Podcast Transcript

Speaker 1:

Takin’ A Walk.

Joel Selvin: Author and Music Critic:

What was happening on stage was that Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were rediscovering themselves as a great rock and roll band, and connecting again to the bliss that brought them in the things. They played a Zombie song called I Want You Back, every night that Tom remembered from having seen The Zombies back in 1966.

Speaker 1:

Welcome to the Takin’ A Walk podcast, a celebration in music history. Join your host, Buzz Knight, celebrating the great Tom Petty and some November moments that are pure nuggets in music history. Tom’s self-titled debut album was released in November of 1976. His Long After Dark album was released in November of 1982. Then there was that great run of shows at The Fillmore that were released in November of ’22. On this special Petty celebration, Buzz welcomes music journalist Joel Selvin, who spent years covering the work of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and Jon Scott, who worked for years for Tom’s label, and is the author of Tom Petty and Me. Join Buzz next, celebrating Tom Petty.

Buzz Knight:

As we like to celebrate music history, we celebrate Tom Petty, and we turn to an authority on all things music. He’s a legendary San Francisco based music critic, known for his work at The San Francisco Chronicle, the author of multiple books, and he’s a returning guest on the Takin’ A Walk podcast. Hello, Joel Selvin.

Joel Selvin: Author and Music Critic:

I can’t decide whether I’ve been knighted or Buzzed.

Buzz Knight:

All the above.

Joel Selvin: Author and Music Critic:

Good to be back Buzz.

Buzz Knight:

Thank you for being on. So how was Tom Petty received to your recollection, in 1976 when the debut album came out?

Joel Selvin: Author and Music Critic:

The band played six nights in the Bay Area, three nights in the club in Palo Alto, the Keystone Palo Alto, and three nights at the Sister Club, Keystone Berkeley. The Opening act was a local band that had just also put out their first album. That’d be The Greg Kihn Band.

Patty’s album was already getting airplay on the FM station in town, KSAN. They were really one of the first stations in the country to join the Tom Petty bandwagon. And that first album was very well received, so there was some interest in the band beyond, who are these guys with the new album? There was some knowledge. And my recollection of the opening night show at Keystone in Palo Alto, was that there was like three quarters of a house, a good crowd, and the band just blew everybody’s mind. KSAN had them back very shortly thereafter for a live broadcast, which was recorded and released on an official bootleg album as a promo item. It’s quite a collector’s item these days, but it has a terrific live version of Luna on it.

Buzz Knight:

And did you get access to him at all interview wise in that first go round?

Joel Selvin: Author and Music Critic:

I met the band. “Hi ya? Hi ya? Great. Looking forward to it.” And that was it. The Tom Petty interviews started a little bit later. And over the course of time, he was such a popular act in San Francisco, and I think the band looked upon San Francisco as a home away from home, where they were very well received from the very beginning of their career. So yeah, no, Tom was always a feature of The Chronicles’ pop music coverage.

Buzz Knight:

And then we move to Long After Dark, which was really a breakthrough in 1982. What was your recollection of the release of that?

Joel Selvin: Author and Music Critic:

By that time, the Petty records were a thing. You knew that there was a new Tom Petty album. It was going to have important tracks on it, they were going to be on the radio. And I was looking at old clip files recently, and that period of time was just so rich. I saw that in one week in 1984, I reviewed Bob Seger, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and Prince. And they all had new albums out. They were all big hit records. They were all sold out Oakland Coliseum shows. It was just an amazingly rich period of time in rock music.

Buzz Knight:

And that Long After Dark really had the MTV breakthrough for Petty, didn’t it?

Joel Selvin: Author and Music Critic:

Petty was not like that MTV kind of a guy. The thespian qualities of Duran Duran were something they didn’t aspire to. But inevitably the records were so good that the TV station had to break down and get them on there.

Buzz Knight:

And then you were in the middle of it in 1997 with the unbelievable residency that he did at The Fillmore West, which I know started in November of that year, but moved into ’98. What were your recollections of those shows?

