Tom Petty Finds Musical Alter-Ego in Mudcrutch

You think of Tom Petty and only one band comes to mind: The Heartbreakers. Over the last four decades, he’s filled stadiums and knocked out hit after hit with the Rock and Roll Hall of Famers. But before the world fell in love with “American Girl,” Petty played bass for a group called Mudcrutch. The band formed in Gainesville, FL, in 1970, and was never quite able to break through. They released two singles, but disbanded after the latter (“Depot Street”) failed to chart. By that time, they had moved to Los Angeles, and their label spun Petty, guitarist Mike Campbell, and keyboardist Bentmont Tench into the Heartbreakers, joined by a new rhythm section. The rest was history. Mudcrutch guitarist Tom Leadon (brother of Eagles member Bernie) played in various bands and eventually became a guitar teacher in Nashville. Drummer Randall Marsh moved up the coast to Ojai and continued to make music, including, off and on, with Campbell.

In 2007, following the Heartbreakers’ Highway Companion, Petty decided to get the gang back together, and the five original Mudcrutch members reconvened to record their long-overdue self-titled debut record. Mudcrutch was a more country-tinged affair than Petty’s better-known work, and featured covers of classics by The Byrds and Earl Green. The original compositions were formidable as well, particularly Petty’s “Scare Easy,” and Tench and Leadon took star turns on lead vocals. The record was well-received commercially and critically, but another Heartbreakers tour loomed, and they didn’t tour outside of a handful of promotional dates.

Nearly another decade later, Mudcrutch is back for another round. Simply entitled 2, their sophomore record will be released this week on Reprise Records. Unlike the first album, though, the band is taking the show on the road. Their Bunbury appearance is joined by a marquee spot at Summer Camp in Illinois next week, as well as a full slate of sold out theater and club dates across the country. Musically, 2 picks up where they left off, with the swampy twentysomething regret of “Trailer.” This time, all five members contribute vocals and songwriting, and Petty has hinted that another album’s worth of material is still sitting unreleased. 

So don’t expect to hear any of Petty’s ubiquitous FM radio hits during their Bunbury set--this is a strictly Mudcrutch affair. But do expect to watch five guys who go back nearly a half century doing what they love and doing it well. It’s often a privilege to see a legendary artist sidestep into another role, and it should be no exception when Mudcrutch stares down the setting sun on the first night of Bunbury. 

Mudcrutch performs at 8:30 PM on Friday, June 3rd at the Sawyer Point Stage

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