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Thomas Earl "Tom" Petty (born October 20, 1950) is a singer, songwriter, and guitarist. His hit singles have included "Don't Do Me Like That", "Refugee", "Runnin' Down a Dream", "The Waiting", "Don't Come Around Here No More", "I Won't Back Down", "Free Fallin'", "Mary Jane's Last Dance", "American Girl", and "You Don't Know How It Feels", most of which remain heavily played on adult contemporary and classic rock radio. Petty is also a vocal critic of the modern recording industry and the disintegration of independent radio stations, and recorded an album on that theme - The Last DJ. Petty has been supported by his band, the Heartbreakers, for the majority of his career. He has occasionally released solo work, as is the case with his most recent effort, 2006's Highway Companion, on which he performed most of the backing instrumentation himself. However, members of The Heartbreakers have played on each of his solo albums and the band has always backed him when touring in support of those albums. Petty has had the same manager, Tony Dimitriades, since 1976. On February 3rd 2008, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers performed at the Bridgestone Super Bowl XLII Halftime show.
Tom Petty was born and raised in Gainesville, Florida, USA. 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 Petty to come down and watch the shoot. He instantly became an Elvis Presley fan and soon traded his Wham-O slingshot for a box of Elvis 45s which he would play over and over again. His musical aspirations were triggered a few years later when The Beatles came to America in 1964. In a 2006 interview with NPR's "Fresh Air", Petty says that he knew he wanted to be in a band the moment he saw them on The Ed Sullivan Show. Petty also overcame a difficult relationship with his father, who found it hard to accept that his son was "a mild-mannered kid who was interested in the arts" and subjected him to verbal and physical abuse on a regular basis. Petty was extremely close to his mother, and remains close to his brother Bruce, whom he describes as "a prince".
Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
After working with his early bands -The Sundowners, The Epics and Mudcrutch (the third with drummer Randall Marsh, and future Heartbreakers members Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench)- he began his recording career with Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, the band's 1976 debut album. The album didn't receive a great deal of attention at first. The single "Breakdown" was re-released in 1977 and peaked at #40 in early 1978. This was after word filtered back to the United States that the band was creating a stir in the UK. The debut album was released by Shelter Records, which at that time was distributed by ABC Records. Their second album, You're Gonna Get It!, marked the band's first gold album and featured the singles "I Need To Know" and "Listen To Her Heart." Their third album, Damn the Torpedoes, quickly went platinum. It includes their breakthrough singles "Don't Do Me Like That" and "Refugee." During the album's ensuing supporting tour, Petty came down with tonsillitis, causing a few concerts to be canceled. In February 1980, he had his tonsils removed and the band was back on the road a few weeks later. In September 1979, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers performed at a Musicians United for Safe Energy concert at Madison Square Garden in New York. Their rendition of "Cry To Me" was featured on the resulting No Nukes album, but Petty declined to appear in the concert film of the event due to what he felt was a sub-par performance. 1981's Hard Promises became a top-ten hit, going platinum and spawning the hit single "The Waiting." The album also featured Petty's first duet, "Insider" with Stevie Nicks. Bass player Ron Blair quit the group, and was replaced on the fifth album (1982's Long After Dark) by Howie Epstein; the resulting line-up would last until 1994. In 1985, the band participated in Live Aid, playing four songs at Philadelphia's John F. Kennedy Stadium. The same year, it released Southern Accents, which included the hit single "Don't Come Around Here No More," which was produced by Dave Stewart. The song's video featured Petty dressed as the Mad Hatter, mocking and chasing Alice from the book "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland," then cutting and eating her as if she were a cake. It was criticized by feminist groups. The ensuing tour led to the live album Pack Up the Plantation: Live! and to an invitation from Bob Dylan; Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers joined him 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), 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.
Traveling Wilburys, solo career,
and return to the Heartbreakers (1988–1991)
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 intended as a B-side of one of Harrison's singles, but was judged too good for that purpose and the group decided to record a full album, Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1. A second Wilburys album, incongruously titled Traveling Wilburys Vol. 3 and recorded without the recently deceased Orbison, followed in 1990. In 1989, Petty released Full Moon Fever, which featured hits "I Won't Back Down", "Free Fallin'" and "Runnin' Down A Dream". It was nominally his first solo album, although several Heartbreakers and other well-known musicians participated: Mike Campbell co-produced the album with Petty and Jeff Lynne of Electric Light Orchestra, and backing musicians included Campbell, Lynne, and George Harrison (Ringo Starr appears on drums in the video for "I Won't Back Down", but they were actually performed by Phil Jones). Petty rejoined with the Heartbreakers for his next album, Into the Great Wide Open, in 1991. It was co-produced by Lynne and included the hit singles "Learning To Fly" and "Into The Great Wide Open", the latter featuring Johnny Depp, Gabrielle Anwar, Faye Dunaway, and Matt LeBlanc in the video.
