Tom Petty – My Gateway Drug to Rock and Roll

There I was working at Montgomery Ward manning the Ticketron machine, a college freshman Trumpet/Music major and member of the Big Brown Music Machine-Long Beach State’s large and powerful marching band as well as the prestigious 16 piece Chamber Choir. More than a few young people were purchasing tickets for Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers at UCLA’s Royce Hall.  I had seen Maynard Ferguson at Plummer Auditorium.  My first rock concert was The Knack at the Fabulous Forum followed by the Ramones at Hollywood Palladium.  I had taken my little brother to see Kiss during my senior year at Cerritos High and attended Van Circles in undeveloped Santa Fe Springs where the car radios blasted KLOS and KMET.  Led Zepplin, Journey, Lynyrd Skynard, Deep Purple, Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Black Sabbath. While it was nice to hang with the in crowd, I was into R & B, Top 40 Pop, and groups that featured horns like Tower of Power and Chicago.  I was a proud band geek.

So I asked a ticket buyer about Tom Petty and he told me there was a new album with a hit song called Refugee.  The song played on the radio on my way home from work that day.  I was instantly a fan.

DAMN THE TORPEDOS is full of hits.  I worked my way to American Girl and Breakdown from the S/T debut. While my younger brother was veering off into Punk, I fell in love with the attitude and swagger of Petty’s second record YOU’RE GONNA GET IT! I memorized Tom Petty Songs, studied the structure and tried to copy his songwriting in my early guitar playing days. While fronting my first band ARBITRAGE in the 80’s, I was accused of sounding too much like Tom Petty.  I had it that bad.  I had it that good.