February 28, 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.

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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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Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

Tom Petty once said of “Refugee,” “If I’d known it was going to be such a big hit I think I would have spent a lot more time working on it.” The quote reveals a casual, self-depreciating nature.

Petty, solo or with the Heartbreakers, and there isn’t much difference (usually a Heartbreaker or two lends a hand on the solo records), is often unfairly described as a meat and potatoes musician. He is more of a straight-ahead, no-nonsense kind of guy, who delivers. Also, it helps to have a band like the Heartbreakers led by Mike Campbell’s guitar. Petty started his career under the influence of Bob Dylan and the Byrds. “American Girl” captured both Dylan’s vocal style and the Byrds ringing guitars. The song was later covered by former Byrds’ frontman Roger McGuinn.

An appearance on the “FM” soundtrack (“Breakdown”) helped establish the group. Early on though, Petty ran into financial troubles that, instead of wiping him out, resulted in the creation of a label to release his recordings. Shelter had been sold to ABC Records, who in turn were purchased by MCA Records. MCA figured Petty owed them more than 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 squeeze any money out of 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,” which gave a nod to the late Del Shannon, whose career Petty had worked to revive. Petty and Campbell contributed to Stevie Nicks’ “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around.” Earlier, Nicks had added vocals to Petty’s “Insider.”

For maximum exposure, there was a halftime performance at Super Bowl XLII in Phoenix. 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, which featured the single “American Dream Plan B,” was the group’s first in four years. The set was also the group’s first #1 album on the Billboard 200. It only took Petty and company a mere thirty-seven years to get to the top spot.

Like a bolt out of the blue, when it looked as though Petty & The Heartbreakers still had more chapters in their story, Petty died of cardiac arrest on 10/02/17. Found unconscious and not breathing in his Malibu home, Petty was rushed to the hospital and put on life support. But with no brain activity life support was removed. He was 66. An autopsy determined that Petty died of an accidental overdose of various medications, including painkillers.