Tom Petty Thought His Parents Were Aliens


  • Tom Petty grew up in Florida.
  • Tom Petty felt so different from his family that he wondered if they were aliens.
  • Years later, Tom Petty thought he was about to have an alien encounter.
Tom Petty holds a guitar and stands in front of a microphone.
Tom Petty | Michael Montfort/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Tom Petty grew up in Gainesville, Florida. From an early age, he knew that music would be important to him, and he began pursuing it as a career when he was a teenager. His family wasn’t entirely sure what to make of this. Petty explained that when he spent time with his parents as a child, he felt so different from them that he wondered if they were aliens. 

The musician grew up in Florida

Petty grew up in Gainesville. His family had been in the South for generations, but he began to look elsewhere. Through television, he began to think of California as an escape.

“Los Angeles – television city,” he told Men’s Journal. “That became my way out.”

He wasn’t an actor, but he’d loved music since he met Elvis. And when he saw the Beatles, he realized that this could be his way out.

“The minute I saw The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show, there was the way out,” he explained to American Songwriter (via The Petty Archives). “There was the way to do it. You get your friends and you’re a self-contained unit. And you make the music. And it looked like so much fun. This really spoke to me. I had been a big fan of Elvis, but I really saw in The Beatles that … here’s something I could do.”

It’s fitting that Petty’s two inspirations had fans with a reputation for not seeing eye-to-eye with their parents. Petty shared a similar relationship with his mother and father.

Tom Petty thought his parents were aliens

Petty explained that his mother and father had very different parenting styles. His mother was a gentle parent, introducing her two young sons to books and music. His father, while well-liked outside of their family unit, was a violent, angry presence in the home. 

“I learned to absolutely f***ing disappear,” Petty said. “I got the f*** away when he was around.”

To Petty, though, neither parent seemed to be much like him. At a young age, he wondered if they were aliens. 

“I remember thinking from a very early age that my parents might have been aliens and I landed in an alien family like one of those on The Twilight Zone,” he told Harp in 2006, per The Petty Archives. “Even when I was really young, I knew that I was not like them at all. It was probably because TV had come into the picture when I was three or four. I loved the television so much. It would go off at night and sometimes I would wait for it to come on. I knew in there was a world that was not like anything like the one I was in. I figured that was the correct one.”

Tom Petty thought he was going to have another encounter with aliens later in life

Years later, Petty wondered if he was seeing aliens again. While driving his car near his home in Malibu, he saw silver objects in the sky.

“I was driving to the store and I saw these big silver balls floating in the air,” he said. “And I thought, ‘Oh, f***! UFOs are landing in Malibu!’ I’m not normally the kind of person who would think that. But that’s what the f*** it looked like.”

Tom Petty wears a vest and sunglasses and sits on a bus.
Tom Petty | Aaron Rapoport/Corbis via Getty Images

He turned his car to get a better look at the objects.

“The next thing I know, bam! I hit the car next to me, spun off the road … and landed in a nest of about 200 paparazzi.”

As it turned out, the paparazzi were waiting outside Adam Sandler’s wedding. The silver objects were weather balloons in place to prevent helicopters from flying over the ceremony.

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