Tom Petty Changed His Name When He Became Famous


  • Tom Petty realized he wanted to be a musician because of The Beatles.
  • Tom Petty realized he should change his name when he became famous.
  • Many parts of being famous were repugnant to Tom Petty.
Tom Petty wears a black and white striped jacket and sits on a couch.
Tom Petty | Michael Putland/Getty Images

As many celebrities do, Tom Petty changed his name when he first started becoming famous. It wasn’t a big switch by any means, but he felt that it was a necessary one. Petty explained why he made the decision to alter his name when he first started making records. He also said that the people who knew him best rarely referred to him as Tom.

The musician took a lot of inspiration from The Beatles on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’

When Petty was a teenager, his family watched The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show, which astonished Petty and his brother.

“I watched it with my little brother,” he said, per the Grammys. “My mom and dad were there, but they weren’t interested in it. They laughed at it and left the room. But my brother and me, both of us, we just flipped out. We thought it was the greatest thing ever.”

He explained that the performance changed his life. From that moment on, he knew he wanted to play music as a career.

“This was the great moment in my life, really, that changed everything,” he said. “I had been a fan up to that point. But this was the thing that made me want to play music. You saw that it could be done. There could be a self-contained unit that wrote, recorded and sang songs. And it looked like they were having an awful lot of fun doing it.”

Tom Petty said he changed his name when he first started getting famous

Petty was successful on his chosen career path. After playing venues in his hometown of Gainesville, Florida, he moved to California to take his career to the next level. After struggling for a bit, he began working with The Heartbreakers. They released their first album in 1976. It was a big change in Petty’s life, but it wasn’t the only one. He decided that he should shorten his name from Tommy to Tom.

“I wasn’t ‘Tom’ until they put it on the records,” he told Harp in 2006, per The Petty Archives. “People who have known me longer than that call me Tommy, but I decided to go with Tom because Tommy didn’t look right on the record.”

Those close to him continued to call him “Tommy,” even though the public knew him by “Tom.”

Tom Petty said he didn’t like many parts of being famous

Shortening his name wasn’t too big of a deal, but Petty said that many parts of fame were off-putting to him

“I guess looking back it has been a blessing,” he told BAM in 1997, per The Petty Archives. “It’s never been in my nature to want to be like a personality or a big celebrity. It’s fine if you do; I have nothing against it. It’s just not in my nature. I would be put off by that.”

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