Joel Selvin: Author and Music Critic:

That’s pretty much pressed into my mind. So I forget the exact count. There was like 20, 30 shows. And it was like a part-time job for me. I covered the first weekend, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. And then as they kept going, I would stop back, and maybe I’d be on my way out somewhere else and I’d stop by and catch the first part of their set. Or maybe I’d been out somewhere else and I’d come back to the Fillmore and catch the last part. I don’t know how many of them I saw. It just seemed like it was a part-time job. I had to be at the Fillmore to see Tom Petty. And there were a lot of us that were doing that, because we were comparing notes. “Well, he did what last night? Oh my God. Let me see the song list.”

[inaudible 00:06:36] such a unique and extraordinary run of events. Now, what was going on with the band is so interesting. They had taken a year off. The year before that, they had been on the road extensively, playing all The Sheds in America, playing the same songs in the same order every night. And they were super conscious about delivering consumer satisfaction, high ticket prices, parking, all the hassle to get to the show and park your car and make it. They were really conscious of that, and worked really hard to put on this very well-designed show. But somewhere in the process, they lost the bliss of being a rock and roll band. They became an automatic thing.

And they took a year off and really didn’t know what to do. And it was Petty’s idea to come up to The Fillmore and just sit down there. And the shows were not anything like the Tom Petty and The Heartbreaker shows that had been in The Sheds. Almost every night it opened with some old rock and roll song, whether it’s Little Richard or Put on Your Red Dress Baby. Yeah, the one night they did that. And then they would pick pieces out of the Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ repertoire. Some of them were in every night, like Mary Jane’s Last Dance was every night, 10, 12, 15 minutes long.

King’s Highway was frequent. I’d have to look at the box set again to remember the whole repertoire, but they had like a half a dozen Heartbreaker songs, and they threw them in at different points in the show. Toward the end of the run, they had a climax built into a giant version of Gloria, G-L-O-R-I-A, and they’re bringing in special guests. They brought in Roger McGuinn of the Byrds, John Lee Hooker, Carl Perkins. It was a club and they were the members of the club, and we just were there to be their audience. It was a fantastic run. And when I look back on not just … Of all the music I’ve seen in my life, I got to put The Last Waltz at the top of the list. It was just an amazing night of music. But second place is the Tom Petty Fillmore run. It was just so satisfying, and the band was living out a dream and rediscovering themselves.

One afternoon guitarist, Mike Campbell, was sitting in the hotel, which is like two blocks from The Fillmore. They didn’t even take a cab to the gig, they just walked. And he’s working on a guitar lick. And he gets it together and goes to soundcheck and shows it to Tom. And Tom writes a bunch of lyrics, and they play the song that night. It’s called Dating The Ugly Homecoming Queen, and it’s on the live box set and it’s a wonderful Fleetwood Mac [inaudible 00:10:09] that it was just fresh on the slab tonight. Here it is. So that was the attitude that those guys were playing. They came to a closing night and they broadcasted on the FM radio, I think all across the country on some network. But that night they just decided to do everything, everything they’d ever done. And like Campbell was doing a surf instrumental every night, Benmont Tench was playing Booker T. songs.

Petty was doing everything from Bill Withers to … He sang, You Are My Sunshine one night, because that was the first song he ever learned. He played it back in summer camp. It was just no telling what was going to happen. Everybody was having a great time. And what was happening on stage, was that Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were rediscovering themselves as a great rock and roll band, and connecting again to the bliss that brought them in the things. They played a Zombie song called I Want You Back, every night that Tom remembered from having seen The Zombies back in 1966.

Buzz Knight:

And I think you’ve told me you had opportunities to sit and interview Tom, is that correct?

Joel Selvin: Author and Music Critic:

We had to explain the run to the newspaper readers, and then we had to patch up on how it was going during the run, and then we had to do a summation. So I checked in with Tom in depth at the beginning and the end. And through the middle I pick up little quotes and comments and stuff like that. And as I said, that he was completely tired of what he was doing, wanted to reanimate the whole Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers thing. And that was the goal of this Fillmore run, to throw away the set list, to be a rock band, to enjoy what they’re doing and to do it for themselves, not the audience. And that was what it took. By the end of the run, and it went into January, so it was pretty much about three months.

Tom returned to who he had been. He was back in the band, he was happy, he was reconnected with all the things that were important to him, and off they went. They came back to the Fillmore the next year for another short run. But they’d done the thing and it had its effect, and that lasted the band the rest of Tom’s life.

