Tom Petty is a legend in the rock world. Along with his backing band The Heartbreakers, Petty has been making music for more than 30 years, selling more than 60 million records along the way.
Petty's first venture into having a band manifested as the Sundowners, later to become Mudcrutch. Future Heartbreakers Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench joined him in that original effort. Their only single, "Depot Street," is still a fave among hardcore fans.
Upon the demise of Mudcrutch, Tench formed a band with Stan Lynch and Ron Blair. Petty liked their sound, pulled Campbell back in, and the Heartbreakers were born. Their 1977 self-titled debut gained minimal footing in the U.S., but caught on a bit better in the UK thanks to a tour opening for Nils Lofgren.
The follow-up, You're Gonna Get It!, managed to crack the Top 40 and put the band on the map. Their third outing, Damn the Torpedoes, sealed the deal by going platinum on the strength of classic songs like “Don't Do Me Like That” and “Refugee.”
Further evidence of their rock god status was found on 1981's Hard Promises. The set also went platinum as a Top 10 album and featured the hit single “The Waiting,” as well as “Insider,” Petty's duet with Stevie Nicks. The next year saw bassist Ron Blair take leave of the group and be replaced by Howie Epstein for Long After Dark.
In 1985, Petty and crew played Live Aid and released Southern Accents, which featured the inimitable hit “Don't Come Around Here No More.” The song's video also left the indelible image of Petty dressed as the Mad Hatter cutting up and eating Alice.
Taking a little break from the Heartbreakers, Petty formed the Traveling Wilburys supergroup in 1988 along with Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Roy Orbison, and Jeff Lynne. Their first single, “Handle with Care,” was originally set to be a Harrison b-side, but ended up as the anchor of Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1. Two years later, they would record and release Vol. 3 without Orbison.
In the midst of all that, Petty put out his first true solo record, 1989's Full Moon Fever, which included the Petty gems “Free Fallin'” and “I Won't Back Down.” Dylan was the only Wilbury not to participate on the album, which was produced by Campbell, along with Petty and Lynne.
Petty and the Heartbreakers reconvened in 1991 for Into the Great Wide Open. They also recorded two new songs for a greatest hits album that would be the parting sessions for Lynch. The collection sold over 10 million copies and would be their last for MCA Records.
Kicking off his new deal at Warner Bros. was Petty's second solo effort, the Rick Rubin-produced Wildflowers. Along with the Heartbreakers, Petty's next outings included recording the soundtrack for She's the One and backing Johnny Cash on Unchained. In 1999, their Echo found Rubin once again at the helm.
With the turn of the century behind him, Petty released a biting musical commentary on the music industry, 2002's The Last DJ. He followed that up by hosting his own show on XM Radio and headlining Bonnaroo in 2006.
That same year, he would mark Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers' 30th anniversary with a tour that included lots of special guest including Pearl Jam, Stevie Nicks, The Black Crowes, and more. Petty also released his third solo flight in 2006, Highway Companion. The set debuted at number four on the Billboard 200, Petty's best chart placement to date.
In 2007, former bandmates Randall Marsh and Tom Leadon joined Petty, Tench, and Campbell for a Mudcrutch reunion that resulted in an eponymous record that hit streets in April of 2008. Earlier that year, Petty and the Heartbreakers performed during half-time of the Super Bowl.
The latest Petty project, Mojo, is purported to be “blues-based” and slated for a Spring, 2010 release.