The Petty Archives

Tom Petty Doesn't Forget Southern Roots
By David Hinckley
Ocala Star-Banner - Sunday, July 19, 1987

His new album, "Let Me Up (I've Had Enough)," doesn't have the overtly Southern theme of his last one, "Southern Accents," or even such a graphic Southern image as his last tour, "Pack Up the Plantation." Still, Tom Petty isn't surprised to be asked whether his Heartbreakers, who are touring the country, play Southern rock.

I always kind of wondered what 'Southern rock' is," he says. "I mean, I guess what, maybe 90 percent of the rock 'n' roll in the '50s came from the South. Then there was the '60s soul sound, Stax and Memphis, and the Allman Brothers. In a more general sense, blues and jazz came out of the South.

"But for specific bands today, I don't think you can define it all that closely. To me, the Georgia Satellites sound more Southern than .38 Special, who I think are closer to the Cars. I guess my band's Southern because we got all these roots pounded into us in Southern bars, the kind of places where you still get requests for 'Memphis.'

"There's definitely that gunslinger vibe down South, where you don't pull out your guitar unless you can play it. You gotta be good just to survive there. When we finally went to L.A., we said hell, we coulda gotten ourselves some hair spray and made a fortune here 10 years ago.

"See, there's a lotta places to play in the South, but not too many to get signed in."