Skip to main content

Tom Petty called working with The Traveling Wilburys “pure magic.” Although none of it would have happened if they had planned it, Petty, George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne, and Roy Orbison, did something right planning their music.

However, Petty still had his regrets about the supergroup.

Steve Winwood and wife, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, and Tom Petty having drinks at a party in 1992.
Steve Winwood and wife, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, and Tom Petty | SGranitz/WireImage

Tom Petty joined The Traveling Wilburys because he didn’t want to be left out

George formed The Traveling Wilburys by accident. After recording his 1987 album, Cloud Nine, Europe wanted an extra song for a 12-inch single.

That night, he told Lynne and Orbison he needed a song quickly. Lynne agreed to help, and Orbison told the guys to call him when they found a recording studio.

Then, George remembered that Dylan had a studio in his garage and called him to see if they could use it. Dylan agreed. George then went to Petty’s house to pick up his guitar. Petty wasn’t going to miss the action, so he asked to join them in the studio.

When they all arrived at Dylan’s garage, George and Lynne started writing the song. George began to think it was silly having all the guys there but not on the record. It was a once-in-a-lifetime moment having all five of them in one studio. So they all sang on the song.

Looking around Dylan’s garage, George saw a box that said, “Handle With Care.” So, they formed the lyrics around that phrase. When they finished recording, George knew the song was too good for a European 12-inch. He kept hold of it until he decided to get everyone to record a whole album.

Somehow, all five musicians were available in May 1988. They gave themselves nine days to record The Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1. It was magical for everyone.

Petty said he should’ve been ‘more aggressive’ about getting The Traveling Wilburys to do a third album

After recording The Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1, the supergroup reconvened a third time to record The Traveling Wilburys Vol. 3 (they skipped over Vol. 2) in 1990. The two albums are the only records the supergroup released.

Petty wished there was a Vol. 4 (or whatever volume number they would’ve chosen). He regretted not being “more aggressive” about getting it recorded.

In 2007, Petty told Mass Live that the four musicians (Orbison died in 1988) talked about getting another Traveling Wilburys album recorded “a lot.”

Petty explained George “talked for the rest of his life about doing it again or maybe taking it on the road. It is one of my great regrets that I wasn’t a little more aggressive about getting that done. I always thought we’d have all the time in the world to do it.”


The Joke Bob Dylan Told Tom Petty Once George Harrison Was out of the Room

The Heartbreakers frontman also regretted not touring with the supergroup

Petty didn’t only regret not recording a third Traveling Wilburys album. He also regretted not taking the supergroup out on the road, or playing a single live show with his bandmates, even though it was “considered often.”

“We talked about it many nights and then never really did it,” Petty said. “We might have some beers and plan it all night and then in the morning we’d be like, ‘Well, no.’ (laughs) Especially when we became successful, there were all kinds of people trying to get us to do tours.”

In a video about the making of the band’s debut album, Petty said, “Every time George had a joint and a few beers he would start talking about touring. I think once or twice we even had serious talks about it, but nobody would really commit to it. We never thought we were gonna run out of time.”

Continuing to Mass Live, Petty said, “When we did ‘The Concert for George,’ and Jeff came out with us and we did ‘Handle with Care,’ I remember thinking at that moment that George would have loved this so much.

“But there was a lot of pressure on us all to go out on the road together.” If it was one thing that George hated about the music industry, it was being pressured into doing something, even if he wanted to do it. So, maybe it’s good that the supergroup didn’t relent and go on tour. If they had, George would’ve felt like he was doing it for the wrong reasons.

The Traveling Wilburys wouldn’t have happened if they planned it, but they certainly wouldn’t have planned a third album and a tour if that was what the record companies wanted. The whole point of the supergroup was friends coming together to jam as equals.