Buzz Knight:

Well, I have to also ask you, in closing, there’s some recent news that involves the Heartbreakers and involves Dylan, which I’m sure you have followed with the recent live aid surprise appearance there with Bob. What impact do you think the Heartbreakers and Tom certainly had on Dylan, and where do you think this might be going with Dylan’s future? Do you think there’ll be more of this type of event?

Joel Selvin: Author and Music Critic:

Dylan’s never predictable. I love Bob Dylan because he’s really just his own self. Of course, they did a world tour with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers as Dylan’s backup band, back in the mid ’80s when Dylan was [inaudible 00:13:44] a low point in his career. And he was borrowing the Petty audience. After that, he went out and did a bunch of dates with the Grateful Dead, and just completely borrowed their audience. But the Petty, Dylan shows, were much more of an authentic collaboration. And it really loosened Dylan up a lot and gave him a great rock band to play with for a while.

I remember he was throwing in songs in the set that he hadn’t done ever before. I remember he was doing Ricky Nelson’s Lonesome Town. “Ricky Nelson used to like to do my songs. I’d like to do one of his.” It was a renaissance for Dylan at a time when he needed it. So those guys were tight and tidy, and of course Tom and Bob were in the Traveling Wilburys together. It wasn’t a surprise to me to see them show up and back him up at Farm Aid for three songs. They all know each other, they’ve all played together, they’re all like-minded individuals. It’s a beautiful collaboration. I don’t know if it’ll ever happen again or not, but it’s up there on YouTube. You can check it out.

Buzz Knight:

Joel, thank you. Thank you so much for doing this. I appreciate it.

Speaker 1:

We’ll be right back with more of the Takin’ A Walk podcast.

Welcome back to the Takin’ A Walk podcast.

Buzz Knight:

So as we continue celebrating Tom Petty on the Takin’ A Walk podcast, we’re going to turn to the author of the book, Tom Petty and Me, a journey told by the amazing Jon Scott from his experience and friendship with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. It’s so great to reconnect with you, Mr. Scott.

Jon Scott:

You too, Buzz. And I love anybody who has a name like Buzz who’s on the radio. That’s really cool. Buzz. I love that. I was just Jon Scott on the radio, but Buzz I think is a cool name.

Buzz Knight:

Thank you.

Jon Scott:

Anyway, I’m good. So glad to be here because I’ve got a lot of Petty memories running around my head right now. And he dedicated a song to me at his last concert of his life, and I didn’t know it was coming. And it was because of all the things I did with him back in the ’70s and continued on doing things. And I still say, there’ll never be another Tom Petty. He was one of a kind, great guy, great songwriter, just a true icon. Doesn’t get much better than Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Maybe the Traveling Wilburys.

Buzz Knight:

Well, we love celebrating here in November, the significant days, the first being, going back to November 9th, 1976, which was when the debut album was released. Give me your recollection of that moment as you were close to Tom and working with Tom when that first release came out.

Jon Scott:

Well, guess what? I have no recollection whatsoever of that album coming out, and I’ll tell you why. Around that time in October of ’77 maybe, there was a friend of mine, I was in Boston at a Who concert. I was working for MCA Records and I was the National Album promotion director. And I’m sitting with a guy who worked at ABC Records, and he said, “I got this band I want to send you. I think you’ll like them. They’re called Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. And I’ll send you a copy.” And he never did. And so I just forgot the name Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Because at the time I was working for MCA, like I said, and I got fired by them because I was trying to get this record played on the radio. That was part of my job is to get records played on the radio, as you know.

And I was working with this kid named Johnny Cougar, and I just dug the kid. I thought he was really good. He had a lot of promise. And MCA hated him, and they told me to stop working the record. And I went, “What do you mean? I just got WMMS in Cleveland on the record.” One of the biggest stations in America. They said, “We don’t care. You’re fired.” I went, “Whoa, just trying to do my job.” Anyway, so right around that time … Well, I was still working for MCA, but that’s my memory. First memory of hearing the name Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. And the guy never sent me the album. And I went to work at ABC Records in August of ’77. So the first album came out in ’76, and I went to work in August of ’77, and still had no idea who Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were.

