How did the Traveling Wilburys come to exist? Over the next few days, I’ll piece together a few of the happenings that brought five legendary musicians together to form the greatest supergroup in rock history.
The first piece, Tom Petty, a.k.a. Charlie T. Wilbury, Jr. In 1988, Bob Dylan recruited Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers to be his backup band during the True Confessions tour. A year later, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers release Let Me Up (I’ve Had Enough) album, featuring a song co-written by Dylan. Petty and his cohorts again back Bob Dylan in 1987 for his Temples in Flames tour. The following year, Petty and Dylan joined forces with Roy Orbison, Electric Light Orchestra‘s Jeff Lynne, and the Beatles‘ George Harrison to form the Traveling Wilburys.
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers‘ self-titled debut was released in November, 1976, by Shelter Records. The first single, “Breakdown,” was a Top 40 hit, and has been covered in the studio by Grace Jones and Suzi Quatro, and by numerous artists in concert, including the Replacements and Foo Fighters. The band then released “American Girl,” which unbelievably did not chart in the United States until it was re-released in 1994. The song was used in several films, including FM, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and The Silence of the Lambs.
Tom Petty was an iconic songwriter, with fans young and old. I love Tom Petty’s music, but his last album I really heard was Songs and Music from “She’s the One” from 1996. I have no doubt that I would love everything else he recorded in the past 20 years, but I never felt compelled to seek it out. Regardless of my own negligence of his recent craft, his impact on the world of music was huge. Artists from genres as diverse as country to horror punk have covered Tom Petty songs. Here are some of the best that I have tracked down.
JT’s Ultimate Mixtape: Tom Petty covered edition
- “Breakdown” (Suzi Quatro, If You Knew Suzi)
- “Free Fallin'” (John Mayer, Where The Light Is: John Mayer Live In Los Angeles)
- “I Won’t Back Down” (Johnny Cash, American III: Solitary Man)
- “Here Comes My Girl” (Relient K, is for Karaoke)
- “Runnin’ Down a Dream” (Wedensday 13, Bloodwork)
- “You Wreck Me” (Taking Back Sunday, Covered, A Revolution in Sound)
- “Don’t Come Around Here No More” (Dave Stewart & His Rock Fabulous Orchestra, The Dave Stewart Songbook, Vol. 1)
- “American Girl” (Matthew Sweet, High School Reunion: A Tribute to Those Great 80s Films)
- “I Need To Know” (Middle Class Rut, Pick Up Your Head [vinyl])
- “Refugee” (The Chipmunks, Chipmunk Punk)
- “Stop Draggin’ My Car Around” (Weird Al Yankovic, Weird Al Yankovic)
(October 20, 1950 – October 2, 2017)
Iconic classic rocker Tom Petty has passed away. He suffered a cardiac incident and was rushed to the hospital Sunday night. After LAPD inadvertently released incomplete information to media sources Monday afternoon, it has now been confirmed that Petty passed at UCLA-Santa Monica Medical Center.
I loved Tom Petty and I covered his songs because I wanted know what it felt like to fly.
“you belong somewhere you feel free.”
— John Mayer (@JohnMayer) October 2, 2017
No! We have lost Tom Petty. From our opening act in the seventies to becoming a brilliant songwriter and performer I have loved his music. pic.twitter.com/yhyPCfm2l6
— Paul Stanley (@PaulStanleyLive) October 2, 2017
Way too young…Rest In Peace Tom…. You’ll always be remembered as a Giant pic.twitter.com/OBDdtdKBgk
— DOUG ALDRICH (@Douglas_Aldrich) October 2, 2017
Praying for all those affected by Vegas last night.
And now the loss of one of my great influences Tom Petty today.
— Bon Jovi (@BonJovi) October 2, 2017
Musicians touch people in different ways . Tom made me feel happy . I choose happy . Rest easy Tom Petty . https://t.co/hmLBDmmpeU
— Tracii Guns☮ (@traciiguns) October 2, 2017
So sorry to hear we lost Tom Petty..thank you for the music, your time here brought much joy to the world…rest in peace. 😦
— Shawn Duncan (@sduncandrums) October 2, 2017
R.I.P. Tom Petty! Wow! Just, wow!!!
— Rikki Rockett (@RikkiRockett) October 2, 2017
Just when I thought today could not get any worse…
R.I.P. Tom Petty. Thank you for your beautiful music and inspiration.
— Kid Rock (@KidRock) October 2, 2017
Tom Petty memory: I'm 14. "Refugee" blaring on stereo. Mom yells up stairs. "Do you really like that music?"
Yes, mom, I do.#RIPTomPetty
— NightOwlCards (@nightowlcards) October 2, 2017
Tom Petty gone? That’s just so wrong. What a bad day this has been, in so many ways.
— Stephen King (@StephenKing) October 2, 2017
Guitarists love to hear other guitarists talk about their craft. Jas Olbrecht, former editor of Guitar Player magazine, has had the honor of speaking with some of the most famous guitarists in history from diverse genres, and a number of those interviews are collected in the volume Talking Guitar: Conversations with Musicians Who Shaped Twentieth-Century American Music. From the blues guitar of Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown to the rockabilly stylings of Ricky Nelson, the philosophy of the Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia to the two-handed tapping of Eddie Van Halen, Talking Guitar has a little bit for everyone.
The Van Halen interview is especially interesting as it was an unscheduled sit-down with the up-and-coming guitarist after Olbrecht was blown off by Pat Travers. After playing a game of one-on-one basketball and explaining his predicament, Van Halen said, “Why don’t you interview me? Nobody has ever wanted to interview me?” He introduced himself, Olbrecht started recording, and Eddie Van Halen’s “first major interview” was underway.
Johnny Winter went on record about open tuning and slide technique, Carlos Santana speaks to the importance of tone and emotion, while Tom Petty talks about understanding rhythm guitar and how important Mike Campbell’s lead work was so important in Petty’s success. Talking Guitar also features interviews with Nick Lucas, Ry Cooder, Barney Kessel, Roebuck “Pops” Staples, Carol Kaye, Stevie Ray Vaughan, James Gurley, Gregg Allman, Neil Young, Eric Johnson, Joe Satriani, and Ben Harper.
Also included is an audio CD that includes excerpts of the interviews, including Eddie Van Halen explaining how “Eruption” ended up on the debut Van Halen record, and James Gurley explaining how John Coltrane influenced psychedelic guitar.
Talking Guitar is a fascinating collection of interviews, highly recommended for aspiring rock stars.