Classic or new, Tom Petty’s music was always top-notch

“You belong among the wildflowers. You belong somewhere you feel free.”

— Tom Petty

I am devastated and grieving over the death of Tom Petty. I find it difficult to believe that he is no longer with us. The more I thought about it, the more the tears came. Petty and his music have been a very big part of so many lives for close to 40 years. When you have a high-quality career that lasts that long you are going to make a lot of loyal fans. I have so many memories of his presence at many different times in my life.

I was 19 when I heard “Breakdown” from 1977’s “Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers.” It sounded fresh and new, like something I had never heard before. I just knew I had to have it. Little did I or anyone know that this would lead to one of the greatest — if not the greatest — careers in rock and roll history. I cannot think of any other artist who has consistently released quality music time and again for 40 years.

Every album was of high quality, and it came from an artist whose music is as good right now as it was when he started. My musical heroes, Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Van Morrison, cannot lay claim to the same. To wit, music from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakershas always been a top seller at Triple Play. On the DVD “Running Down a Dream” Johnny Depp said Petty’s music deserved its own genre, and I agree.

My wife, Kenda, and I started dating in 1978. Petty’s was one of the records we listened to on our first date. We feel like we lost a member of our family.

Shortly after his second LP, “You’re Gonna Get It,” was released, Kenda and I used the song “I Need to Know” in a stereo war with our rowdy upstairs neighbors. Needless to say we won that war. When “Damn the Torpedos” was released, I was working at Smokestack Records. Joe Bradley, the manager at the time, told us that we had to play that record and nothing else all day.

“Just turn it over and start it again,” he said.

Being good, loyal employees, we happily did what Joe said.

My son Matthew’s first trip to Red Rocks for a concert was to see Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers with Joe Cocker in June 2010. It was a magical evening. Petty told us that he always loved coming to Colorado and playing at Red Rocks.

Petty had always been a big fan of The Byrds. Last week we received Chris Hillman’s new recording, “Biding My Time.” It was produced by Petty, and he and Benmont Tench from the Heartbreakers also played on the disc. It included former Byrds Roger McGuinn and David Crosby, as well as John Jorgensen and Herb Pedersen, formerly of The Desert Rose Band. I can only imagine how giddy Petty must have been to be a part of what could be called a Byrds reunion. The last song on that CD is an incredible acoustic cover of “Wildflowers.”

“You and I will meet again, when we’re least expecting it. One day in some far off place, I will recognize your face. I won’t say goodbye my friend, for you and I will meet again.”

Rock Cesario owns Triple Play Records, 530 Main St., and hosts “Acoustic Sunday” from 9 a.m. to noon on KSTR 96.1 FM. Email him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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