Friday, November 17, 2017
Tampa Bay Music & Shows

Before the Heartbreakers, there was Tom Petty on Mudcrutch Farm

RECOMMENDED READING


Editor's Note: This story was originally published in the Tampa Tribune in July of 2008 under the headline "Before the Heartbreakers." Tom Petty died on Monday at age 66. The site where "Mudcrutch Farm" once stood in Gainesville is now a residential subdivision.

Photography was always just a hobby for Red Slater.

The amateur's photographs, though, have appeared in magazines such as Rolling Stone, on television documentaries and in CD anthologies. In 1969 and 1970, Slater shared a dilapidated farmhouse in north Gainesville with Randall Marsh and Mike Campbell, drummer and guitarist with a local band called Mudcrutch.

The bassist was Tom Petty. Slater's photographs - some are on display here - capture the young band rehearsing, performing and sometimes just goofing off.

Red Slater

From left to right: Tom Leadon, Jim Lanahan, Tom Petty, Randall Marsh and Mike Campbell on Mudcrutch Farm in Gainesville.

The abode he shared with Marsh and Campbell - splitting the $75-a-month rent three ways - became known as Mudcrutch Farm, site of the Farm Festivals that Mudcrutch staged and headlined. The festivals, which also featured other local and regional bands, drew crowds large enough that Marsh and Campbell eventually got evicted.

Slater had left before then to finish his engineering degree at the University of South Florida. But he remained friendly with the band and shot photos of them until 1974, when Petty headed to California. Petty, Campbell and keyboardist Benmont Tench (a later addition to Mudcrutch) eventually teamed with bassist Ron Blair and drummer Stan Lynch to form Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, one of rock 'n' roll's most long-lived and respected bands.

Red Slater

Tom Petty on Mudcrutch Farm in 1969 or 1970.

Did Slater have an inkling that some of his subjects were heading for superstardom?

"No," he answers quickly. "I've got to be honest. But when I look back on that time, I think it's because Tom was focused. He had a direction." Petty reformed Mudcrutch - with guitarist Tom Leadon, Campbell, Marsh and Tench - to finally record the band's self-titled debut album. It was released in April. Slater, who now lives near Dade City, says it's a good representation of what you would have heard nearly 40 years ago.

"When Tom brought back in Leadon and Marsh, and Tom got back in bass, it all jelled," Slater says. "They had played so much back then that it all resurfaced."

Slater's name may be known only to the most devoted Petty fanatics, but during life on the farm, he wielded power over the band, quite literally. Slater's living accommodations were "in the kitchen pantry," he says with a laugh. "There was just enough room for a single bed and my darkroom setup."

Red Slater

Tom Petty during a practice session on Mudcrutch Farm in 1969 or 1970. "He is playing his Gretsch bass that he kept all his life," Red Slater, who lived on the farm and took the photo, said.

The house's fuse box also was there, which came in handy when Slater, the only farm resident with a day job, needed sleep.

The band would come home from a gig and start playing "at 2 or 2:30 in the morning, rehearsing or trying to impress the girls they brought home," Slater recalls. "They'd crank the amps up and blow the fuse box," Slater says. "I remember one night they clicked it a couple of times. I needed some sleep, so when they came banging on the door for the third time, I ignored them and they had to shut down."

PETTY'S OBITUARY: The scruffy Florida boy who made us feel

MAKING THE CASE: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers are the greatest American rock band ever

Comments
Bluegrass and a traditional Thanksgiving meal on tap at annual Sertoma festival

Bluegrass and a traditional Thanksgiving meal on tap at annual Sertoma festival

SPRING LAKE — When it comes to traditional fare, picking, fiddling, harmonizing and a whole lot of foot-stomping make for the main course at the annual Thanksgiving Bluegrass Festival.Since 1980, the event, which will be Nov. 23 to 25 at the Sertoma ...
Published: 11/17/17
Two weeks after Tampa concert, rapper Lil Peep dies at 21

Two weeks after Tampa concert, rapper Lil Peep dies at 21

Lil Peep, a driving force in the young, ascendant, genre-blurring world dubbed "SoundCloud rap" or "emo rap," has died at 21, less than two weeks after performing at the Orpheum in Ybor City.TMZ reported the Long Beach, N.Y. rapper born Gustav Ahr di...
Published: 11/16/17
Randy Newman talks Dodger baseball, his ’70s collaborators, measuring himself against his peers and more

Randy Newman talks Dodger baseball, his ’70s collaborators, measuring himself against his peers and more

Randy Newman was always widely respected by his peers. But back in the '70s, it took him a while to accept he might never be as famous as his peers."I remember hearing Just the Way You Are in a hotel," he said in a recent phone interview. "I was tryi...
Published: 11/16/17
SoundBytes: Yonder Mountain String Band, Robb Banks, Datsik and more

SoundBytes: Yonder Mountain String Band, Robb Banks, Datsik and more

— Jammy bluegrassers Yonder Mountain String Band will make their annual pilgrimage back to Jannus Live on Jan. 25. Click here.— Also coming to Jannus Live: JJ Grey and Mofro with a stellar lineup, including the North Mississippi Allstars,...
Published: 11/15/17
Harry Belafonte to speak at the University of South Florida in Tampa

Harry Belafonte to speak at the University of South Florida in Tampa

Singer, actor and civil rights icon Harry Belafonte is coming to Tampa.The renowned cultural figure will speak at the University of South Florida on Jan. 16 as part of the school's student-run University Lecture Series. It'll take place in the Marsha...
Published: 11/15/17
Vans Warped Tour, a staple on St. Petersburg’s waterfront, ending after 2018

Vans Warped Tour, a staple on St. Petersburg’s waterfront, ending after 2018

For fans and bands alike, the Vans Warped Tour is a sweaty, smelly, screamy rite of summer.Every year, like clockwork, the fest swings through Tampa Bay, almost always at Vinoy Park in St. Petersburg, where hordes of tattooed teenagers, punks and met...
Published: 11/15/17
This week’s top Tampa Bay concerts: Randy Newman, Tiesto, Et Cultura, more

This week’s top Tampa Bay concerts: Randy Newman, Tiesto, Et Cultura, more

THE ENVELOPE, PLEASE: Randy NewmanOscar campaigns are nothing new for Randy Newman. For years, the iconic singer, songwriter and film composer was the most-nominated person in history without a win, until his 2001 trophy for the Monsters Inc. song If...
Published: 11/15/17
Randy Newman will never be a million-seller, and he’s fine with that

Randy Newman will never be a million-seller, and he’s fine with that

Maybe it’s fitting that the Los Angeles Dodgers didn’t win the World Series. Maybe it’s better that all of Southern California didn’t pop Champagne and celebrate as Randy Newman’s I Love L.A. blared through the Dodger St...
Published: 11/15/17
The Castle, Ybor City’s goth paradise, celebrates 25 years of darkness and weirdness

The Castle, Ybor City’s goth paradise, celebrates 25 years of darkness and weirdness

The Castle, the multi-story, gothic nightclub where it's not uncommon to see someone on the dance floor in a Batman cape, a leather corset or a Peter Pan costume — or really anything you can think of — turned 25 this year, which...
Published: 11/15/17
The Wizards of Winter’s Guy LeMonnier talks Trans-Siberian Orchestra, creating their own holiday sound and more

The Wizards of Winter’s Guy LeMonnier talks Trans-Siberian Orchestra, creating their own holiday sound and more

Guy LeMonnier had an idea of what his job might be like when he joined the holiday rock ensemble the Wizards of Winter."You always want to be in a cover band of a band you've already been in before," said the singer.That band he came from? A little g...
Published: 11/15/17