TOM PETTY’S HEARTBREAKERS: WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
Written by Basinradio on May 5, 2022
In 2017, Petty and the band performed a 40th-anniversary tour of North America, and though he had hinted in interviews that his days of large-scale touring might be winding down, there was no mention of retirement. “The thing about the Heartbreakers is it’s still holy to me,” Petty told the Los Angeles Times in 2017.
“There’s a holiness there. If that were to go away, I don’t think I would be interested in it, and I don’t think [the band] would. We’re a real rock ’n’ roll band — always have been. And to us, in the era we came up in, it was a religion in a way. It was more than commerce, it wasn’t about that. It was about something much greater.”
One week after the 40th-anniversary tour concluded on Sept. 25, 2017, and a few days after his interview with the Los Angeles Times, Petty died after an accidental overdose of painkillers.
The news was reminiscent of another death in the Heartbreakers family, that of bassist Howie Epstein, who died in 2003 from complications related to drug use. Though Epstein was fired from the band in 2002, Petty would later say the bassist was “never not a Heartbreaker.”
The surviving members of the Heartbreakers are still recording and performing live today. It’s the only way they’ve ever envisioned their lives, guitarist Mike Campbell emphasized.
“Music is the most important thing to us, other than family,” he told Guitar.com in 2021. “It’s all based on love and a kind of spiritual appreciation of the gift we were given, to make this music. I still have that spark. That’s what keeps me going.”
It also keeps his former bandmates moving forward, as you’ll see below in Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers: Where Are They Now?
Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers: Where Are They Now?
The surviving members continue to forge new paths.
Gallery Credit: Allison Rapp
YouTube / Theo Wargo, Getty Images
In 2018 and 2019, guitarist Mike Campbell could be found performing with Fleetwood Mac on their world tour, but he had other projects brewing. While the Heartbreakers were still touring in the ’00s, Campbell started playing with his side band the Dirty Knobs. “I was so busy with my other job that we only had a few months here and there between tours to mess around,” Campbell told UCR in 2022. “Now my time has opened up and this is what I want to focus on. We’re basically just carrying on with what we were doing, but just do it more full time.” The Dirty Knobs have released two albums: 2020’s Wreckless Abandon and 2022’s External Combustion.
MCA / Ethan Miller, Getty Images
Keyboardist Benmont Tench has long been known for his work as a busy session musician, and in recent years, he’s continued to uphold that reputation, appearing on the Who’s WHO (2019), Bob Dylan’s Rough and Rowdy Ways (2020), Margo Price’s That’s How Rumors Get Started (2020), Chris Stapleton’s Starting Over (2020) and Ringo Starr’s Zoom In, among others. Between all that studio work, Tench continues to perform solo shows and concerts with other artists. He’s also reportedly sitting on new solo material. He told Rolling Stone in 2021 that his next album was completed, though no release has been announced.
Clayton Call, Getty Images / YouTube
Shortly after leaving the Heartbreakers in 1994, original drummer Stan Lynch dove into production work and session playing – first with friend Don Henley and then with John Mellencamp, Toto, Jackson Browne and many others. In 2022, he unveiled new music as the Speaker Wars, a duo formed in Nashville with singer-songwriter Jon Christopher Davis. He’s also filled in on drums for a run of Dirty Knobs tour dates, marking his first performances with former bandmate Mike Campbell in nearly 30 years. “It’s an adventure,” Lynch told UCR about the collaboration. “We’re different men, but we’re the same guys.”
YouTube / YouTube
In 1982, not long after leaving the Heartbreakers, bassist Ron Blair bought a swimwear shop in Los Angeles that he operated for several years before returning to the band in 2002. Like several other Heartbreakers, Blair has lent his talents to other artists, playing on albums by Kirstin Candy, Stevie Nicks, Del Shannon, Slobberbone and the Tremblers. Blair, who was part of the original lineup of Mike Campbell’s Dirty Knobs, has sat in with that band on multiple occasions.
Gus Stewart, Redferns / YouTube
Multi-instrumentalist Scott Thurston – who first played with the Heartbreakers on 1989’s Full Moon Fever tour – has kept a relatively low profile for the past couple of years, occasionally appearing onstage with various musicians. In 2018 he joined Eddie Vedder at the Ohana Music Festival to perform a handful of Heartbreakers songs. His session work has run the gamut from Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne to the Motels and the Stooges. He can also be heard on Iggy Pop’s 2020 box set, The Bowie Years.
Ethan Miller / Kevork Djansezian, Getty Images
Ever since he first joined the Heartbreakers in 1994, drummer Steve Ferrone has always been affectionally referred to as “the new guy.” These days, he continues his work as a session drummer, appearing on Ziggy Marley’s self-titled 2016 album and Steve Perry’s 2018 LP, Traces. In 2022, he joined the touring lineup for John Mayer’s band. “I’m really happy to sit here in my studio and make records. People continue to send me songs to play on,” he told Rolling Stone in 2020, noting he’s been working on solo material, too. “I got an album that I’ve been working on for about 12 years I might get around to finishing. I look forward to doing that.”
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