Tom Petty

Members: Tom Petty

Active: 1976 - Present


Tom Petty, known in his early years as "Tommy", was born in Gainesville, Florida and grew up in northeast Gainesville. As a teen-aged, amateur musician he often practiced at home with friends and sometimes even in the family owned fall-out shelter located in his back yard. Petty is a graduate of Gainesville High School. Petty did not have any musical aspirations until Elvis Presley came to Ocala, Florida, 25 miles south of Petty's hometown, to work on a film, "Follow That Dream". Petty went down to watch him and was inspired. After working with his early bands The Sundowners, The Epics, and Mudcrutch with ace drummer Randall Marsh, (which also included future Heartbreakers members Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench) he began his recording career with Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers when the band broke onto the national music scene with their 1976 self-titled debut album. Still, it took America a full year to catch up to the album. "Breakdown" was re-released to radio and became a Top 40 hit in 1977 after word filtered back the band was creating a firestorm in England.

Their 1978 second album You're Gonna Get It! proved the debut album's intensity was no fluke. Marking the band's first gold album, it features the singles "Listen To Her Heart" and "I Need To Know". Shortly after its release the band was dragged into a legal dispute when ABC Records was sold to MCA Records. Petty refused to simply be transferred to another record label without his consent. He held fast to his principles for nine long months, which eventually led to him filing for bankruptcy.

After the dispute was settled, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers released their third album Damn the Torpedoes (1979) that rapidly became triple-platinum. It includes "Refugee", their U.S. breakthrough single.

Though he was at a peak of popularity, Petty ran into record company trouble again when he and the Heartbreakers prepared to release Hard Promises (1981), the 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 change the album title to "The 8.98 Album" & actually withhold the album from the label. He organized 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."

On their fifth album Long After Dark (1982) bass player Ron Blair was replaced by Howie Epstein, giving The Heartbreakers their line up until 1994. However, Petty had problems coping with the stress and success and decided to slow things down.

On their comeback album Southern Accents (1985) Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers picked up where they had left off. The recording was not without problems ? Petty became frustrated during the mixing process and broke his left hand after punching through a wall. The album includes the hit single "Don't Come Around Here No More" which was produced by Dave Stewart. The video for the single, featuring Tom dressed as the Mad Hatter mocking and chasing Alice from the book Alice in Wonderland, then cutting and eating her as if she were a cake, caused some controversy after it was criticized by feminist groups.

A successful concert tour led to the live album Pack Up The Plantation-Live! (1985). The band's live capabilities were put to the test when Bob Dylan invited Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers to join him on his True Confessions tour through the U.S., Australia, Japan (1986) and Europe (1987).

Also in 1987, the group released Let Me Up (I've Had Enough), a studio album made to sound like a live recording using a technique they borrowed from Bob Dylan. It includes "Jammin' Me", which Petty wrote with Dylan.

Petty also appeared in several episodes of It's Garry Shandling's Show (1987 - 1990), playing himself as one of Garry Shandling's neighbors. This show appeared on the then-fledgling Fox network.

In 1989, Petty released Full Moon Fever. Though nominally a solo project, other Heartbreakers and well-known musicians participated in the album's production. Mike Campbell co-produced the album with Petty and Jeff Lynne of Electric Light Orchestra. It was in the Billboard Top Ten chart for over 34 weeks and earned triple-platinum status, along the way spawning such hits as "I Won't Back Down", "Free Fallin'" and "Runnin' Down A Dream".

Prior to Full Moon Fever, Lynne and Petty worked together in the all-stars band Traveling Wilburys, which also counted Bob Dylan, George Harrison and Roy Orbison as members. Traveling Wilburys started as a joke in order to record a B-side for a George Harrison single, but the song "Handle With Care" was such a success that the group decided to record a full album, Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 (1988). Roy Orbison's sudden death cast a shadow on the success and shortly afterwards Del Shannon, whom the remaining Wilburys had in mind as a replacement, committed suicide. A second Wilburys album, mysteriously called Traveling Wilburys Vol. 3 (1990), followed but couldn't quite live up to expectations.

