Tom Earl Petty
Born Oct. 20th, 1950
An American singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, record producer, and actor. He was the lead singer of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, formed in 1976. He was also a co-founder of the late 1980s supergroup the Traveling Wilburys.
Petty was born and raised in Gainesville, but before he became one of America’s most iconic rock musicians he met Elvis Presley at the courthouse in Inverness. “I didn’t know a lot about Elvis Presley. He was known to me as a fellow who wiggled,” Petty remembers. Petty’s uncle Earl Jernigan worked on film crews in Florida and invited Petty to see the King on the set of Presley’s ninth film “Follow That Dream”.
Presley greeted Petty’s uncle and his nieces and nephews, including Petty. Witnessing Elvis firsthand, Petty decided the rock star had a good thing going on.“ I traded my Wham-O slingshot to this kid for a box of 45s, and in this box were so many Elvis records, and they were all the greatest ones. ”He was hooked on Elvis, hooked on rock and roll. “And that’s what kicked off my love of music. That was the dream I followed, strangely enough.”
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 “$8.98 L.P.” were considered, but eventually MCA decided against the price increase.
The album also featured Petty’s first duet, “Insider” with Stevie Nicks. Many collaborations and cross pollinations of their music followed. Petty married Jane Benyo in 1974, and they divorced in 1996.Benyo once told Stevie Nicks that she had met Petty at “the age of seventeen”. Nicks misheard Benyo’s North Florida accent, inspiring the title of her song “Edge of Seventeen”.
In 1988, Petty joined George Harrison’s group, the Traveling Wilburys, which also included Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, and Jeff Lynne. The band’s first song, “Handle with Care”, was intended as a B-side of one of Harrison’s “This Is Love” single, but was judged too good for that purpose.
The group decided to record a full album, Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1. A second Wilburys album, mischievously titled Traveling Wilburys Vol. 3 and recorded without the recently deceased Orbison, followed in 1990. The album was named Vol. 3 as a response to a series of bootlegged studio sessions being sold as Travelling Wilburys Vol. 2. Petty incorporated Traveling Wilburys songs into his live shows, consistently playing “Handle with Care” in shows from 2003 to 2006, and for his 2008 tour adding “surprises” such as “End of the Line” to the set list.
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 during a visit to his home by some of the Hall’s curatorial staff.