Music / Tom Petty
"You can stand me up at the gates of hell / But I won't back down."

Thomas Earl "Tom" Petty (born October 20, 1950 in Gainesville, Florida) is an American singer songwriter and multi instrumentalist. He is the frontman of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and a member of Mudcrutch. He was also a member of the supergroup The Traveling Wilburys under the pseudonym of Charlie T. Wilbury Jr. He has recorded a number of hit singles, many of which remain heavily played on adult contemporary and classic rock radio. Likewise, his music, most notably his hits, have become increasingly popular among younger fans as he continues to host sold-out shows in his recent tour dates.

Petty is also a vocal critic of the modern recording industry and the disappearance of independent radio stations.

Petty has been supported by his band, The Heartbreakers, for the majority of his career. He has occasionally released solo work, as is the case with 2006's Highway Companion, on which he performed most of the backing instrumentation himself. However, members of The Heartbreakers have played on each of his solo albums and the band has always backed him when touring in support of those albums. He has also toured with Mudcrutch in order to promote their debut album. Petty has been managed by Tony Dimitriades since 1976. On February 3, 2008, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers performed at the Super Bowl XLII Halftime show.

He had a minor but credited acting role as a mayor in Creator/Kevin Costner's post-apocalyptic (and box office) disaster film The Postman and was the voice of Lucky (Luanne Platter's redneck boyfriend turned husband) on the later seasons of the FOX sitcom King of the Hill (though the first time Lucky appeared on a King of the Hill episode was "The Redneck of Rainey Street," which focused on Kahn and Minh becoming trailer trash after Kahn, Jr. gets rejected from a college prep summer school program).

Notable Tom Petty songs:

"I'm runnin' down the tropes:"

  • Abusive Dad: Unfortunately for Tom.
  • Alice Allusion: The whole video for "Don't Come Around Here No More."
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Played with in "Free Fallin.'"
  • Animated Music Video: "Runnin' Down a Dream."
  • Audience Participation Song: "Breakdown." He doesn't even need to sing it live anymore, just give the cue and let the audience do the work. On the Pack Up the Plantation - Live album, recorded in 1985, after the audience belts out an excellent rendition of the first verse and the chorus, he quips: "You people are gonna put me out of a job." On "Learning to Fly" he often gets the audience to sing the chorus while he sings counterpoint lines between them as seen here.
  • Bo Diddley Beat: "American Girl."
  • Body Horror: At the end of "Don't Come Around Here No More," Alice turns into a cake and is eaten by the band.
  • Cool Old Guy: Tom and the rest of the Heartbreakers are all in their sixties and still put on amazing live shows.
  • Deadpan Snarker: While Tom is pretty articulate most of the time, he has been known to be one.
    • For one example, he and Bob Dylan were asked at a press conference in 1986 why they decided to tour together. Petty's answer: "Money." He also added in a newspaper interview: "It also helped that Bob asked me."
    • Once, when asked if using cocaine affected his songwriting during the recording of Southern Accents, Petty replied: "No, I think it affected my breaking my hand." note 
  • Determinator: "I Won't Back Down."
  • The Good King: Claims this is what he would be in "It's Good to Be King:"
    • "Yeah the world would swing, oh if I were king"
  • The Last DJ: His song of that title is the Trope Namer.
  • Let's Meet the Meat: In the "Don't Come Around Here No More" video, Alice's body turns into a cake and the Mad Hatter and his guests cut up and eat the cake.
  • Mummies at the Dinner Table: The Music Video for "Mary Jane's Last Dance," the former Trope Namer.
  • Nice Hat: Unfortunately, the original grey top hat got destroyed when his house burned down. He got another one, though.
  • Notable Music Videos
  • The Oner: "You Don't Know How It Feels."
  • Protest Song: "Peace In L.A." is about the 1992 Los Angeles riots.
  • Refrain from Assuming: It's "Mary Jane's Last Dance," not "Last Dance with Mary Jane."
  • Spiritual Successor: Full Moon Fever could be seen as this to Traveling Wilburys Vol 1 since the other Wilburys (minus Bob Dylan) contributed (Lynne: Bass, electric guitar, keyboards, background vocals and Record Producer, Harrison: Acoustic guitar and background vocals on "I Won't Back Down," Keltner: Drums, maracas and tambourine on "Love Is a Long Road," and Orbison: Background vocals on "Zombie Zoo").
    • In many ways, Highway Companion is one to Full Moon Fever.
  • Step Up to the Microphone: Scott Thurston sings Roy Orbison's lines when Petty performs Wilburys material live. While Roy's voice is pretty much unique, Thurston does a very fine job of capturing the feel and sound of his singing — audiences often spontaneously cheer at his renditions.
  • Studio Chatter: Several times. One notable example is on an obscure B-Side called "Heartbreakers Beach Party;" at the end Tom says: "All right, another modern classic."
  • Surreal Music Video: "Don't Come Around Here No More" and "Runnin' Down a Dream."
  • Throw the Dog a Bone: "Even the Losers" (...Get lucky sometime.)
  • Title Only Chorus: "Free Fallin'."
  • Urban Legends: His song "American Girl." Because Petty came from Gainesville, home of the University of Florida, the story goes that he based it on a college girl jumping to her death from a balcony of Beaty Towers, the tallest dorms on campus that just happened to be right next to US 441 (the road is mentioned in the lyrics). Not true. Petty lived in Los Angeles at the time he wrote the song lyrics, he merely used 441 in the song as it fit the lyrics, and Beaty Towers doesn't have any balconies. There are no recorded suicide jumps from the towers during the years in question.
  • World Gone Mad: Mentioned by name in "Yer So Bad:"
    "In a world gone mad, yer so bad"

Alternative Title(s): Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers