At this point in Tom Petty’s career, there is nothing left for him to prove. He has multiple hits to his name, writes the catchiest rock songs around, and rides a vibe that a lot of us are just jealous of. His closest fans aside, not many of us knew of Mudcrutch; the band he fronted before The Heartbreakers. Mudcrutch was the reason Petty and his bandmates relocated to LA, and 30+ years after breaking up, they found their way back to the studio recording 2008’s well-received, self-titled debut.
The band was formed in 1970 with Petty tackling bass, Tom Leadon, and Mike Campbell on guitar, Jim Lenehan on vocals, and Randy Marsh on drums. Mudcrutch served as the house band at Dub’s Lounge in their hometown of Gainesville, FL where they found a small cult following. Eventually the departure of Leadon and Lenehan brought longtime, future Heartbreakers keyboardist Benmont Tench into the group. With the lineup solidified, the band was signed to Leon Russell’s fringe label Shelter Records in 1974 and moved to Los Angeles to record their debut.
Mudcrutch did release one single with 1975’s “Depot Street” but the single failed to chart and subsequently the band was broken up by the record company allowing Tom Petty to move ahead with the Heartbreakers.
Fast forward to 2008, when Petty called the reformation of Mudcrutch a “lightning bolt to the brain”. Certainly a good excuse to get friends back together to jam. The first Mudcrutch album took 2 weeks to record and peaked at no. 8 on the charts. A short tour followed and cemented their improbable comeback.
The group took a short hiatus while Petty worked on his Hypnotic Eye record and tour but the band got back together in 2015 to record their 2nd full length LP entitled 2 out May 20th on Reprise Records. The reviews for 2 have been positive showing the band growing from their country-tinged debut, into more of a rock sound paralleling Petty’s other band, but definitely not a comparison.
The unlikely story of Mudcrutch is great rock n’ roll narrative at its finest, here’s hoping many more records find their way to an audience.