Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers are an American rock band from Gainesville, Florida. In 1976, the band’s original lineup was Tom Petty as the lead singer and guitar player, Mike Campbell as the lead guitarist, Ron Blair on bass, Stan Lynch on drums, and Benmont Tench on keyboards. The band has largely maintained this lineup, with a few exceptions. In 1981, Blair, who was tired of the touring lifestyle, left the band. Blair’s replacement, Howie Epstein, stayed with the band for the next twenty years. Scott Thurston joined the band as a multi-instrumentalist, mostly rhythm guitar and second keyboards, in 1991. Blair returned to the Heartbreakers in 2002, the year before Epstein’s death. In 1994, Steve Ferrone replaced Lynch.
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were on the forefront of the heartland rock movement, alongside artists such as Bruce Springsteen and Bob Seger, which arose in the late 1970s and 1980s. The genre eschews the synthesizer-based music and fashion elements popularized in the 1980s, such as synthpop and New Romanticism in favor of a straightforward classic rock sound and lyrics based on relatable, blue collar issues. Petty and the Heartbreakers are known for hit singles such as “American Girl”, “Breakdown”, “The Waiting”, “Learning to Fly”, “Refugee” and “Mary Jane’s Last Dance”. While the heartland rock movement fizzled in the 1990s, the band remained active and popular. They still tour regularly and continue to record albums. Their most recent, Hypnotic Eye, was released on July 25, 2014.
Although most of their material is produced and performed under the name “The Heartbreakers”, Petty has released three solo albums, the most successful being 1989’s Full Moon Fever. In these releases, members of the band contributed as collaborators, producing and performing as studio musicians.