Tom Petty grew up in the 1950s on a hearty diet of American rock ‘n’ roll. Aged ten, he realised his dream of becoming a musician after having the rare chance of meeting everyone’s favourite 1950s rock icon, Elvis Presley. In the summer of ’61, Petty’s uncle was working on the set of Presley’s film, Follow That Dream, in nearby Ocala, and invited Petty to watch the shoot. After this close brush with royalty, Petty had found his first idol and traded his Wham-O slingshot for a selection of Elvis 45s.
As a teenager of the swingin’ ’60s, Petty was introduced to The Beatles while watching their 1964 US premier live on The Ed Sullivan Show. “The minute I saw the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show – and it’s true of thousands of guys – there was the way out. There was the way to do it,” Petty once said of his early muse. “You get your friends and you’re a self-contained unit. And you make the music. And it looked like so much fun. It was something I identified with. I had never been hugely into sports. I had been a big fan of Elvis. But I really saw in the Beatles that here’s something I could do. I knew I could do it. It wasn’t long before there were groups springing up in garages all over the place.”
Petty, like his contemporary Bruce Springsteen, was inspired by Elvis and The Beatles to pursue a career in rock music, and he most certainly delivered. Today, we’re focussing on the late rock star’s sprawling pool of influence as we look through a compiled playlist of every song Petty played during his special radio series on the New York-based radio station SiriusXM.
During the series, titled Tom Petty’s Buried Treasure, he picked out some of his favourite tracks through the years with a mix of obscure choices and seminal classics. He would articulately introduce each track, passionately describing the impact of each on him as a musician and the wider music community.
As seen below, Petty’s tastes were tightly moored to ’60s rock and roll with classic British Invasion era selections from The Who, Cream, The Rolling Stones, The Animals and The Zombies alongside nods to his Traveling Wilburys bandmates, Roy Orbison and Bob Dylan.
The ’60s selections are given good company with some early classics of the ’50s from the likes of Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, Jimmy Reed, Fats Domino and Muddy Waters and a couple of early ’70s hits from David Bowie.
While there aren’t many modern songs on the playlist, Tom Petty gave a nod to his late friend Johnny Cash with their collaborative cover of Merle Haggard’s ‘The Running Kind’ and Cash’s rendition of Nine Inch Nails’ ‘Hurt’, both from 2003. He also showed his love for British artist PJ Harvey, playing her mid-’90s hit ‘Down By the Water’.
Stream the full playlist below and immerse yourself in Tom Petty’s admirable taste in music.