John Wooley is a contributing editor for Oklahoma Magazine and regularly writes on music and its Oklahoma roots. Today, in the wake of Tom Petty’s passing, we asked Wooley to speak on Petty’s unique Oklahoma connection.
As I understand it, in the early ‘70s Petty’s band, Mudcrutch, had been on the West Coast and was returning to its home state of Florida. In L.A., they’d run into the producer Denny Cordell, who’d co-founded Shelter Records with Leon Russell. Cordell asked them to stop off in Tulsa and do some recording at Shelter Records’ Church Studio, which they did — which has led to the mistaken impression that Tom Petty is an Oklahoma boy. I don’t think any of those tracks were ever released.
While Mudcrutch was in town, Cordell took it upon himself to get the group a local booking at the Cain’s Ballroom. At the time, the venue was being run by a group that included the late promoter and fabled deal-maker R.C. Bradley. According to Bradley, he didn’t have to pay a dime to book the group. In fact, to get the deal done, Cordell gave him $300.
Bradley later said that was the best buy he ever made at the Cain’s — getting paid to book a show by the band that would become Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.
Rest in peace, Tom Petty.