And all I knew was that my boss told me, “Not to get involved like you did with Johnny Cougar again, or you’ll get fired. Because if we want to drop an artist, we’re going to drop them. And if you get in the way, you’re going to get fired again Jon.” And I had to raise my right hand, I swear to God. I raised my right hand. “I will not be involved with any bands that you’re about to drop.” And it was a funny moment, but I didn’t think anything about it. But three days later, I was in my office and I didn’t have anything to do, because they were in between albums being worked. And I opened my closet door to get my jacket out and a record fell down out of the closet. And it had a white album cover, and I pulled the vinyl out and there was nothing on the vinyl.

And being a former DJ, I went, “I got to listen to this record, because I don’t know who it is. And I sat down and I heard Breakdown, and I heard American Girl. And hair was standing up on my arms. You know what that feeling is like when you hear something, I’m sure a lot of your listeners too. When you hear something [inaudible 00:19:47] your hair. I get goosebumps and the hair stands up on my body and on my arms. Not everywhere. And I was in a trance, to be quite honest with you. I was going, “Who the hell? This is one of the greatest records I’ve heard in a long time.” And I went to my boss and he said, “Let me see that album.” He puts it on 10 seconds. “Oh, that’s that punk band, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.” And I went, “You said punk band? This is a rock and roll band.” He said, “No, it’s a punk band.”

I went, “Holy shit, if you listen to American Girl, that’s a rock and roll record.” And he said, “We’re dropping them.” I went, “No, you can’t do that. Don’t do that.” “We’re dropping them in six weeks. The record’s been out for eight months, sold 12,000 copies, and we’ve spent too much money on the band. So we’re dumping him.” And I’m going, “Oh my God, just give me a chance to try and get this record played. Call a few of my friends.” And he said, “Jon, you’re doing it again.” I went, “I don’t care.” I don’t know. In my mind, I knew what I heard. You know what it’s like when you hear something like that? And I said, “I don’t care. I don’t care if I get fired or not. Just give me six weeks to try to get some of my radio friends to at least listen to it.”

And he finally said, okay. And so I go back to my office, I started calling some of my radio friends, and they went, “Isn’t it the about eight month old album and then a punk band?” And I’m like, “What?” What the hell are these people thinking? And the cover comes out. The cover of Tom’s first album is one of the reasons a problem was caused, because he had a black leather jacket on and bullets around his neck, and a smirk. And radio stations weren’t really playing punk records at the time, I don’t think. I don’t think they were playing the Ramones, or … I don’t know. I just know that I keep hearing the word punk and I’m going, “What is wrong with people?? And anyway, so I was sitting there and I finally got somebody on the phone, and “Oh yeah, it’s doing pretty good here.” And I went, “I’m on to something. I’m on to something. Finally, here.”

And the next day, a guy named Charlie Kendall, you probably know who Charlie is. He went to work at KWST, a new station in Los Angeles that was going to challenge KMET, which was the big dog in Los Angeles. Went over to his apartment and said, “Charlie, just sit on the floor and listen.” So I put the headphones on [inaudible 00:22:24] album. And he sat there and he is cross-legged. And he was bobbing along. He pulled the headphones off, says, “Who is this band? They’re incredible. Who is this?” I said, “Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.” “I never heard of them.” I said, “Well, a lot of people haven’t heard of them.” But anyway, he said, “Are they any good live?” And I said, “I just picked up the record by accident three days ago. I have no clue if they’re any good live. But I do know that they’re opening for Blondie this coming Saturday night at The Whiskey, by chance.” And he said, “We’re going to go. Hell yeah, we’re going to go see this guy, Tom Petty.”

And we went to the club and he came on at 7:00, about 10, 15 people in the club. And we were just going, “Wow, nobody knows who this guy is.” He came on and did Oh Carol, the Chuck Berry song, and just killed it. Mike Campbell killed it, and what a great guitar player he is. Anyway, and then he played Breakdown, and Charlie leaned over and said, “I’m going to start playing Breakdown on Monday morning.” And nobody in Los Angeles had been playing Tom Petty. So he does a 30-minute set and it’s over, no encore. And when they came out, I was going, “Please don’t be a punk band. Please, please, please.” And they came out, and they had their own coolness about them. [inaudible 00:23:46] had a scarf on, and I don’t know, the other guys just looked real cool.

