Country Rock Guitarist & Tom Petty Bandmate Tom Leadon Dies

In the founding era of country rock, guitarist Tom Leadon was right there witnessing and participating in some of the most important moments and projects. He just happened to be overshadowed in many respects by the bigger names that country rock would launch. But upon his death, many friends and bandmates of Tom Leadon are remembering a man that contributed big, and deserves to be remembered fondly.

Tom Leadon was the brother of Benie Leadon, who was the guitar and banjo-playing founding member of The Eagles, and also played with the Flying Burrito Brothers. Tom Leadon was also the lead guitarist for Tom Petty’s original band Mudcrutch. Though Leadon spent most of his later life as a quiet guitar teacher in Nashville, his contributions in the country rock world were quite numerous.

Similar to his brother Bernie, Tom Leadon leaned towards rock ‘n roll in his career, but had a background in bluegrass that came through in his playing. He was born in Rosemount, Minnesota on September 16th, 1952, but went to high school in Gainesville, Florida, playing in a band called the Epics where he first met Tom Petty. They first formed Mudcrutch with Leadon playing lead guitar, and Petty playing bass. Later they added a 2nd lead guitarist by the name of Mike Campbell.

Mike Campbell, Tom Petty, Tom Leadon, and Randall Marsh of Mudcrutch

Mudcrutch would go on to become the origination point for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers before officially disbanding in 1975, but a few years before, Leadon left the band to move to Los Angeles where brother Bernie had recently formed The Eagles, believing California held a better future in music than Florida. Leadon may have left Tom Petty back in Florida, but in the Petty biography Conversations with Tom Petty, Tom credits Leadon for ultimately inspiring him to move to Los Angeles as well.

While in L.A., Tom Leadon didn’t exactly find the same success as his brother, but he did have a lasting impact in a number of projects. For a while Tom played bass in Linda Ronstadt’s backing band, which also helped contribute to the formation of The Eagles. Leadon also joined the country rock band Silver that had the big hit “Wham Bam.” The Eagles recorded Tom’s original song “Hollywood Waltz” for their 1975 album One Of These Nights. Buck Owens liked the song so much, he cut a version of his own.

After kicking around for years in the country rock scene, Tom Leadon decided to settle in Nashville as a guitar teacher, and led more of a quiet life. But in 2007 when Tom Petty reconstituted Mudcrutch and released a self-titled album in 2008, Leadon was listed as a primary band member, both recording and touring with Petty under the Mudcrutch name, including the 2016 release Mudcrutch 2.

Tom Leadon died in March 22nd at the age of 70, but the death wasn’t publicly known until Monday, March 27th when fellow band members and friends posted public remembrances.

“Tom Leadon was my deepest guitar soul brother, we spent countless hours playing acoustic guitars and teaching each other things,” said Mike Campbell. “A kinder soul never walked the earth.I will always miss his spirit and generosity. Sleep peacefully my old friend.”

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