Today is Tom Petty’s 64th birthday, and to celebrate the occasion we’re looking at some lesser-known things about the rock ‘n roll legend. You may be aware of a few of these, but I’m quite certain no one came in here with full knowledge. Now then, onto the fun!
He was Luanne Platter’s husband on King Of The Hill.
Tom Petty made a rare foray into the world of voice acting when he played Lucky, a redneck who lucked out when he “slipped on pee-pee” at a gas station and won $53,000 in the resulting lawsuit. Eventually Lucky would also win the affections of Hank Hill’s niece, Luanne, and they would later get married and have a child. Towards the end of the show’s run, Petty was more or less a regular part of King Of The Hill‘s cast, even though he was still credited as a guest star. One can only hope that if a radio interviewer asked him if it was difficult to transition from music to acting, he would respond with “would you ask Billy Bob Thornton that?”
He nearly convinced Dave Grohl to become a Heartbreaker.
In late 1994, the suicide of Kurt Cobain had effectively ended Nirvana, and Dave Grohl was at a crossroads. Should he go forward with the solo demos he was recording (which eventually became the first Foo Fighters album), or accept Tom’s offer to replace fired drummer Stan Lynch, and join the Heartbreakers? We all know what choice Grohl made, and considering the millions of albums of the Foo Fighters have sold, it was undeniably the right one. Still, it’s interesting to consider how Grohl might have affected the band’s sound if he had joined Petty and company. The interplay between Grohl’s grunge background, and the mellower direction the Heartbreakers were going in would have been fascinating. Oh well, at least they played one SNL gig together, as you can see in the above pic.
He’s been immortalized in the world of hip-hop… albeit with a different spelling of his name.
In 2012, Little Dragon, Killer Mike, and Big Boi released the song “Thom Pettie,” which features the chorus “Thom Pettie that ho/Free falling, we out all night.” In an interview with the Canadian site Metro News, Big Boi claimed that “Tom Pettying” or “Thom Pettieing” simply referred to having a wild, unpredictable night out that could take you anywhere. This was originally referred to as “free falling,” and eventually morphed into “Tom Pettying.” I have no cue how Tom feels about this — neither does Big Boi — but… I guess he should be flattered? I mean, Big Boi and Killer Mike are hip-hop legends, so that’s pretty cool, even though they’ve both done far better work than “Thom Pettie.”
He reunited his old band Mudcrutch in 2008, and they made a great record.
Before there were the Heartbreakers, there was Mudcrutch, the band Petty was in with eventual Heartbreakers Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench, along with Tom Leadon and Randall Marsh. The band split up, and the Heartbreakers were formed, but in 2008 Petty reunited Mudcrutch for a self-titled album which proved to be Petty’s strongest effort in years. We haven’t heard from Mudcrutch since, but based on the strength of their lone album another reunion might not be a bad idea.
Also….wait a second…the drummer’s name was Randall Marsh? So Lorde used to play with Tom Petty, too?
He’s a member of Saturday Night Live‘s five-timers club.
Okay, I suppose you could debate whether musicians qualify for the five-timers club the way hosts do, but Petty has been one of SNL‘s most prominent musical guests, appearing on the show eight different times. Also, he’s appeared on episodes hosted by five different members of the Five-Timers Club — Buck Henry, Steve Martin, Tom Hanks, John Goodman, and Alec Baldwin. You would hope at least one of them would vouch for him to become an official member.
He had a small role in The Postman
We already know about Petty’s acting bonafides from his work on King Of The Hill, but he also appeared in the 1997 Kevin Costner flop The Postman. Credited simply as “The Mayor,” Petty gets a small bit of screen time that you can watch in the above clip. Petty might not have been able to turn The Postman into a good movie, but it’s safe to say he didn’t make it any worse.
He fought against increases in record prices — and he won.
Back in 1981, $9.98 seemed like a high price to pay for an album. Okay, I suppose it seems like high price now, too, what with Spotify and all, but in any event, when MCA planned to charge a price of $9.98 for Petty’s Hard Promises album, he was not happy. The standard price at the time was $8.98, and Petty didn’t want to see fans paying such a high price for his music. He refused to release the album until MCA agreed to sell it for $8.98, and eventually, they caved. This wasn’t the only time Petty would advocate for a cause, which brings us to….
He advocated for marijuana legalization with a song that not everyone liked.
Petty’s 2010 album Mojo was a decidedly experimental effort, with the Petty and the Heartbreakers embracing longer songs, and genres they had never explored before. One such effort is the reggae-ish “Don’t Pull Me Over,” a protest song in support of legalized pot. The song was not received well by the Village Voice, who ranked it as the fourth-worst song of 2010, saying it “combines the halting, all-elbows island rhythms of a gang of AARP-members doing Peter Tosh with the sad croon of poor, hapless, beaten-down working man Tom multimillionaire Petty crying ‘Don’t pull me over, Mr. Pooooliceman.” Damn, that’s pretty harsh. To be honest, I kinda like this song. To each his own, I guess.
He turned down a chance to record “The Boys Of Summer,” and it became a huge hit for Don Henley.
In 1984, Heartbreakers guitarist Mike Campbell was working on a demo for what we become “The Boys Of Summer.” He offered the track to Petty, but he balked at its heavy use of synthesizers. Campbell then offered the track to Don Henley, who wrote the lyrics, and had a huge hit. It’s interesting to think what the song would have become in the hands of Petty, but that’s a mystery that will never be resolved. (Atari version above, as Henley has removed every trace from YouTube.)
He had his first #1 album with 2014’s Hypnotic Eye
This one is a bit surprising, considering how popular Petty’s music has been for the past four decades, but Petty didn’t reach the top of the Billboard 200 until this year, when Hypnotic Eye debuted at the top of the charts, selling 131,000 copies in it first week. Will he manage to have another #1 album? Well, he’s only 64, and he should have a few more great albums in him, so I’d say the odds are pretty good.