MGK's Airstaff Share Their Memories of Tom Petty

While we cannot relate on the same level to Tom Petty's friends, family, and bandmates, the MGK staff along with Tom Petty's fans are grieving. The story hit the web early afternoon yesterday, and while news was conflicting as to exactly what was going on, we knew that the situation was not good. Petty's family confirmed that Tom passed last night at 8:40pm, PST.

Unfortunately, Classic Rock fans are growing somewhat accustomed to dealing with this sort of grief, as we have lost several of Rock's finest over the passed few years (David Bowie, Glenn Frey, Walter Becker to name a few). We have learned that the best ways to work through that grief are to both celebrate their music, and to share memories of better times, centered around the artist. It is with this in mind that our MGK airstaff share some of their memories of the great Tom Petty:

The great thing about classic rock is just about every song puts you at a place and time in your life. Such was the case for me with Tom Petty’s debut album. My friend Bob and I met these two girls at a club on Long Island. Soon after we were both dating them. The only problem was they live in New Brunswick, New Jersey and we lived on Long Island. That was an hour and a half drive each way. The Tom Petty album was brand new and those two girls loved it! It would be playing when we got there, and playing when we left. To this day if I hear “Breakdown”, I’m 26 years old and driving to meet my girlfriend in Jersey.

- John DeBella

One early morning as I was headed into my shift at WRPL in Charlotte, NC, there was a guy (Donnie Morse) waiting for me on the radio station doorstep. He had the brand new not quite yet released first Tom Petty album in his hands. His passion for this artist that I'd never heard of before was so strong that I thought what the heck and threw the record on the turntable. And that was that. Donnie died a number of years back but I will forever be grateful to him and for the fact that I was able to tell Tom Petty this story in person. Tom's reaction was humble and filled with gratitude. I sure hope that Donnie and Tom will get some quality hang time in the great beyond.

- Debbi Calton

He was a low-key kid from Gainesville, Florida who seemed just as at-home playing with The Heartbreakers as he was making wonderful music with the likes of George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison and Jeff Lynne, or doing it solo. Like so many Classic Rock fans, I was shocked, numb and saddened to hear of the passing of Tom Petty.  Oh, how often I've cranked "Running Down A Dream," "Mary Jane's Last Dance," "Rockin' Around (With You)" "Learning To Fly" and so many of his delightful songs at maximum volume in my car.  Putting Tom Petty on in the car was like having a pal riding shotgun with you on your trip, telling life stories and offering keen insights, all with that unique voice of his.  It always made the car trips more fun and go by just a bit quicker. I got to see him once.  It was in 1983 at The Spectrum, during his "Long After Dark" tour, and it was such a great show.  The energy in that place was palpable.  This one really hurts.  He passed away just a week after he wrapped up what he hinted would be his last big tour with The Heartbreakers, after saying he wanted to slow down and spend time with his granddaughter.  He was just shy of his 67th birthday.  Thank you Tom Petty, for taking your love of Elvis, the Beatles, The Byrds and The Stones, and channeling that love into music we hold so near and dear to our hearts.  I'll never stop listening.  Rest easy, bruthaman.

"You belong among the wildflowers
You belong in a boat out at sea
You belong with your love on your arm
You belong somewhere you feel free"

- Andre Gardner

The first time I met Petty was both exciting and stressful, but Tom made it right! For the Full Moon Fever tour, my boss and the head of promotion for Tom's label had set up this huge backstage promotion, but TP had a bad cold, as you can even see in the picture. After some wrangling with his road manager, out comes Petty, cheerful and funny to meet, and take pictures with ten winners and their guests, and a few of us, as well. Right after this picture was taken, he says, "How was that boss?" I nervously stammered about how excited our listeners were to meet him, hugged and thanked him up and down, and told him to get some rest. I'd see him again a couple years later, but that's another story. Petty always struck me as a cool guy. His shows always kicked ass. I'm really feeling his passing, and wish love and peace to his family and The Heartbreakers..

- Ray Koob