Artist and Musician Biographies


Here a Youtube Playlist of music by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

Beginning his career in music in the 1970's, Tom Petty is still actively producing new music today. Though he has seen a few rough times, the Florida native continues on. Born in Gainesville, Florida in 1950, Tom Petty was first inspired by Elvis Presley who came to Florida to film his movie, Follow That Dream in 1961. Petty was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to meet Presley and has since made music his life.

Like many other fledgling musicians, Petty formed a band while still in school. This band, after several name changes, would ultimately be known as Mudcrutch. Members of Mudcrutch, Benmont Tench and Mike Campbell, would be a part of Petty's musical experience throughout his career. Petty had quit high school in order to pursue a career with this band, and luckily, it did achieve a degree of success.

By 1970, the group had relocated itself to Los Angeles in search of a record deal. The newly emerging Shelter Records made an offer to the band and one single was released, "Depot Street". Although the release attracted some positive attention, the band crumbled by 1974.

Shelter Records was still interested in recording Petty as a solo act, although the company received only a lukewarm reception from Petty toward the contract. Petty spent some time floating in and out of various other bands before reuniting again with Tench and Campbell. The latter two musicians had been playing with a group of their own called The Heartbreakers. Along with Stan Lynch and Ron Blair, Petty, Campbell and Tench became Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers in 1976.

Although they were not met with extreme success at the beginning, the Heartbreakers still produce records with Petty today. Humble beginnings were to be had when the group released its first album, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (1976). The United States had little to say about this album, but Britain was quite fond of it.

The band subsequently traveled overseas to open for Nils Lofgren and soon found themselves as the headline act. Shelter Records, who had produced the album, saw the mass popularity in England and began to really push the album and two of its singles, "Breakdown" and "American Girl" in the U.S. The push was successful and soon Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers found themselves in the American Top 40 with "Breakdown."

In 1978, they released their second album, You're Gonna Get It and it sailed into the American Top 40. However, the rosy future sparkling ahead could not be obtained without coming across a few thorns first. The first snag came when ABC Records, to which Shelter was a subsidiary, was bought out by MCA. Not wanting to be merely flopped over to another company without some say, Petty attempted to renegotiate his deal. Unwilling to grant Petty his wishes, MCA fought Petty until he found himself bankrupt in 1979.

Eventually, a compromise was reached between the two and Petty signed on with another branch of MCA, Backstreet Records. Under Backstreet, Petty released Damn the Torpedoes in late 1979. This album was a smash hit and achieved widespread acclaim. Included on the release were the hit singles "Don't Do Me Like That" (number 10 in the charts) and "Refugee" (number 15).

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers had only a short time to bask in the glow of Damn the Torpedoes, which sold over two million copies. When the group was working on releasing their next album in 1981, Hard Promises, another damned torpedo came along and had to be dealt with. This time the enemy came in the form of MCA wanting to sell their new album for the exorbitant price of $9.98 (quite pricey for 1981). In a fight to keep his music accessible for all, Petty incited a fan protest of the outrageous price. But Petty did not go bankrupt this time, instead, the company was forced to comply and sell the album for $8.98.

"Hard Promises" became a platinum Top Ten Hit and sported the single "The Waiting." Also in 1981, Petty wrote the duet for himself and Stevie Nicks, "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around" (number 3 in the charts) that was featured on Bella Donna, Nicks's album.

In 1982, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers released the album, Long After Dark, after which Ron Blair departed the band. He was replaced by bassist Howie Epstein, who had been playing with John Hiatt.

Having previously been playing mostly an original but rootsy sort of rock and roll reminiscent of Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones, the band's next album, Southern Accents, was a musical vacation into the realms of New Age, psychedelia and soul. The group struggled with artist's block and finally released the album in 1985. It contained the psychedelic-flavored song "Don't Come Around Here No More" that also can be heard along with its Alice In Wonderland related video. Petty was known for his groundbreaking and innovative videos and has won awards for them.

The band did a little work with Bob Dylan in 1986 and released "Let Me Up (I've Had Enough)" in 1987. Petty suffered a difficult time when his home was burnt by a fire following the album's release. Luckily, Petty, his two daughters and his wife survived without a scratch.

By 1988, Petty had become a member of a group of all-star musicians including George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison and Jeff Lynne. The group was called the Traveling Wilburys and would release an album that would greatly influence Petty's first solo endeavor, Full Moon Fever in 1989. You can still hear several singles from this album on the radio today, among them, "Free Fallin'" and "Runnin' Down a Dream."

In 1991, Petty was back with the Heartbreakers and released Into the Great Wide Open, an album that went platinum.1993 saw the release of "Greatest Hits" that featured the hit single "Mary Jane's Last Dance." After this album, Petty left MCA and signed with Warner Bros. and in 1994, Stan Lynch left the band.

1994 also saw the release of Petty's next solo album, Wildflowers, upon which many of the Heartbreakers collaborated. "Wildflowers" went triple platinum and had the hit singles "You Don't Know How it Feel (to be Me)". "It's Good to be King" and "You Wreck Me." During the same time that "Wildflowers" was at its peak, Petty had another very popular song out, "Girl on LSD." Like the title suggests, this number charts the narrator's history of dating women addicted to a various assortment of chemicals, everything from marijuana to coffee. This piece was humorous, but also addressed the human tendency to be "hooked" on something. Petty's work has been marked by its exploration of the trials and tribulations of the common person.

Sadly, Petty's career ended with his early death in 2017.

Page author: N.G.