Tom Petty: 20 Facts You Might Not Have Known

Tom Petty passed away in October 2017. He was one of the most influential singer-songwriters / musicians of our time. There’s probably a lot that you didn’t know about him.

Here are 20 Facts That You Might Not Have Known About Tom Petty:

1. He released only 3 solo studio albums

His first solo studio album, Full Moon Fever was released in 1989. His second album, Wildflowers was released in 1994 and his third album Highway Companion was released in 2006.

2. Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers released 13 studio albums between 1976 and 2014

Here’s a list of the albums: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (1976), You’re Gonna Get It! (1978), Damn the Torpedoes (1979), Hard Promises (1981), Long After Dark (1982), Southern Accents (1985), Let Me Up (I’ve Had Enough) (1987), Into the Great Wide Open (1991), Songs and Music from “She’s the One” (1996), Echo (1999), The Last DJ (2002), Mojo (2010) and Hypnotic Eye (2014).

Tom Petty & The Hearbreakers

3. He was the third member of 1980s supergroup Travelling Wilburys to pass away

Roy Orbison passed away in 1988, George Harrison passed way in 2001 and Petty passed away in 2017. Bob Dylan and Jeff Lynne (ELO) are the only 2 surviving members of the supergroup.

Tom Petty recorded 2 albums with the group. The Travelling Wilburys Vol. 1 was released in 1988 and The Travelling Wilburys Vol. 3 was released in 1990.

The Travelling Wilburys

4. Tom Petty was also part of a band called Mudcrutch

Mudcrutch was originally formed in 1970. The band was originally called Epics. This was Tom Petty’s first band. This Southern and Country Rock band released 2 singles between 1971 and 1975 and then split up.

The band reformed with most of its original members in 2007 and released 2 studio albums: Mudcrutch (in 2008) and Mudcrutch 2 (in 2016).

5. Meeting Elvis Presley changed his life

Petty was only 11 years old when he met Presley (who was shooting a movie in Ocala, Florida). After this he started listening obsessively to his records.

Petty has been quoted as saying the following about the incident: “That’s what kicked off my love of music. And I’d never thought much about rock ‘n’ roll until that moment.”

6. He dropped out of high school to join his first band

He was only 17 when he did this to join Mudcrutch.


7. He became a Traveling Wilbury by accident

George Harrison first formed Traveling Wilburys in the late 1980s. The line-up included Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison & Bob Dylan. The musicians went to Bob Dylan’s home studio to record a B-side to their single, “This is Love.”

Harrison had accidentally left a guitar at Petty’s house, and when he went to retrieve it, he asked Petty if he wanted to join the session. The musicians had such a good time that they decided to record a full album — and the song they recorded that day, “Handle With Care” became one of their biggest hits.

8. Full Moon Fever almost didn’t get released

His record company, MCA originally rejected the record. Feeling hurt, Petty picked himself up, dusted himself off and forged ahead. The album produced a wave of enduring hits, among them “Free Fallin’,” “I Won’t Back Down” and “Runnin’ Down a Dream”.

7. Tom Petty predicted his 2017 tour would be his last

Before the tour kicked off Tom Petty said: “I’m thinking it may be the last trip around the country. It’s very likely we’ll keep playing, but will we take on 50 shows in one tour? I don’t think so.”

“I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was thinking this might be the last big one. We’re all on the backside of our sixties. I have a granddaughter now I’d like to see as much as I can. I don’t want to spend my life on the road.”

8. He knew what he wanted to be

Tom Petty realized that he wanted to be in a band after watching The Beatles play on The Ed Sullivan Show.

The Beatles

9. He worked many odd jobs

Petty never attended as a student, but he worked for the grounds crew at the University of Florida. He couldn’t recall it, but apparently he planted an Ogeechee lime tree in his time at the university. The tree has been officially dubbed the “Tom Petty tree.”

10. Tom Petty learned to play guitar from a professional

He took guitar lessons from a member of The Eagles, Don Felder. Before Felder joined The Eagles, he taught guitar lessons in his hometown: Gainesville, Florida. Tom Petty was born and grew up in this town.

Don Felder

11. He was a proponent of marijuana legalization

His song “Don’t Pull Me Over” is a protest in favor of legalized weed. The song was released in 2010.

12. He had a few different stage names

He was also known as “Muddy Wilbury” and “Charlie T. Wilbury, Jr.”

13. Tom Petty and The Hearbreakers appeared as musical guests 8 times on Saturday Night Live

Their first musical guest appearance was in 1979 and their last musical guest appearance in 2010.

14. Tom Petty voiced characters in The Simpsons & King Of The Hill

He provided the voice for himself in an episode of The Simpsons in 2002. Petty provided the voice for Lucky / Mud Dobber in 28 episodes of King Of The Hill between 2004 and 2009.

15. Petty sued B.F. Goodrich in 1987

He sued them for $1 million. A song used in one of the company’s TV commercials sounded similar to his song “Mary’s New Car”.

16. Sam Smith settled a dispute with Tom Petty

Smith was required to pay Petty a 12.5% writing credit for his song “Stay With Me”. His song copied Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down.”

17. He was the target of arson

An arsonist burned down his home on the 17th of May 1987. His iconic grey top hat was destroyed in the fire.

18. He Almost Recorded ‘The Boys of Summer’

According to American Songwriter, Mike Campbell, the Heartbreakers guitarist, was working on a demo in 1984 for the song that eventually became “The Boys of Summer.”

Campbell offered the song to Petty, who disliked the use of synthesizers, so the song went to Don Henley and became a huge hit for the singer.

19. Tom Petty was married twice

He married Jane Benyo in 1974 and got divorced in 1996. He had two daughters with her: Adria and Kimberly. He married Dana York in 2001. She was still married to him when he died in 2017.

20. He almost Convinced Dave Grohl to Become a Heartbreaker

Petty recruited Dave Grohl for Saturday Night Live in 1994. The band performed “Honeybee” and “You Don’t Know How It Feels.”. He enjoyed playing with Grohl so much that he allegedly offered the drummer a full-time spot in the band. Grohl turned down the offer to start the Foo Fighters, but remained a fan of the band.

Well, there you have, 20 facts that you might not have known about Tom Petty. If you feel that there’s something that I left out, feel free to leave a comment below.

Remember that you can check out the Full Moon Fever Tom Petty Tribute tour around Gauteng in the next week. Click here for more details.

Watch this space for updates in the Music category on Running Wolf’s Rant.


Henno Kruger

Blogger, Desktop Activist, Twitter / Facebook Addict, Music Festival Addict, Avid lover of South African music, Founder and owner of Running Wolf's Rant

Leave a Reply