Move to Warner Bros. Records
In 1989, while still under contract to MCA, Petty secretly signed a lucrative deal with Warner Bros. Records. His first album on his new label, 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". The album, produced by acclaimed producer Rick Rubin, was a huge success and sold over 3 million copies in the U.S. In 1996, Petty reunited with the Heartbreakers and released a soundtrack to the movie She's the One, starring Cameron Diaz and Jennifer Aniston (see Songs and Music from "She's the One"). The album's singles were "Walls (Circus)" (featuring Lindsey Buckingham), "Climb that Hill" and a song written by Lucinda Williams, "Changed the Locks". The album also included a cover of "Asshole", a song by Beck. The same year, the band accompanied Johnny Cash on Unchained, for which Cash would win a Grammy for Best Country Album (Cash would later cover Petty's "I Won't Back Down" on American III: Solitary Man). In 1999, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers released their last album with Rubin at the helm, Echo. 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. 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. The following year, they played "Taxman", "I Need You", and "Handle With Care" (joined for the last by Jeff Lynne, Dhani Harrison, and Jim Keltner) at the Concert for George in honor of Petty's friend and former bandmate George Harrison. 2002's The Last DJ included several attacks on the music industry, criticizing it for greed, watering down music, and releasing pop music made by scantily-clad young women and reached number 9 on the U.S. charts. In 2005, Tom Petty began hosting his own show "Buried Treasure" on XM Radio, on which he shares selections from his personal record collection. In February 2006 Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers agreed to be the headline act at the fifth annual Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival. In July 2006, Petty released a new solo album titled Highway Companion. It debuted at number 4 on the Billboard charts, becoming Petty's highest chart position since the introduction of the Nielsen SoundScan system for tracking album sales in 1991. In 2006, the American Broadcasting Company hired Petty to do the music for its National Basketball Association playoffs coverage. During the summer of 2007, Tom Petty reunited with his old bandmates Tom Leadon and Randall Marsh along with Heartbreakers Benmont Tench & Mike Campbell to reform his pre-Heartbreakers band Mudcrutch. The fivesome recorded a new album together scheduled for release during the first quarter of 2008. The disc will contain 18 old and new tracks. "We would play and then we would just talk about the old days," says Tom Leadon. In January 2008, it was announced that the band would be embarking on a North American Tour which set to start on May 30 following the appearance at Super Bowl XLII. On February 3, 2008, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers performed during the halftime-show of Super Bowl XLII (Super Bowl 42) at the University of Phoenix Stadium. During the halftime-show they played "American Girl", "I Won't Back Down", "Free Fallin'", and "Runnin' Down a Dream", in that order. 'I Won't Back Down' was used in the closing credits of the coverage on BBC2.
Tom Petty's first appearance in film took place in 1978, when he had a cameo in FM. He later had a small part in 1987's Made In Heaven, and appeared in several episodes of It's Garry Shandling's Show between 1987 and 1990, playing himself as one of Garry Shandling's neighbors. Petty also appeared as The Bridge City Mayor in the 1997 movie, The Postman, directed by and starring Kevin Costner. In 2002 he appeared on The Simpsons in the episode "How I Spent My Strummer Vacation". In it, he spoofed himself as a "tutor" to Homer Simpson on the art of lyric writing, composing a brief song about a drunk girl driving down the road while concerned with the state of public schools. Later in the episode, he loses a toe during a riot. Petty currently has a recurring role as Lucky in the animated show King of the Hill.
