If I'd had to work at Taco Bell I'd have still been out at night trying to play music.
Born in Gainesville, Florida, Tom Petty was destined to be a rock singer from the age of 10, when he met Elvis Presley on a film set that his uncle was working on. He ran to the store to buy a record for Elvis to sign, and was hooked from then on.
He rose to fame as the singer, songwriter and guitarist of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and later as a member of The Traveling Wilburys, but had been playing in bands since 1965. It wasn;t until 1974, when he drove from Florida to Los Angeles in search of a record deal that Petty’s fortunes would turn. Within weeks he had received seven offers from companies eager to sign him and his group, Mudcrutch, and they released their first (and only) single before the broke up in 1975.
The Heartbreakers formed from the remnants of Mudcrutch, and they quickly proved to be a far more popular act, first charting in the UK before breaking the wider American market in the late 70s. After enjoying success with his own group, Petty branched out in the 1980s, releasing solo albums and touring with Bob Dylan. In 1988 Petty joined The Travelling Wilburys a supergroup formed by George Harrison, and featuring Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison and Jeff Lynne.
Throughout his career, Petty maintained strong principles both in favour of his fans and artistic control over his music. In 1981 he refused to allow his record company to sell his albums for more than $8.98, in spite of his superstar status, threatening to withhold the album if the company did not acquiesce.
In 1987 he successfully sued an advertising company for using a suspiciously similar song to his in a car advert. He was far more relaxed about other artists using his material in their songs, saying “I don't believe in lawsuits much. I think there are enough frivolous lawsuits in this country without people fighting over pop songs”.