This Iconic Rock Musician Is Responsible For Tom Petty’s Fame

Tom Petty’s death in 2017 shocked the world. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers rose to fame in the late 1970s and 1980s, and today, his songs are still known by every generation. Petty always liked music, though as a child, he didn’t necessarily have dreams of becoming the rock star that he did. But one encounter with an iconic musician ended up changing his course of life forever.

Tom Petty
Tom Petty | Jerod Harris/Getty Images

Petty was raised in Gainesville, Florida

When Petty was born, nobody could have guessed that he would become one of the most well-known rock musicians of all time. He was born in Gainesville, Florida in 1950 to two blue-collar parents. His mother worked at the local tax office, while his father was a grocery store employee. When Petty was younger, he enjoyed music but had no real interest in pursuing it as a career. And when he decided that’s the direction he wanted to go, it created a strained relationship between him and his father, who reportedly didn’t want him to become a musician. However, Petty’s entire career never would have happened if it weren’t for one person.

Petty’s life changed the day he met Elvis Presley

Known as “The King of Rock and Roll,” Elvis Presley is arguably one of the most famous musicians to ever grace the earth. And Petty was lucky enough to meet him when he was 10. Petty’s uncle was working on Presley’s movie set in nearby Ocala, Florida when he invited Petty to the set. In an interview with the Ultimate Classic Rock Nights radio show in 2017, Petty recalled how the moment affected him. “I met Elvis very briefly… It was a really religious experience,” he said. “It was very exciting. Changed my life, really, because after that I started collecting records and just went in that direction.”

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers | Chris Walter/WireImage

Petty opted not to go to college and instead focused on music

Petty’s brief meeting with Presley served as the foundation of his entire music career. He started listening to more and more rock, and as he grew older, the music dream became more of a reality. He played with a band The Epics (which eventually turned into Mudcrutch) while in high school, and he even skipped out on his high school graduation to play a gig. He decided not to attend college, and from there, Petty ended up starting Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers in the 1970s, which shot him to fame. The band’s breakout singles included “Don’t Do Me Like That” and “Here Comes My Girl,” and they rose to become one of the most popular rock bands of the decade.

He toured up until his death in 2017

Petty changed people’s lives with his music and likely inspired many future musicians the same way Presley inspired him. In 2017, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers embarked on a 40th anniversary reunion tour, which included all of their biggest hits; they played to thousands of people, and the rush was the same as it had always been. The group played their last show on September 25, 2017; one week later, on October 2, Petty died after going into cardiac arrest due to an accidental overdose.