Tom Petty Got Fired From Every Job He Had, ‘Without Exception’


  • Tom Petty dedicated himself to music at an early age. 
  • Tom Petty said he lost every job he ever had.
  • The singer toured consistently until the end of his life.
Tom Petty wears a vest and holds a guitar.
Tom Petty | Luciano Viti/Getty Images

Tom Petty was a musician for most of his life, but he had several jobs before he made it big. The jobs were varied — he worked in a restaurant, on university grounds, and in a graveyard. While the type of work he did changed, they all had something in common: Petty was fired from them. He explained that before he began working as a musician full-time, he’d lost every job he had.

Tom Petty knew he wanted music to be his full-time job from an early age

After meeting Elvis at an early age, Petty began to voraciously consume music. Once he heard The Beatles, though, he knew he wanted to be a musician.

“Suddenly the road was clear; you could see what to do,” he told The Independent. “You were coming up to 14, faced with getting a job and wanting to avoid that at all costs. They looked like they were having so much fun playing this rock’n’roll music, and really not answering to anyone. So in every neighborhood, there were kids with electric guitars forming bands. And I just got on with it.”

Tom Petty said he was fired from every job he had

Prior to working as a musician, Petty picked up a number of jobs, working on the grounds of a university, in a restaurant, and at a graveyard. He did the work, but he never liked these jobs. He explained that when he was working the grounds at the University of Florida, he spent most of his time lounging in the sun.

“Basically all I did was sit around,” he said in the book Petty: The Biography by Warren Zanes. “But one day I’m there on the grass, waiting for the truck, and they pull up and this guy goes ape s*** on me, gets really mad. He starts yelling. It just hadn’t occurred to me that I should make a show of it.”

After his job at the University of Florida, Petty began working the grounds at a graveyard. He said he wasn’t good at the role. He was fired from it, as he was with all his other jobs.

“I got fired from every job I ever had,” he told The New York Times in 1991. “Without exception. Because I obviously wasn’t that interested.”

He worked consistently until his death in 2017

After Petty moved to Los Angeles to pursue music, he no longer had a reason to pick up outside work. The Heartbreakers were a successful band for decades, and Petty toured with them up until his death in 2017. He played his last show with the band on Sept. 25, 2017, just a week before his death. 

“The road and the studio are the only places I’ve ever felt completely OK,” he told Rolling Stone.

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