And I saw Vox amps on stage and I went, “That’s good.” But anyway, so they did. And Charlie, when he said, “I’m going to start playing Breakdown once an hour, every hour, this is a hit record.” I knew if you’re a promotion guy, you have that ad in your pocket and you’re going, “All right.” And so the show ended. [inaudible 00:24:09] I say, he didn’t do an encore. And I said, “Let’s go meet this guy.” We go upstairs, no security, and I see Tom’s in the corner wiping his face off with a towel. I’m going over, “Hey Tom, I’m Jon Scott, the new head of album promotion at ABC Records.” He went, “I don’t give a crap who the fuck you are. We hate ABC Records, and they’ve done nothing for us for eight months. So who are you?”

I said, “Well, I really like your music, but have you ever heard it on the radio in Los Angeles?” He went, “No, why?” I said, “Well, this guy here is going to start playing it Monday morning on a news station.” He went, “Bullshit, another ABC nut job telling me they’re going to do something. And for eight months they’ve done nothing.” And I’m taken aback because I’ve never had an artist do that to me in my life, just start cursing at me.

I said, “Look, I have no history of what happened with ABC Records. I have no clue.” But he said, “Just get out, please. [inaudible 00:25:15] escort them out in the road.” He came over to escort me and Charlie out, and I stopped and said, “Tom, I’m going to break your career wide open. How’s that?” And I’m saying this because I don’t know if I can, but in my heart and my ears, I knew I could. And then boy, the whole room was … The band was laughing and, “This guy’s going to break our career.”

And he had started off, he had gotten a little following going in England, but he came home and there were nobodies. And that’s why they were giving me all this static. And right when I got to the door, I just turned around and said, “Tom Petty, my name is Jon Scott. When you hear your record on the radio, you will never forget my name, okay?” “Get out.” And he threw us out of The Whiskey. And so Charlie and I were actually laughing as we walked down the stairs of The Whiskey, because we just knew what was going to happen. We knew the Breakdown was going to come out and just take over Los Angeles, at least we thought it were. Sure enough, he started playing it Monday morning. On Wednesday, he called and said, “Man, Tower Record just called and wants know who this band is I’m playing.”

I was blown away. And although I expected that to happen, I really did. It sounds crazy, I know. But so at the time, Tom’s manager, Tony Dimitriades, who was his manager for 40, 50 years, called and said, “Who are you?” I went, “I’m the new guy at ABC.” “Well, you pissed off my artist.” I went, “I did, why?” He said, “You told him you were going to break his career. And you know ABC’s done nothing for us for eight months.” And I kept going, “I don’t know this. I don’t know anything about this eight month old thing.” And anyway, he hung up on me.

And then Friday, Tom actually called. My assistant said, “Tom Petty’s on the phone.” I’m going, “Geez, it’s either going to be another cursing out or whatever, I don’t know.” And he called, and he was just a guy, a southern accent going, “Jon, it’s Tom Petty. I just want to apologize for throwing you out of The Whiskey the other night. My friends are telling me they’re hearing my record on the radio, and I’d like to meet you.” And I said, “How about tonight?” I scribbled down his address, because I had to go see this guy, man. I’ve been listening to his record for now, two or three weeks in the car, at home, at work. That’s all I had on, just Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, nonstop. And so I went to his house and he had a big confederate flag in the hallway, and I said, “Well, I’m a southern boy. I know you’re from the South, right?” Anyway, so we just talked a little bit and went outside. And we did smoke a peace pipe, I’ll call it, because of the Whiskey thing.

I asked Tom about, “Have you been in any other bands I might know?” And he said, “Yeah, you never heard of them. They’re called Mudcrutch.” And I said, “Do you mean the song Depot Street?” He goes, “How the hell do you know Depot Street? There’s only three stations in America that played that record.” And I said, “Tom, I left radio, went to work for MCA Records, and one of the first records they gave me was a song called Depot Street by Mudcrutch. And I got it added on a station.” He said, “What? Like I said, there’s only three stations in America that played it.” I said, “Well, I got one of them.”

And I called my boss in Los Angeles. He said, “Jon, it’s a single. There’s no album. Go work on [inaudible 00:28:52] Newton-John’s record. Forget about Mudcrutch.” And I did, I forgot about them, whatever. And I don’t even know if I ever saw the 45, because the writer of Depot Street was Thomas Petty. As I look back, I want to get a copy of it. And anyway, he said, “You know Mudcrutch? You tell me you’re going to break my career wide open?” “Yeah.” And we stared at each other like something serendipitous was going on here. I was supposed to be in his life, and he was supposed to be in my life. And it was strange … Not strange. Strange, in a good way.

