The Petty Archives

Before The Heartbreakers, Tom Petty had Tulsa ties
By Jennifer Chancellor
Tulsa World - Sunday, September 19, 2010

Who was Tom Petty before he was Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers?

Well, he was Mudcrutch.

But even before Petty became famous, he was a musician in Dwight Twilley's band. For a few gigs, anyway.

Petty's first national television appearance as a bass player was when he played for Tulsa's Twilley on the short-lived children's comedy and variety show "W.A.C.K.O." in the late 1970s. They were invited back four times, Twilley recently said during an interview at his Big Oak Studio in Tulsa.

Both were signed to Shelter Records, co-founded by Tulsa Sound icon Leon Russell in the 1970s.

"A lot of people used to think Petty was from Tulsa. It used to really bother him," said Twilley of the Florida-born multi-instrumentalist.

Even though Russell was the cornerstone, Shelter Records signed artists including J. J. Cale, the Gap Band, and Twilley, as well as Freddie King, Petty, Jimmie Rogers, Phoebe Snow, Larry Hosford and the Grease Band.

Shelter Records co-owner Denny Cordell changed the names of Petty's band (formerly Mudcrutch) and Twilley's band (formerly Oister) around the time the pair started working for studio.

"He was key in making us both household names," Twilley said in a recent Tulsa World interview.

In fact, a pre-fame Petty played guitar on the Twilley tune "Looking for the Magic," from the latter's "Twilley Don't Mind" album, released in 1977.

"Tom and Dwight ran around together," said Tulsa producer and filmmaker Jon Schroeder.

Petty also sang on Twilley's hit tune "Girls" nearly a decade later.

"Petty wasn't in the video, but the director hired a girl that looked just like him to perform in it," Schroeder said.

Petty recorded music here in Tulsa, too. Russell's Shelter Records operated with Cordell from 1969 to 1981. In 1976, Russell left to start Paradise Records.

Petty went on to sell more than 60 million albums - in all his incarnations - worldwide. Petty's newest, "Mojo," was released earlier this year. Twilley's newest, "Green Blimp," drops nationally Oct. 5.