Petty rejoined with the Heartbreakers for his next album, Into the Great Wide Open in 1991. It was again produced by Jeff Lynne and includes the hit singles "Learning To Fly" and "Into The Great Wide Open", the latter featuring Johnny Depp, Gabrielle Anwar and Faye Dunaway in the video.

In 1994, Petty released his second solo album, Wildflowers, which included hit singles "You Don't Know How It Feels", "You Wreck Me", "It's Good to Be King", "A Higher Place" and "Honey Bee". A year later, a six CD Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers box-set was released, entitled Playback. Approximately half of the tracks were previously available on albums, while the rest were B-sides, demos and live tracks. Two notable tracks are a version of Tom's famous duet with Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac, "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around", which Tom sings alone, and the song "Waiting For Tonight," which features vocals from The Bangles. The latter song also appeared on the two CD anthology released in 2000.

1996 saw the release of Tom's solo soundtrack to the movie She's the One, starring Cameron Diaz and Jennifer Aniston. Three singles were released from this album, "Walls (Circus)" (featuring Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac), "Climb that Hill" and "Change the Locks". The album also included a cover of a song by Beck, "Asshole".

Three years after the release of She's the One, Tom recorded the album Echo, with the Heartbreakers. Two songs were released as singles in the U.S., "Room at the Top" and "Free Girl Now". The album reached number 10 in the U.S. album charts. A Tom Petty Anthology was released in 2000, compiled by film director Cameron Crowe.

Tom's most recent album was The Last DJ, released in 2002. Many of the tracks are stinging attacks on the music industry, criticising the greediness inherent within it, as well as the tendency of record companies to water down popular rock acts and release throwaway pop music made by scantily-clad young girls. The album reached number 9 in the U.S. charts.

Petty has been honored with 16 Grammy Award nominations since 1981. In that year he received his first nomination for "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around" in the category of Best Rock Performance By A Duo or Group With Vocal. Petty earned a Grammy Award in 1989 for Best Rock Performance By A Duo or Group With Vocal for his work with the Traveling Wilburys. In 1994 he received another two Grammy Awards: Best Male Rock Vocal Performance (for "You Don't Know How It Feels") and Best Engineered Album (Non-Classical). Wildflowers also garnered a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Album.

Other Wildflowers achievements included Best Male Video Award for "You Don't Know How It Feels" at the 1995 MTV Video Music Awards. Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers won the same award in 1994 with the video "Mary Jane's Last Dance". At the 1994 ceremony, Petty was also presented with the Video Vanguard Award, citing his longtime contributions to the field. In accepting the award though, while expressing his appreciation to MTV for the award, Petty denied his work was any more important than anyone else's, saying that all artistic expression was equally valid and implicitly validating the work of up-and-coming and aspiring musicians.

As a songwriter, Tom Petty was acknowledged in May 1996 with the prestigious Golden Note Award from ASCAP. In April 1996, Petty received UCLA's George And Ira Gershwin Award For Lifetime Musical Achievement. In 2002 the group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Petty appeared in the 1997 movie, The Postman, directed by and starring Kevin Costner. This was his second appearance on the silver screen, having had a small part in the 1987 movie Made in Heaven.

In 1999 Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7018 Hollywood Blvd., an honor that acknowledges both their musical achievements and their humanitarian involvement with such organizations as Greenpeace, the National Veteran's Foundation, USA Harvest, Rock And Wrap It Up, and AmFAR (the American Foundation for AIDS Research).

In 2002 he appeared on The Simpsons in the episode "How I Spent My Strummer Vacation". He has also voiced the character Lucky in King of the Hill.

In 2005, Tom Petty began hosting his own show "Buried Treasure" on XM Radio. On the show, Tom shares selections from his personal record collection. On December 6, 2005, he received the Billboard Century Award for his lifetime achievements. Later in the month, Tom agreed to sign on with XM Radio for a second season of his show "Buried Treasure."

In February 2006 Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers agreed to be the headline act at the fifth annual Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival.In addition to Bonnaroo, Petty will be on tour throughout the summer in 2006. The tour is projected to start in Charlotte, North Carolina on June 9 and end in Houston, Texas on August 30. Stops include major cities such as New York, St.Louis, Indianapolis and Denver.It was just announced that for the Highway Companion Tour they will offer a Highway Companion's Club which would allow fans to recevie priority seating, discounts at the Tom Petty Store, a complimentary CD of Highway Companion and a personalized email address.

