Thomas Earl Petty (born October 20, 1950 in Gainesville, Florida) is an American musician. Petty did not have any musical aspirations before Elvis Presley visited his hometown. After working with his early bands The Sundowners, The Epics, and Mudcrutch (which also included future Heartbreakers members Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench) he began his recording career with Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers when the band broke onto the national music scene with their 1976 self-titled debut album. Still, it took America a full year to catch up to the album. "Breakdown" was re-released to radio and became a Top 40 hit in 1977 after word filtered back the band was creating a firestorm in England.
Their 1978 second album You're Gonna Get It! proved the debut album's intensity was no fluke. Marking the band's first gold album, it features the singles "Listen To Her Heart" and "I Need To Know". Shortly after its release the band was dragged into a legal dispute when ABC Record, Shelter's mother company, was sold to MCA Records. Petty refused to be simply transferred to another record label without his consent. He held fast to his principles for a long nine months, which eventually lead to him filing for bankruptcy.
After the dispute was settled, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers released their third album Damn The Torpedoes (1979) that rapidly became triple-platinum. It includes "Refugee", their US breakthrough single. Damn The Torpedoes was followed by the unsuccessful but critically acclaimed Hard Promises (1981).
On their fifth album Long After Dark (1982) bass player Ron Blair was replaced by Howie Epstein, giving The Heartbreakers their final line-up. However, frontman Tom Petty had problems coping with the stress and success and decided to slow things down.
On their come-back album Southern Accents (1985) Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers picked up where they had left off. The recording was not without problems ï¿½ Petty became frustrated during the mixing process and broke his left hand after punching it through a wall. The album includes the hit single "Don't Come Around Here No More" which was produced by Dave Stewart.
A successful concert tour led to the live album Pack Up The Plantation-Live! (1985). The band's live capabilities were put to the test when Bob Dylan invited Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers to join him on his True Confessions tour through the US, Australia, Japan (1986) and Europe (1987).
Also in 1987, the group released Let Me Up (I've Had Enough), a studio album made to sound like a live recording using a technique they borrowed from Bob Dylan. It includes "Jammin' Me", which Petty wrote with Dylan.
Petty also appeared in several episodes of It's Garry Shandling's Show (1987 - 1990), playing himself as one of Garry Shandling's neighbors. This show originally appeared on the the Showtime cable TV channel.
In 1989, Petty released Full Moon Fever. Though nominally a solo project, other Heartbreakers and well-known musicians participated in the album's production. Mike Campbell co-produced the album with Petty and Jeff Lynne of Electric Light Orchestra. It was in the Billboard Top Ten chart for over 34 weeks and earned triple-platinum status, along the way spawning such hits as "I Won't Back Down", "Free Fallin'" and "Runnin' Down A Dream".
Prior to Full Moon Fever, Lynne and Petty worked together in the all-stars band Traveling Wilburys, which also counted Bob Dylan, George Harrison and Roy Orbison as members. Traveling Wilburys started as a joke in order to record a B-side for a George Harrison single, but the song "Handle Me With Care" was such a success that the group decided to record a full album, Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 (1988). Roy Orbison's sudden death casted a shadow on the success and shortly afterwards Del Shannon, whom the remaining Wilburys had in mind as a replacement, comitted suicide. A second Wilburys album, mysteriously called Traveling Wilburys Vol. 3 (1990), followed but couldn't quite live up to expectations.
Petty rejoined with the Heartbreakers for his next album, Into the Great Wide Open in 1991. It was again produced by Jeff Lynne and includes the hit singles "Learning To Fly" and "Into The Great Wide Open".
In 1994, Petty released his second solo album, Wildflowers, which also included the hit singles "You Don't Know How It Feels", "You Wreck Me", "It's Good to Be King", "A Higher Place" and "Honey Bee".
He has been honored with 10 Grammy Award nominations since 1981. In that year he received his first nomination for his collaboration with Stevie Nicks, "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around" in the category of Best Rock Performance By A Duo or Group With Vocal. Petty earned a Grammy Award in 1989 for Best Rock Performance By A Duo or Group With Vocal for his work with the Traveling Wilburys. In 1994 he received another two Grammy Awards: Best Male Rock Vocal Performance (for "You Don't Know How It Feels") and Best Engineered Album (Non-Classical). Wildflowers also garnered a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Album.
Other Wildflowers achievements included Best Male Video Award for "You Don't Know How It Feels" at the 1995 MTV Video Music Awards. Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers won the same award in 1994 with the video "Mary Jane's Last Dance". At the 1994 ceremony, Petty was also presented with the Video Vanguard Award, citing his longtime contributions to the field.
As a songwriter, Tom Petty was acknowledged in May 1996 with the prestigious Golden Note Award from ASCAP. In April 1996, Petty received UCLA's George And Ira Gershwin Award For Lifetime Musical Achievement. In 2002 the group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
In 1999 Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7018 Hollywood Blvd., an honor that acknowledges both their musical achievements and their humanitarian involvement with such organizations as Greenpeace, the National Veteran's Foundation, USA Harvest, Rock And Wrap It Up, and AmFAR (the American Foundation for AIDS Research).
In 2002 he appeared in The Simpsons, in the episode "What I Did In My Summer Vacation". He has also voiced the character Lucky in King of the Hill