the songs “Walls (Circus)” (featuring Lindsey Buckingham), “Climb that Hill”, “Change the Locks.” and a cover of “Asshole,” by Beck and also accompanied Johnny Cash on Unchained for which Cash won aGrammy for Best Country Album). In 1994 a Tom Petty released a tribute album entitled You Got Lucky featuring Everclear and Silkworm and in April 1996, Petty received the UCLA’s George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin Award for Lifetime Musical Achievement and the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers’ Golden Note Award. In 1999 Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and released another album which featured the songs , “Room at the Top” and “Free Girl Now”.Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers played “I Won’t Back Down” at the America: A Tribute to Heroes benefit concert for victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks. In 2002, he played “Taxman”, “I Need You”, and “Handle With Care” (joined by Jeff Lynne, Dhani Harrison, and Jim Keltner) at the Concert for George in honour of Petty’s friend and former bandmate George Harrison and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and also released the album The Last DJ
In 2005, Petty received the Billboard Century Award for his lifetime achievements. And in 2006, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers received the keys to the city ofGainesville, Florida, The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio also featured an exhibit of Tom Petty items. In 2005, Petty began hosting his own show “Buried Treasure” on XM Radio and In February 2006, Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers headlined the fifth annual Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, followed by a Tom & the Heartbreakers’ “30th Anniversary Tour”, with Special guests including Stevie Nicks, Pearl Jam, the Allman Brothers, Trey Anastasio, Eddie Vedder, The Derek Trucks Band, and the Black Crowes. Petty also released a new solo album titled Highway Companion, which was promoted on the “30th Anniversary Tour” in 2006 with performances of the songs “Saving Grace”, “Square One”, “Down South,” and “Flirting with Time”.
In 2007, Petty joined Tom Leadon, Randall Marsh, Benmont Tench & Mike Campbell to reform Mudcrutch and released a new album in 2008 and in 2007, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers joined Willie Nelson, Lucinda Williams, Norah Jones, Lenny Kravitz and Paul McCartney to pay tribute to Fats Domino on the double-CD covers set Goin’ Home: A Tribute to Fats Domino, to raise money to rebuild parts of NewOrleans damaged by Hurricane Katrina, singing a cover of “I’m Walkin’”. In 2010 Steve Winwood ,joined Petty and the Heartbreakers on their North American tour at select shows. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers also performed during the halftime-show of Super Bowl XLII playing”American Girl”, “I Won’t Back Down”, “Free Fallin’”, and “Runnin’ Down a Dream. In 2010 The Heartbreakers also released the Album, Mojo and also appeared as musical guests on the season finale of Saturday Night Live. .
Tom Petty also appears in many films including the 1978 film FM and 1987’s Made in Heaven and also appeared in several episodes of It’s Garry Shandling’s Show andwas also featured in Shandling’s other show, The Larry Sanders Show. He also appeared in the 1997 movie The Postman, with Kevin Costner. In 2002, he appeared on The Simpsons along with Mick Jagger, Keith Richards,Lenny Kravitz, Elvis Costello, and Brian Setzer and also has a role in the animated comedy series King of the Hill. Peter Bogdanovich has also made a documentary film on Petty’s career entitled Runnin’ Down A Dream.