Damn the Torpedoes! Tom Petty is 60!


Tom Petty, who turns 60 today, from 1976.

Some memories seem encased in temporal bubbles that keep them outside the normal flow of time. For me, this usually seems to be events that happened during high school. One of them was the appearance of Tom Petty on the music scene. It seems like yesterday, but when you do the math, you discover that it was over 30 years ago.

How can that be?!

Wasn’t he just “damning the torpedoes?” And howling to “Full Moon Fever?” And traveling with the Wilburys?

Nope. All those things were decades ago. As was Petty’s birth. Six decades ago, in fact, on October 20, 1950.

If you have ever wondered which current rock and roll superstars decided to go into music careers after seeing the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show, one of the answers is Tom Petty. This happened four years after Tom, as a 10-year-old, met Elvis Presley on the set of Follow That Dream near his home in Gainesville, Florida. These two events made a lasting impression on young Petty, who went on to form bands with a few fellow Gainesville residents, including Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench, that would later morph into the “Heartbreakers” when Tom went solo in the late 70s. Their first album was called simply Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers in 1976, which produced the hit singles, “Breakdown” and “American Girl.” The group has been going strong ever since.

Along the way, Petty, with the Hearbreakers and occasionally as a soloist, has sold over 60 million records and woven his sound into the fabric of American pop radio. In 1988, Petty was able to repay former-Beatle George Harrison for helping forge his future all those years ago, by joining Harrison’s supergroup, The Traveling Wilburys.

Petty, along with the Heartbreakers, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002 and is currently on tour promoting Mojo, the group’s twelfth studio album, which debuted in June at #2 with 125,000 sales its first week.

Not bad for an old guy.

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About deadwrite

Freelance writer, film historian, taphophile View all posts by deadwrite

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