Tom Petty grew up in the 1950s and 1960s, a time when rock ‘n’ roll was dominated by The Beatles and Elvis Presley. Both musical groups had an impact on the future Heartbreakers frontman since they significantly altered the music business. Despite being an American, Petty felt a stronger connection to the four youngsters from Liverpool than to the King from Memphis.
Tom Petty believed he was more similar to The Beatles than Elvis Presley
In the 1950s, Elvis Presley swept the country and the globe. Many people were drawn to his soulful voice and innovative rock songs, but his stage persona is what made him famous. His swinging legs and trembling hips made listeners dizzy, and his rebellious demeanor appealed to younger people.
The Memphis singer was a major influence on many musicians, including The Beatles, who looked up to him as one of their musical heroes. In a 2014 CBC interview, Tom Petty claimed that Elvis personified the “American dream.” He was poor growing up, yet he broke all the norms and became the person he wanted to be to become famous.
Petty said, “My picture of Elvis was the American dream. Elvis was a kid from the south who had broken all the rules, he had become his own man and looked like he did whatever he wanted, whether adults liked it or not.”
Elvis was more familiar to Petty, but the “Free Fallin'” singer claimed he had trouble connecting with the King. Petty didn’t see himself wearing the bright attire or performing with such vigor. He felt a stronger connection to The Beatles, who came to America in the 1960s. Although they lacked Elvis’ sparkle, they had the same sense of normalcy about them that Petty more strongly linked with at the time.
Tom added, “That was kind of the picture I had, but that didn’t look like something you could be for me. o be Elvis? Nobody has ever pulled that off, you’d have to be Elvis. You’d have to look like that for one thing, and orchestras would have to come out of the shrubbery and onto the beach. That just doesn’t happen, but, The Beatles looked like something that could be done to me.”
Petty managed to meet Elvis in 1961
Tom Petty made acquaintances with The Beatles after entering into the music business, notably George Harrison. The two frequently worked together, notably when the Traveling Wilburys were a supergroup. Another uncommon opportunity Petty had was to meet Elvis, although this time it was when he was considerably younger.
Petty traveled to Florida in the summer of 1961 to see his uncle, who was working on the Follow That Dream set. Petty was unable to engage the “Heartbreak Hotel” singer in a long discussion, but he was satisfied with a wave and a nod.
Petty told Rolling Stone, “He arrived in a fleet of white Cadillacs, People were screaming, handing records over a chain-link fence for him to sign. I remember his hair was so black that the sunshine was glowing off of it. Just a nod and a hello made your skin tingle. I was high for weeks. It lit a fever in me to get every record I could, and I really digested it. Elvis became the soundtrack of my early years.”