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Maine radio personalities honor Tom Petty

October 11, 2017
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Maine radio personalities honor Tom Petty (AP file photo)

I’ll miss hearing a new Tom Petty song for the first time and having the realization that I’m hearing a song destined for immortality. If only the songwriter could live forever.

We lost more than a rock star when Tom Petty died on October 2, following what is believed to have been a heart attack. Tom Petty was the rock star’s rock star.

It’s so fitting that the 11-year old kid from Gainesville, Florida, who met Elvis Presley on the set of “Follow That Dream” and sat spellbound at the sight of The Beatles on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” is the same kid who would receive guitar lessons from future Eagle Don Felder and would eventually wind up in a band with George Harrison and Bob Dylan.

Tom Petty refused to let the hard times define him. He endured brutal beatings as a child and sought salvation through music.

More than once he found himself on the offense with his record label. Like the song says, he would not back down.

In the ‘90s, he was led out of the darkness of addiction by the woman who would become his wife.

And there were his bands - Mudcrutch, then The Heartbreakers, and the Traveling Wilburys. They were his family and collaborators. During interviews, he would sometimes get a lump in the back of his throat when trying to describe what they meant to him.

Tom Petty’s music has followed me to every radio station where I’ve been fortunate to work over the last 37 years. That includes WRNE, WHOU, WEGP, WZON, WHSN, WABK, WHMX, WBZN, WKSQ and now, the stations of BIG 104 FM.  He might be the only artist that I can say that about.

I reached out to some of my radio friends and co-workers, past and present, to ask if they could share some personal words about what Tom Petty and his music means to them. I’m grateful for their participation in this tribute to Tom. 

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Tom Petty was a close, personal friend that I never actually met. We shared similar feelings through chords and words that any soul could understand.

Mike Campbell’s incredible leads and Tom’s intense and accessible lyrics rang out in a chorus of familiar wounds. Each song and every lick were spare, sharp nods to the underdog looking for hope.

I remember hearing Tom Petty saying “You should be able to make your own little movie in your own head to a good song.” Tom Petty wasn’t a nostalgia act. He may have kept on “Runnin’ Down a Dream,” (my favorite Petty song) but who can only have one?

In the ‘80s, when America was corrupted by hair bands, flash-pots and sound-alike songs, Tom Petty’s lyrics fleshed out the real America in fewer words than Dylan and were less brooding than Springsteen. Tom Petty’s music belonged to all of us.

He missed few shows, if ever, due to illness, after kicking the “obligatory” party stage. He fought for his truth and avoided the “pop star” label, and became a very important addition to the American Songbook, as Mark Ronson said.

He fought back against the Big Business Music Guys who said “Full Moon Fever” (my favorite) was a dud, and time and admittance into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame have affirmed his faith in our ability to feel truth when we hear it.

Tom Petty considered his time on stage as “Holy.” How can God quibble with a man who made memorable music about sad times and a shot at hope? I’ll bet if he’s backed up at the gates of Hell, he “Won’t Back Down.”  - Ryan Cote, BIG 104 FM.

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To me, 1979's "Damn the Torpedoes" was Tom's (and the band's) "Sgt. Pepper."  It also helped to put a stake firmly in the heart of disco.

There are so many great songs, but I think the one I hear in my head when someone mentions his name is "Even the Losers".  – Mark Matzell, Production Coordinator for Blueberry Broadcasting.

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One of my earliest memories is working as a weekend DJ in the late '70s.  "Breakdown" was not on the playlist, but I snuck it in one night. My Program Director later said he would've fired me if it weren't for my impeccable taste in music. So I guess you could say Tom Petty saved my job. I'm crushed by his sudden passing, but happy he left us so much great stuff to remember him by. – Thom Osbourne, Production Coordinator for Townsquare Media

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Tom Petty helped me win my wife's heart.

I adored Petty's storytelling in the “Hard Promises”track "Something Big.” That dark song haunted me, and echoed back at just the right time.

Three dates after our first meeting in the spring of '95, I asked Elizabeth, "are we working on something big?" She smiled and said "yes." So I gently lifted her chin with my hand and we shared our first kiss.

Thanks, Tom.  – Ric Tyler, of WVOM’s George Hale/Ric Tyler Show.