In 2006 Petty will release a new solo album titled Highway Companion. The highly anticipated album has prompted speculation and hoaxes among fans surrounding possible release dates. Although the album has no official release date, an article posted at Petty's website suggests the album will be released in July. Also that year, the ABC U.S. television network hired Petty to do the music for its NBA Playoffs coverage.


1976 Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
1978 You're Gonna Get It!
1979 Damn the Torpedoes
1981 Hard Promises
1982 Long After Dark
1985 Southern Accents
1986 Pack up the Plantation: Live! live album
1987 Let Me Up (I've Had Enough)
1989 Full Moon Fever solo album
1991 Into the Great Wide Open
1993 Greatest Hits compilation album
1994 Wildflowers solo album
1995 Playback 6-disc box set
1996 Songs and Music from "She's the One" film soundtrack
1999 Echo
2000 Anthology: Through The Years compilation album
2002 The Last DJ
2003 Live at the Olympic: The Last DJ live album
2006 Highway Companion


1977 - "Breakdown" Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers
1977 - "Anything That's Rock N' Roll" Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers
1977 - "American Girl" Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers
1978 - "I Need To Know" You're Gonna Get It!
1978 - "Listen To Her Heart" You're Gonna Get It!
1979 - "Don't Do Me Like That" Damn The Torpedoes
1979 - "Refugee" Damn The Torpedoes
1980 - "Here Comes My Girl" Damn The Torpedoes
1981 - "The Waiting" Hard Promises
1981 - "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around" (with Stevie Nicks) 2Bella Donna (Stevie Nicks album)
1981 - "A Woman In Love (It's Not Me)" Hard Promises
1982 - "You Got Lucky" Long After Dark
1983 - "Change Of Heart" Long After Dark
1985 - "Don't Come Around Here No More" Southern Accents
1985 - "Make It Better (Forget About Me)" 54 12 - Southern Accents
1985 - "Rebels" Southern Accents
1986 - "Needles and Pins" (with Stevie Nicks) Pack Up The Plantation: Live!
1987 - "Think About Me" Let Me Up (I've Had Enough)
1987 - "Runaway Trains" Let Me Up (I've Had Enough)
1987 - "Jammin' Me" Let Me Up (I've Had Enough)
1987 - "All Mixed Up" Let Me Up (I've Had Enough)
1989 - "Runnin' Down A Dream" Full Moon Fever
1989 - "Love Is A Long Road" Full Moon Fever
1989 - "I Won't Back Down" Full Moon Fever
1989 - "I'll Feel A Whole Lot Better" Full Moon Fever
1989 - "Free Fallin'" Full Moon Fever
1990 - "Yer So Bad" Full Moon Fever
1990 - "A Face In The Crowd" Full Moon Fever
1991 - "Out In The Cold" Into The Great Wide Open
1991 - "Learning to Fly" Into The Great Wide Open
1991 - "Into The Great Wide Open" Into The Great Wide Open
1992 - "Too Good To Be True" Into The Great Wide Open
1992 - "Makin Some Noise" Into The Great Wide Open
1992 - "King s Highway" Into The Great Wide Open
1993 - "Mary Jane's Last Dance" Greatest Hits
1994 - "You Don't Know How It Feels" Wildflowers
1994 - "Something In The Air" Greatest Hits
1995 - "You Wreck Me" Wildflowers
1995 - "It's Good To Be King Wildflowers
1995 - "Cabin Down Below" Wildflowers
1995 - "A Higher Place" Wildflowers
1996 - "Walls (Circus)" Songs And Music From "She's The One"
1996 - "Waiting For Tonight" Anthology: Through the Years (Disc 2)"
1996 - "Climb That Hill" Songs And Music From "She's The One"
1997 - "Change The Locks" Songs And Music From "She's The One"
1999 - "Room At The Top" Echo
1999 - "Free Girl Now" Echo
2002 - "The Last DJ"

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