I said, “You got anything I can hear, or new stuff you’re working on?” He said, “Yeah, come on in.” And he played me, Listen To Her Heart. And Mike Campbell’s guitar opens that thing up, and man, you’re hooked on the guitar right away. And I asked him to play it five times. I left and went back to ABC the next day and said, “You guys got to hear what he’s got in the can. You won’t believe it.” “We don’t care.” I go, “Oh my God, seriously. Come on, come on.” And so all of a sudden when Charlie added the record, it started getting more and more airplay. People were noticing it a little bit more, and I was just on the phone banging away. I would call anybody. I didn’t even care if they were a classical station, I would’ve called them and ask them if they knew Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

So there was not going to be a second album on ABC, or Shelter. I think it was on Shelter, but ABC distributed Shelter. But there wasn’t going to be a second album. They were going to be dropped. I brought back, Listen To Her Heart, and all of a sudden everybody’s ears perked up. And they resigned the band for another album. And that came out, I think in ’78, I want to say. And it was called, You’re Gonna Get It. I think it opened with Listen to Her Heart. And that’s the song that Tom said, cocaine in it. “Take her away with your money and your cocaine.” And that’s the song that ABC wanted to be a single.

And, “If you change it to champagne, we’ll put it as a single.” “No, I’m not doing that. Champagne is not as expensive as cocaine. And with cocaine, that they’re sky-high, trying to get my wife.” Anyway, so whatever. That was just Tom, he never backed down. The album came out and before that, Breakdown had been released right around when the album came out. That was around ’77. November ’77 Breakdown came out as a single and did nothing. And then all of a sudden we had it at number 40 on the billboard charts. And still had 90 stations not playing it. And guess who consulted those 90 stations? Burkhart & Abrams and … Burkhart & Abrams. Anyway.

Buzz Knight:

I love that. Do you remind Lee Abrams of that to this day?

Jon Scott:

Always. And he’s in my book. And I tell the story … Well the story, I said, “Well, I’ve gotten as far as I can right now. I should go out and hit these top 10 markets.” And so I went to Dallas. My first stop was KTXQ. And Tim Spencer, the morning DJ was also the program director. And he wasn’t off the air yet. We were going to go to breakfast. And he said, “Just read Billboard.” Or something and whatever else. So I opened Billboard, and I knew that the album had just hit the charts at 177. I said, “I’m just going to have another look at this. This is beautiful.” Opened up Billboard. There was a circle around number 177 that said, “Do not play. This is a Jon Scott hype record.” And I went, “Whoa.”

I was so pissed, I threw the Billboard across the room. I almost hit him. But he said, “I didn’t do that. It’s my consultant Lee Abrams.” And so I jumped on a plane to Atlanta. I was going somewhere else, but I said, “I’m changing my plans. I’m going to see this guy, Lee Abrams.” Because I knew Lee, but he was in control of 90 stations in America, which changed the face of what disc jockeys and program directors used to have the ability to do, to play what they wanted to play. I just walked right in and said, “I want to see Lee Abrams.” And funny, he was there and he walked me in and I told him what I was doing, and he said, “Well, let me think about this. Let’s have breakfast tomorrow morning and I’ll think about it.” I’m somewhat optimistic. And next morning he said, “Do you think ABC would consider doing what they call the low do concerts?” Where if your station’s 103 on the dial, the tickets are a dollar three.

And I said, “I don’t know, but I’ll find out. He says, “If they do 10 of them for me, I’ll add that record all over my network across America.” He said, “And we do have two stations playing it with a little bit of response. WKLS in Atlanta, Drew Murray …” And one other station, I can’t remember. But anyway, Drew was a friend of mine by chance. So the next morning he comes out and I call ABC Records, and they said, “We’ll back it, because it’s starting to pick up really good.” When it gets to 40 on Billboard and the charts and been out for eight months. There’s not many records that come out eight months later, and all of a sudden they’re a hit. Eight months is a long time. Shit, 30 seconds is a long time sometimes when you’re in the music business, right? You listen to a record for 30 seconds, beep, toss it.

