Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
By Lynn Van Matre
Chicago Tribune — June 19, 1987
SUBJECT: Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
PLAYERS: Tom Petty (pictured), vocals and guitar; Mike Campbell, lead guitar; Benmont Tench, keyboards; Stan Lynch, drums;
Howie Epstein, bass and vocals.
HOME TURF: Los Angeles
SOUND: Guitar-driven rock and roll with ’60s roots and a Southern accent.
CLAIMS TO FAME: Three million-selling albums (“Damn the Torpedoes,” “Hard Promises,” “Southern Accents”); two gold albums, signifying sales of at least 500,000 (“Long After Dark,” “You’re Gonna Get It”). Latest album, “Let Me Up (I’ve Had Enough),” is in the Top 30; current single, “Jammin’ Me,” is Top 20.
PETTY DETAILS: Growing up in Gainesville, Fla., Petty played in high school bands before joining Campbell and Tench in a group called Mudcrutch. Group left Florida for Los Angeles in 1974, but broke up soon after. Petty landed deal with Shelter Records and put together the Heartbreakers with Tench, Campbell, Gainesville native Lynch and bassist Ron Blair, who was later replaced by Epstein. Group released self-titled debut album in 1976 and scored first Top 10 hit single, “Don’t Do Me Like That,” in 1979. In the late 1970s and early ’80s Petty triumphed over record company legal battles, personal bankruptcy and a broken hand, which kept him out of action during much of 1984. Band’s 1986 tour with Bob Dylan was one of the year’s hottest tickets.
GOOFIEST GIGS: As teenagers, Petty and Campbell played in a band hired by a topless club to accompany the scantily clad female dancers’ bump-and-grind gyrations. “It was really lewd stuff. I’d never seen anything like it before in my life,” recalls Petty. “We had to play really good, really burn, to get any attention. The one thing we learned was that it was a lot easier to be in a rock band than to be a topless dancer.”
TOM’S TIP FOR STRUGGLING BANDS: “Be yourself. Although you’re always going to be influenced musically, you’ve got to stay true to what you believe in and express through your music. It’s no easy trick, but the more you do it, the better you’re gonna be at it.”
WHERE TO CATCH THEM: Friday at Alpine Valley and Saturday at Poplar Creek on triple bills that also feature the Georgia Satellites and the Del Fuegos.