July 23, 2024

The Classic Rock band is in the RockinTown.com Hall of Fame – Class of 2024

“If I’d know it was going to be such a big hit I think I would have spent a lot more time working on it,” Tom Petty once said of “Refugee,”

The quote revealed a self-depreciating nature. Petty, solo or with the Heartbreakers, and there wasn’t much difference, was a straight-ahead, no-nonsense kind of guy, who delivered. Also, it helped to have a band like the Heartbreakers led by Mike Campbell’s guitar. 

Petty’s early influences included the Byrds and Bob Dylan. “American Girl” encapsulated the Byrds’ ringing guitars and Dylan’s vocal style. Roger McGuinn, the former frontman of the Byrds, later covered the song.

The inclusion of the song “Breakdown” on the “FM” soundtrack helped establish the band.  However, Petty suffered financial difficulties.  Signed to Shelter Records, label had been sold to ABC Records, which MCA Records later bought. Petty was said to owe MCA almost half a million dollars. 

At the time Petty had only a tenth of that. He declared bankruptcy and MCA, figuring they weren’t going to see any money from a broke musician, created and controlled Backstreet Records for Petty and the Heartbreakers. It was a nice piece of convoluted business that the record industry was famous for.

Don’t Do Me Like That,” “The Waiting,” and “You Got Lucky” followed. Solo, Petty came up with “I Won’t Back Down” and “Running Down A Dream.” Also, “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” by Stevie Nicks had contributions from Petty and Campbell.

Then there was the halftime performance at Super Bowl XLII in Phoenix where Petty & The Heartbreakers played “American Girl,” “I Won’t Back Down,” “Free Fallin’,” and “Runnin’ Down A Dream.” 

Petty & The Heartbreakers rolled out “Hypnotic Eye” in ’14. The set was the group’s first in four years. It was also their first #1 album on the Billboard 200. It only took Petty and company a mere thirty-seven years to get to the top spot. 

Just when it seemed like Petty & The Heartbreakers had more chapters to write, Petty unexpectedly passed away due to cardiac arrest at his Malibu residence on 10/02/17.

Found unconscious and not breathing he was taken to the hospital and given life support. But life support was removed when there was no cerebral activity. He was sixty-six.

Petty died, according to an autopsy, from an unintentional overdose of several drugs, including opioids.


Joining Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers in the RockinTown.com Hall of Fame – Class of 2024 are Iron Maiden and Tina Turner.

See all of the bios for Rockintown.com Hall of Fame members.

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