Tom Petty Revealed the Only 2 Celebrities He Idolized

Tom Petty spent most of his adult life in the public eye, surrounded by celebrities and living legends. Famous people were his friends and collaborators, so he didn’t often get starstruck. According to the musician, though, there were two people who he idolized from adolescence into adulthood. Tragically, though, both of these people died before Petty could work with them. 

Tom Petty stands onstage and plays a red guitar.
Tom Petty | Scott Legato/Getty Images

Tom Petty said he didn’t often idolize celebrities

Petty explained that he wasn’t prone to hero-worship. He even grew wary around major stars like Stevie Nicks. Though they would eventually become friends, it took Petty a long time to warm up to someone with her level of fame.

“We were a little wary of Stevie,” Petty said in the book Conversations With Tom Petty by Paul Zollo. “We didn’t quite know whether to like Stevie or not, because we kind of saw this big corporate rock band, Fleetwood Mac, which was wrong, they were actually artistic people. But in those days, nobody trusted that sort of thing and we just kept thinking, ‘What does she want from us?’ And then, of course, she turned into one of my great, great friends forever. But Stevie was really adamant about me writing her a song.”

Tom Petty shared the two celebrities he looked up to 

Petty seemed to like major celebrities better once he actually got to know them as people. There were two musicians he loved during his childhood who he continued to idolize as an adult, though. Petty shared that both John Lennon and Elvis Presley were very important to him. Lennon’s murder infuriated him.

“His death hurt real bad, still hurts,” Petty told Playboy in 1982. “Each time I see his picture or hear him sing, I immediately get pissed off that some f***ing jerk could just blow him away. In fact, the only two people I have ever looked up to, idolized — Lennon and Elvis — are both dead. And I’m not someone into idols.”

Petty discovered his love of music through Elvis and dedicated himself to a career in music after hearing The Beatles for the first time.

The ‘American Girl’ singer met Elvis long before he was famous

Though Petty never got to work with Lennon or Elvis as he did with many other musicians, he did meet Elvis when he was young. His uncle was working on the set of the Elvis movie Follow That Dream and brought Petty to meet the star.

“When I met Elvis, we didn’t really have a conversation,” he told Esquire. “I was introduced by my uncle, and he sort of grunted my way.”

Though their meeting was brief, it had a lasting impact on Petty.

“He arrived in a fleet of white Cadillacs,” Petty told Rolling Stone in 2011. “People were screaming, handing records over a chain-link fence for him to sign. I remember his hair was so black that the sunshine was glowing off of it. Just a nod and a hello made your skin tingle. I was high for weeks. It lit a fever in me to get every record I could, and I really digested it. Elvis became the soundtrack of my early years.”

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