R. Henson

R. Henson

Rowdy Henson, Entertainment Writer

On October 2nd, the world lost one of the greatest musicians that ever graced this planet. Thomas Earl Petty was born in Gainesville, Florida on October 20, 1950. He was in bands all through high school and knew that he was meant to play music for a living. He dropped out of school when he was seventeen to start the band “Mudcrutch” with Randall Marsh on drums, Mike Campbell and “Eagles” guitarist Bernie Leadon’s brother Tom Leadon both on guitar, pianist Benmont Tench, and Tom himself on bass and vocals. They saw success in Gainesville, and they decided to make the trek to LA to try and make it big. They all piled up in a station wagon and set out for the City of Angels. They found a label, but the executives wanted Tom, not the rest of them, so he started the Heartbreakers with Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench of Mudcrutch, along with new drummer Stan Lynch and bass player Ron Blair.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers kicked off a hugely successful tour in Europe, but without as much success in the U.S. “American Girl” changed that, and soon Tom Petty would be on top of the world. After their 1979 record hit the airwaves, they were boosted to a new level of fame. They toured for months at a time over the next 5 or so years until Bob Dylan asked them to be his band, so they opened for Dylan and then played as his backing band. This was the first time Bob had a backing band with him on a tour since The Band had left after they released “Music From Big Pink.” It wasn’t all peachy though. Tensions between drummer, Stan Lynch, and producer, Jimmy Iovine, led to Stan’s departure from the band. The band took a breather, and Tom pursued his solo career, which sparked hits like “I Won’t Back Down.” He also collaborated on other projects, such as The Traveling Wilburys, a band that consisted of Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan, ELO’s Jeff Lynne, and George Harrison of the Beatles. They had hits with songs such as “End of the Line” and “Handle with Care.” Not long after the release of that album, Roy Orbison passed away.

After that, the Heartbreakers regrouped and started touring again and making new records. They had been going strong ever since. Sadly though, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers are over. They are one of those bands that have always been and always will be, and I am just glad that I am lucky enough that my ears were graced by his genius songwriting and beautiful melodies and am grateful for the years of good old fashioned Rock ‘n Roll.