Petty has been honored with 18 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. As a member of the Traveling Wilburys, he earned a Grammy Award in 1989 for Best Rock Performance By A Duo or Group With Vocal for Traveling Wilburys Volume One. In 1995 he received another Grammy for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance for "You Don't Know How It Feels" and engineers David Bianco, Jim Scott, Richard Dodd and Stephen McLaughlin won the Grammy for Best Engineered Album (Non-Classical) for Wildflowers, which 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 for "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, Petty denied his work was any more important than anyone else's, saying that all artistic expression was equally valid. In 1994, You Got Lucky, a Tom Petty tribute album featuring such bands as Everclear and Silkworm was released. In April 1996, Petty received the UCLA's George and Ira Gershwin Award for Lifetime Musical Achievement. The next month, Petty won 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 for their contribution to the recording industry. In 2002, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. On December 6, 2005, Petty received the Billboard Century Award for his lifetime achievements. The same year, Conversations with Tom Petty, an oral history/biography comprised of interviews conducted in 2004 and 2005 with Petty by music journalist Paul Zollo, was published (ISBN 1-84449-815-8). On September 21, 2006, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers received the keys to the city of Gainesville, Florida, where he and his bandmates either lived or grew up. From July 2006 until 2007 the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio featured an exhibit of Tom Petty items. Much of the content was donated by Petty himself during a visit to his home by some of the Hall's curatorial staff. On October 14, 2007, Peter Bogdanovich's documentary film on Petty's career entitled Runnin' Down A Dream premiered at the New York Film Festival.
Views on artistic control
Petty is known as a staunch guardian of his creative control and artistic freedom. In 1979, he was dragged into a legal dispute when ABC Records was sold to MCA Records. He refused to be transferred to another record label without his consent. In May of 1979, he filed for bankruptcy and was signed to the new MCA subsidiary Backstreet Records. In early 1981, the upcoming Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers album, which would become Hard Promises, was slated to be the next MCA release with the new list price of $9.98, following Steely Dan's Gaucho and the Olivia Newton-John/Electric Light Orchestra Xanadu soundtrack. This so-called "superstar pricing" was $1.00 more than the usual list price of $8.98. Petty voiced his objections to the price hike in the press and the issue became a popular cause among music fans. Non-delivery of the album and naming it Eight Ninety-Eight were considered, but eventually MCA decided against the price increase. In 1987, Petty sued tire company B.F. Goodrich for $1 million for using a song very similar to his song "Mary's New Car" in a TV commercial. The ad agency that produced the commercial had previously sought permission to use Petty's song but was refused. A judge issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting further use of the ad and the suit was later settled out of court. Some have claimed that the Red Hot Chili Peppers single "Dani California", released in May 2006, is very similar to Petty's Mary Jane's Last Dance. Petty told Rolling Stone, "I seriously doubt that there is any negative intent there. And a lot of rock 'n' roll songs sound alike. Ask Chuck Berry. The Strokes took 'American Girl' [for their song 'Last Nite'], and I saw an interview with them where they actually admitted it. That made me laugh out loud. I was like, 'OK, good for you' ... If someone took my song note for note and stole it maliciously, then maybe [I'd sue]. But I don't believe in lawsuits much. I think there are enough frivolous lawsuits in this country without people fighting over pop songs."
His first marriage, to Jane Benyo, lasted 22 years. He spent most of those years working, on the road or in the studio. He has two daughters by that marriage. Since 2001 he has been married to Dana York, whom he first met years earlier when she came to one of his concerts. In 1987, an arsonist set fire to Petty's house in Encino, California. The fire caused $1 million in damage but firefighters were able to salvage the basement recording studio and the original tapes stored there, as well as a Gibson Dove Acoustic Guitar. Petty built an identical house at the same spot.
Tom Petty owns and has used a number of guitars over the years. From 1976-1982, his main instrument was a sunburst 1963 Fender Stratocaster. During the 2006 Highway Companion tour, Tom pulled the old workhorse out for a few songs. He has also used a number of Rickenbacker guitars from 1979 onwards, notably the Rose Morris 1993 and 1997 models and the 360/12 and 660/12 models. The Rickenbacker 660/12 was designed by Petty (specifically the neck) and featured his signature from 1991-1998. Petty has also used various Gibson Firebirds, Fender Telecasters, Gibson SGs, a Vox Mark III and a number of different Gretsch guitars. For acoustic guitars, Petty has had a signature C.F. Martin HD-40, and has written virtually all of his songs on a Gibson Dove acoustic. Amplifier wise, Petty mostly uses Vox AC-30 and Vox Super Beatle amps. He has also used Marshall and Fender amps.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Official Homepage: www.tompetty.com
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