American singer and frontman Thomas Earl Petty was born on October 20th, 1950, Gainesville, Florida. Tom’s dream of becoming a rockstar started when he met rock legend Elvis Presley at the age of ten, and The Beatles performance on The Ed Sullivan Show inspired him to form a band. His first attempt at forming a band was the Epics, later renamed Mudcrutch, which included several members of the future Heartbreakers band. While Mudcrutch was popular in the Gainesville area, it failed to be noticed by a more mainstream audience and their only recorded single in 1975 didn’t make it into any charts.
Mudcrutch disbanded and Tom decided to pursue a solo career. However, former bandmate Benmont Tench had started his own band and, in collaboration with Mike Campbell, Ron Blair and Stan Lynch, they formed the first lineup of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. The band released their first album by the same name in 1976, but it was more popular in Britain than the U.S. Their second album debuted in 1978, titled You’re Gonna Get It!, and had better success than its predecessor. In 1979, their third album, Damn the Torpedoes, sold close to two million copies and became a commercial hit for the band. By the end of the 1980s, they had produced four more albums Hard Promises (1981,) Long After Dark (1982) and Southern Accents (1985,) Let Me Up (I’ve Had Enough) (1987) and had experienced their first line up change when bass player Ron Blair decided to leave the group.
Tom Petty, along with fellow musicians Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, George Harrison and Jeff Lynne, founded the supergroup Traveling Wilburys in 1988. The band recorded their first album Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 that same year, followed by intentionally-named Traveling Wilburys Vol. 3. In 1989, Petty released his first solo album, Full Moon Fever, which had contributions from his bandmates and other well-known musicians. His debut record became a critical and commercial hit. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers regrouped in 1991 and presented Into the Great Wide Open and later on a Greatest Hits album in 1993.
In 1994, Petty’s second solo album, Wildflowers, came out and sold over three million copies in the U.S. alone. The band continued working and in 1996, they released a soundtrack record to the movie She’s the One. The band released four more albums over the course of the following fifteen years: Echo (1999,) The Last DJ (2002,) Mojo (2010) and Hypnotic Eye (2014.) In 2005, Petty became the host of his own radio show, “Buried Treasure,” on XM Satellite Radio. A year later, the band embarked on their 30th Anniversary Tour, and Tom presented his third and final studio album, Highway Companion, which became one of Petty’s highest charting records.
Petty reunited in 2007 with former Mudcrutch members to reform the band and together they recorded a 14-song album that premiered on iTunes in 2008. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers also played during the halftime-show of Super Bowl XLII in February 2008. Between 2010 and 2017, the band toured the U.S. and the European continent, culminating with their 40th Anniversary Tour of the United States. A compilation album box, An American Treasure, was released by Reprise Records, consisting of several unreleased songs and alternate versions and other rarities of the band, Mudcrutch and Tom Petty.
A week after the 40th Anniversary Tour wrapped up, Petty was found unconscious in his home in California, and died at the age of 66 due to cardiac arrest on October 2nd, 2017.