HEAR YE: Mud Crutch


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NEW YORK TIMES: Thirty-two years after the band broke up, Tom Petty has reassembled Mudcrutch, the group he started in his native Gainesville, Fla., and moved to Los Angeles, seeking stardom. Mudcrutch didn’t hit it big back in the 1970s, but out of the band’s ashes Mr. Petty created the Heartbreakers, who have generated a staggering stream of hits for three decades. Most of the album’s 14 songs (including covers of the trucker classic “Six Days on the Road” and the Byrds’ “Lover of the Bayou”) were done in just two or three takes. The recording of the nine-minute Grateful Dead-style jam “Crystal River” documents the one and only time the band played that song.This telepathy is presumably a result of the group’s long and intimate history. Mr. Petty and Mr. Leadon were neighbors in Gainesville and started playing in bands together as teenagers. Mr. Campbell and Mr. Marsh lived in an isolated farmhouse while they were attending the University of Florida; their land would later become the site of three wild Mudcrutch Farm Festivals, which grew so popular that the pair got evicted. The group was together from 1970 to 1975, in various configurations; Mr. Tench did not formally join until 1972, after Mr. Leadon quit to move to California with his brother Bernie, a member of the original lineup of the Eagles. Mudcrutch forged an unusual style, bringing together a love of British-invasion pop, country music and 1950s rock ’n’ roll. And the band found an endless amount of opportunity in a university town.

Mudcrutch became the house band at a bar called Dub’s, where it would grind out five 45-minute sets, six nights amudcrutch1970_1.jpg week. The members learned Top 40 hits by taping them off of the jukebox, and would sneak in an original song by introducing it as, for example, a new Santana single. Mr. Campbell said the Dub’s patrons “were all so drunk they couldn’t tell.” Mudcrutch became the biggest band in the region, and Mr. Petty decided it was time to pursue a wider audience. In 1974 he led an excursion to Los Angeles, where a few record companies took notice. The band signed with Shelter Records, best known as the home of the countrified hippie Leon Russell, and released a single, “Depot Street.” It flopped, and soon the frustrated band fell apart. By this time labels were showing more interest in Mr. Petty as a solo artist, so he put together a backing band of fellow Florida refugees, including two former members of Mudcrutch, and signed a new deal as Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Beginning with “Breakdown” in 1977, they established themselves as one of America’s most popular and consistent bands. MORE

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