The Petty Archives

Tom Petty, Allman Brothers Band bring decades of music to live shows
By Regis Behe
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review - Thursday, August 10, 2006

When it comes time to discuss the best American musicians of the rock 'n' roll era, the usual -- and deserving -- suspects always come up. There are nods to Bob Dylan and Buddy Holly, Jimi Hendrix and Johnny Cash, the Beach Boys and Bruce Springsteen, and, of course, Elvis Presley.

Tom Petty's name is almost always conspicuous by its absence.

It's not that he's not appreciated or acknowledged -- you don't get in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame merely because your band has been around for 30 years.

But Petty, who performs with his band the Heartbreakers on Wednesday at the Post-Gazette Pavilion, is never regarded as an innovator, someone who wrought a new sound or was responsible for a seismic change in the way music was made.

Perhaps that's a fair assessment; Petty's music is hardly ground-breaking, his sound an archetype of American rock 'n' roll. And that's the also the genius, the essential appeal of a body of work that has never strayed from its roots.

Warren Haynes, who performs with the Allman Brothers Band on the same bill, says he's been a fan since he first heard Petty's song "Breakdown."

"He's a great songwriter with a great band," Haynes says. "The reason they're still around is the timelessness of the music. They've never tried to adhere to any trends."

This year, Petty and the Heartbreakers are celebrating 30 years together. There's a new solo album, "Highway Companion," and a documentary film directed by Peter Bogdanovich in production. But best of all, there's another show to attend, and even though last year's appearance at the Pavilion caused a massive traffic jam outside the venue, Petty's one of the guy's you don't mind waiting to see. That is, to turn a phrase, the only hard part.

Here are some of Petty's career highlights:

  • Nov. 9, 1976: Debut album, "Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers," is released. The next day the band begins its first national tour, opening for KISS.
  • Nov. 10, 1979: Petty and the band make their first of seven appearances on NBC's "Saturday Night Live." Buck Henry was the host.
  • Feb. 27, 1980: "Damn the Torpedoes," is certified platinum. Petty has earned 15 gold, platinum or multi-platinum records.
  • June-October 1987. Petty and the band back up Bob Dylan on his "True Confessions" world tour.
  • Feb. 22, 1989: Petty wins his first Grammy Award for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal for the album "Traveling Wilburys, Volume One."
  • Sept. 8, 1994: Petty receives Video Vanguard Award from MTV for his music videos.
  • March 1, 1999: The single "Free Girl Now" is made available as a free MP3 and is downloaded 156,992 times before Petty's record label removed the song from the Internet two days later.
  • March 18, 2002: Jakob Dylan inducts Petty & the Heartbreakers into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.