Route 66 News

Tom Petty, R.I.P.

Word came down late Monday that rock ‘n’ roll legend Tom Petty died after suffering a cardiac arrest at his Southern California home. He was 66.

I’ll let others wax poetic about his marvelous career, including one of my favorite music writers at the Chicago Tribune.

But it’s almost a given Tom Petty and his Heartbreakers band made a slew of tunes tailor-made for driving down Route 66 over their 40-plus years.

Let’s start it off with their cover of Bobby Troup’s “(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66.” Petty and his band often played it as a warm-up tune, but here’s a 1977 show where they included it in their set list.

Next on the list is 1989’s “Running Down a Dream,” which technically didn’t include the Heartbreakers but featured his longtime lead guitarist, Mike Campbell, raking a Hall-of-Fame solo.

Then there’s “American Girl,” from Petty’s first album in 1976 that wasn’t a big hit at the time but eventually became a staple of shows and rock radio.

A Route 66 link: Shelter Records released the album, which was co-owned by Tulsa music legend Leon Russell.

Finally, Petty’s biggest hit, 1989’s “Free Fallin’,” remains a quintessential song about Los Angeles streets and highways.

What are some of your favorite Tom Petty road songs?

(Image of Tom Petty in 2010 by Elvis Kennedy via Flickr)


5 thoughts on “Tom Petty, R.I.P.

  1. Robyn

    Really sad today, but a nice body of work to choose from. The Highway Companion album has quite a few road tunes. Enjoy and live your lives, folks!

  2. Gary Coleman

    I LOVED his music, and especially loved Free Fallin’ (although I always have to retort that there ARE no freeways going through ANYbody’s yard in Reseda, as that “city” [technically a part of LA in the San Fernando Valley] is in the square of the 101, 405, 118 and the range that separates the Valley and Simi & Thousand Oaks). I always thought he should have picked Tarzana or Glendale, if he wanted to be accurate.

  3. Tonya Pike

    Special personal memory – about 10 years ago, I had a particularly rowdy foreign Rt.66 motorcycle group at the Rail Haven. It was well after midnight before they all retired to bed, and probably about 1 a.m. when I finally started putting stuff away, picking up trash, and righting the pool furniture around the pool. I was tired, and it was a beautiful late summer night. I was having a hard time staying on task; I honestly just wanted to collapse in a pool chair and enjoy the peace and quiet and gentle breeze for awhile. But I knew if I did, I would never get things righted for the day staff.

    A couple of the motorcycle guys were in front of their rooms, talking quietly. Then suddenly, I hear “American Girl” wafting thru the air, quietly at first, then gradually louder. I looked up to see 2 big Swedish guys coming toward the pool, streaming Tom Petty from a cell phone. They opened the gate, and started helping right furniture and carrying the 8 or 10 bags of pizza box trash to the dumpster at the back of the motel for me. The music continued, all of it good old American rock-n-roll. I don’t remember exactly everything they played for me, but I do remember it started with “American Girl.” Just hearing that energized me, allowing me to get everything else that needed done, done.

    No words were spoken. American Girl pretty much said it all. Sometimes music of a gifted musician is all that is needed.

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