Happy birthday, Thomas Earl Petty (1950-), Gainesville, Florida's favorite son, who began making music at 13 with a guitar his mother ordered from the Sears catalog.
Mudcrutch, the band he formed in 1973, evolved into the Heartbreakers in 1975 who Petty called "the best band in the world." Along with Petty, Mike Campbell (guitar), Benmont Tench (keyboards), Howie Epstein/Ron Blair (bass), and Steve Ferrone (drums) have managed to make the creation of great rock & roll music look easy.
"I don't believe it's necessary to shout and scream everything to be effective,'' Petty said. "Sometimes you can under do it and be more effective."
In the spirit of guitarists John Lennon and Keith Richards, Petty prides himself in playing rhythm guitar. "Rhythm playing is a lost art these days--there aren't a lot of people who do it seriously anymore," he told Guitar Player magazine.
His main Telecaster guitar was custom-made in '81. He cherishes its incomparable sound and holds on to it for dear life, "If I ever lost my main Tele, I'd die--it's so good."
When Petty writes he makes it a rule to "let the music dictate the lyric." His songs are honest with texture and depth. His characters are witty and cynical and real. Listening to the yearning in Southern Accents is a revelation in Petty's understated singing and songwriting genius.
"A lot of the biggest songs only took minutes to write. It's about waiting for that bolt of lightening," he said.
About his 2002 induction into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame, Petty said, "You can be cynical on the one hand about rock 'n' roll having a Hall of Fame. But if they do have it, and they do, I just thought it felt nice. It's nice to be recognized and have a pat on the back after all these years."
"I got my own way of livin' that everything gets done with a Southern Accent where I come from..."