Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers Details
It’s easy to forget that Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers began almost at the start of a legendary and highly influential wave of American music known as “heartland rock.” Formed in Gainesville, Florida, in 1976, the Heartbreakers joined performers like Bob Seger and Bruce Springsteen in representing a grounded, blue-collar and thoroughly American counterpoint to the dance-friendly sounds of disco and early synth pop that dominated the airwaves in the mid and late 1970s. Petty fronted three “starter bands”—the Sundowners, the Epics, and Mudcrutch—before coming together with Mike Campbell, Ron Blair, Stan Lynch and Benmont Tench to form the Heartbreakers. Early hits like “Refugee” and “Don’t Do Me Like That” told stories that people across the country could relate to, all backed by the driving beats and slashing guitars of classic rock. It’s appropriate that the band’s breakthrough single was 1978’s “Anything That’s Rock ’n’ Roll,” even though the song was a bigger hit in England than on the American charts. That release was followed by the band’s first gold album—their second album overall—called You’re Gonna Get It! in 1978.
Like many great rock artists, lead singer and songwriter Tom Petty was a fan of rock long before he was a performer. It was more than just the sound that drove him to the music, it was the promise of hope and belonging. Throughout his career, Petty has paid tribute to the “Rock Gods.” From working alongside Bob Dylan, George Harrison and Roy Orbison as a member of The Travelling Wilburys to referencing personal heroes like Del Shannon (“Runnin’ Down a Dream”) and Elvis (“Free Fallin’”) in his lyrics, Petty’s songs weave seamlessly and purposefully into the eternal tapestry of rock and roll. With now-classic hits like “American Girl,” “I Won’t Back Down,” “Breakdown” and “Learning to Fly” forming the backbone of their catalog, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers have added their own chapters to rock history. Curator of his own channel on SiriusXM (Tom Petty Radio) and his own fan club of traveling concert followers (“Highway Companions”), Petty’s music speaks to anyone—young or old—who truly loves rock.