Anyway, we started doing these low do concerts. And we’d get 2000 kids in an auditorium or venue, concert venue, and they would come out Tom Petty fans. And if anybody’s ever been to a Tom Petty concert that’s listening, you know exactly what I mean. It’s one of the greatest shows there is. And I mean, of course there’s Bruce and there’s the Stones, but something about a Tom Petty concert. He’s such a prolific writer about things that mean something to me and you, and just simple songs. But anyway, so we did the dollar three shows and Lee [inaudible 00:35:20] director to the 90 stations. And I can’t remember where the album went up to, but it definitely led to a second album being released. And I’m loving life because I’m traveling on the road with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers in their bus now. And they got strict rules on the bus. No girls allowed.

You know how it is when an artist does a concert, it takes an hour or so or sometimes to calm down or de-buzz themself, not [inaudible 00:35:48] sure. And we would just sit around, we had a record player. We’d listen to 45s and talk about the zombies or the birds or whoever, because he was a student of music. So I was just in seventh heaven, traveling with Tom … Because every show I saw was, I felt like history was being made. And I saw one show where he did six encores, and I’ve never seen a band do six encores. And I went backstage and people were still applauding for the seventh one. And I went backstage and I said, “Tom, they still want more.” He said, “We don’t know any more songs.” And that’s one of the reasons I loved traveling with them, because they just were such cool guys. Every member of that band was such a cool guy in his own way.

Buzz Knight:

So Jon, the live performance thing, I love the six encore story. It brings me to think about another moment in Tom’s history, that was in November of 1997 when he started the legendary 20 night residency at the Fillmore. Tell me what you remember about that period.

Jon Scott:

Well, I went to one of the concerts, and I think they played 27 nights. And it was Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers unfiltered. And then they’re a great cover band, as you know. They can cover just about any song in the world, and do it justice. The thing they loved about playing the Fillmore, is they could play anything they wanted to, not necessarily the hits. And they had brought out Carl Perkins, and they were fans of Sun Records. And sometimes Tom would just turn around and name a song, and the band didn’t know they were going to play it, and they’d break into it and just cover it. And that’s what I always liked about Tom, is they could do any cover song of any band. But they just got to play what they wanted to play. And it was a joyous time because they stayed in this one hotel called the Miyako Hotel in San Francisco, a Japanese hotel.

And they were there for a full month, and every night was different. Every show was different. I think it was the time of their life, to be quite honest with you, because they’d never been able to play 27 nights, one venue. And Bill Graham, he loved the band. He had all kinds of stuff backstage. If you’re a band playing the Fillmore, maybe you know this, if they like basketball, he’ll have a basketball net up there for you to shoot. And I don’t remember what he had to have up there for Tom. Maybe some joints, I don’t know. But like I said, probably the greatest time they ever had as a band. It was spontaneous. And one song, a Chuck Berry song in there. And in the middle of it, Tom starts singing different lyrics to another Chuck Berry song. And you can see the band looking around like, what the hell is he doing? But they just kept up. They went right into it.

But I don’t even know if there was a set list. I’m sure there was, but they just played, like I said, whatever they wanted to play. And I remember him telling me, “That’s just the best time we’ve ever had so far in this journey, is playing the Fillmore.” Because San Francisco was one of the first stations that jumped onto Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and a lot of stations around them, KTIM and Paul “Lobster” Wells at KMME and KSJO were big fans. So San Francisco was one of the hotspots for Tom. It was like San Francisco, Boston, Chicago. I just remember the night … It was one of those nights where you just sat and you just loved every song that he played. And one thing I loved about Tommy, he also recorded every show, most of them from the board. And you can go back, and that’s what such rich history that he had, because he recorded every show.

Buzz Knight:

I love the vivid stories, and I think the Vivid Stories will live in the book, Tom Petty and Me, your journey with him. Where can folks get the book, Jon?

Jon Scott:

Well, it is on my website, tompettyandme.com. And I sign every book, and I personalize every book if somebody wants it personalized.

Buzz Knight:

Thanks for keeping the flame burning. Jon.

Speaker 1:

Thanks for listening to this special celebration of Tom Petty on the Takin’ A Walk podcast. Please share this podcast with your friends and find Takin’ A Walk on the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts.

 

About The Author

Buzz Knight

Buzz Knight is an established media executive with a long history of content creation and multi-platform distribution.

After a successful career as a Radio Executive, he formed Buzz Knight Media which focuses on strategic guidance and the development of new original content.