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I’m that guy who likes to talk up all 30 seconds of the 30 second intro to "Don't Do Me Like That," so I can say “From the album ‘Damn the Torpedoes!’”

I’ll never forget the first time I saw the post-apocalyptic video for "You got Lucky."  I also remember giving someone tickets to see Tom Petty in Portland a few years ago - a decision I now regret as I never had the chance to see him in concert.

Artists like Tom Petty, with such a wonderful legacy, are very much stitched into the fabric of our lives. Losing Tom Petty is a terrible loss. - Jeff Pierce, Operations Manager, Portland Radio Group

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Tom Petty’s song “I Won't Back Down” helped me get through several rough patches in my life. Specifically, when outside influences made me doubt my ability to succeed. It was a prominent selection on my motivation mix-tape of the early 2000s.  – Mandi Exly, Production Coordinator, Blueberry Broadcasting

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Not only was Tom Petty one of the greats, he rubbed elbows with some of the greatest musicians of all times. Many people consider the missing volume of the Traveling Wilburys to be Petty's 1989 solo album “Full Moon Fever,” because Dylan, Harrison, Orbison, and Lynne all had a hand in it.

Add to that his duet with Stevie Nicks, and you have an artist who was not afraid to share his craft with others whom he admired.

I don't have a single favorite Petty song. “Cool Dry Place,” (with the Wilburys) “Walls No.3” and “Rockin' Around with you,” top the list, and I can remember singing “Breakdown” at high school football games with friends back in the day.  – Bill DaButler,  Star 97.7 FM.

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Tom Petty’s music is full of melodic gifts that we too often take for granted, and like so many other great artists, we don’t always see their massive impact until after they have left us.

Petty was never pretentious, never fake, and always honest with his music and his fans. It’s that honesty that kept his gift to the world pure, right up to the last ringing chord on his Fender XII during “American Girl”, the last song on his last stop on the Heartbreaker’s 40th Anniversary tour.   – Mark Nason, Station Manager, WHSN 89.3 FM

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I always have considered Tom Petty American rock royalty. His pop and rock hits, starting in the 1970s onward, were always amazing listening.

When I produced “All Hit Videos”, and Fedex would deliver a new Tom Petty video from MCA, it was viewed right away, because he was Tom Petty, and because of his penchant for some of the most creative videos being produced at that time. Check out “Runnin’ Down a Dream’, or “Don’t Come Around Here No More” as examples.

With the Heartbreakers or with the Traveling Wilburys, he was always interesting and never disappointing. R.I.P. TP. -  Chuck Foster, Z 107.3 and I95.

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Tom Petty’s music has pretty much been with me since I started in the radio business. His early stuff coincided with my early days at Z62. Songs like “Refugee,” “Don't Do Me Like That,” and “Here Comes My Girl.”

I always loved his music but I think I really started to admire the man when he had a huge fight with his record label to keep the prices lower.

I played a bunch of Tom Petty’s music this morning on WKIT, and the songs sounded different now. A couple of my favorite Tom Petty songs are “Southern Accents” and “The Last DJ” (a song I think he wrote for me) - Bobby Russell, General Manager of Zone Radio Corp, morning co-host on WKIT 100.3 FM.

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For years and years I played in a variety of bands with my dad and a number of friends. We would play mostly cover tunes, focusing on variety.

While I have great memories associated with many Tom Petty tunes, the one that always sticks out is "Mary Jane's Last Dance." My dad would sing that song in our band (and very well, I might add) through just about every musical makeup that encompassed the group over the lifespan of the band. I'm sure that wasn't his biggest hit, nor was it his most critically acclaimed work. But I can listen to that song over and over again because of the memories of our band playing it, and how much fun it was for everyone involved.  – Dan Cashman, host of TV’s “The Nite Show”

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Until the late ‘90's I didn't listen to much music outside of country radio. I remember scanning the dial one time and hearing “Free Falling” for the first time ever. I immediately needed to find more from Tom Petty. “Greatest Hits?” Yes, Please. That album instantly went into heavy rotation in my car, and is still a go to today. I love his radio hits, the deep cuts, live tracks, covers … all of it. Tom Petty inspired me to pick up a guitar and "take some time to learn how to play". Tom Petty is Rock and Roll. – Jon Shields, Operations Director, Blueberry Broadcasting.

Last modified on Wednesday, 11 October 2017 13:49

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